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Oral History Interview with Pat Cusick, June 19, 1989. Interview L-0043. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).
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  • Abstract
    Pat Cusick discusses how his educational and military experiences altered his views on race. His relationships with blacks and exposure to racially progressive ideas provided a basis for his later civil rights activism. He was dissatisfied with the state of liberalism on the University of North Carolina campus. He also comments on what he saw as the hypocrisy and civil masks of Chapel Hill liberalism, which in his view prevented effective social progress. Cusick describes his participation in civil rights demonstrations as part of the anti-war Student Peace Union. Through his anti-war efforts, Cusick became aware of other social movements on campus. He laments his idealistic belief in what he came to view as the liberal facade of Chapel Hill. He regrets not pressuring the University to do more, though his activities did result in jail time. Cusick describes the formative impact his prison time had in stirring up his radicalism, emboldening his support of nonviolent strategies, and connecting with other like-minded activists. He explains how his stance against segregated prisons led to a lengthy hunger strike. Governor Terry Sanford's slow response in desegregating public facilities was a disappointment to him. He discusses the massive legal trial against civil rights demonstrators and his subsequent departure from North Carolina. Cusick moved to Boston, Massachusetts, where he became aware of northern racial prejudice, and where he engaged in social and economic justice endeavors. It was not until Massachusetts enacted a policy in 1988 against gay adoption that Cusick publicly came out as a gay man. He credits the influence of the civil rights movement with helping him come to terms with his sexuality.
  • Cusick's increased racial awareness
  • Cusick counters the image of a liberal UNC-Chapel Hill
  • Student efforts to desegregate public accommodations in Chapel Hill
  • Interracial cooperation between black activists and white liberals
  • Chapel Hill police chief learned from civil rights demonstrators' nonviolent tactics
  • Cusick's jail experiences and division between older white liberals and young black students
  • Tenuous relationships between Chapel Hill, UNC, the students, and their parents
  • Learning the value of passive, nonviolent resistance through his jail sentence
  • Moving to an integrated prison in Guilford County, North Carolina
  • Cusick criticizes the slow pace of Chapel Hill's and Sanford's liberal responses
  • Cusick evaluates the changes to Chapel Hill and the effectiveness of his activism
  • Tensions and cultural differences between white liberals and younger black activists
  • Result of the city's massive trial against civil rights demonstrators
  • North Carolina posed legal strategies to preserve segregation, as the North's racial progressivism ignored its own racism
  • The civil rights movement and Dukakis's homophobic policies liberated Cusick's sexuality
  • Cusick credits his prison sentence rather than UNC in forming his activist stance
  • Rejecting the popular view that 1960s activists abandoned social justice issues
  • Remarks on the increasingly broad, dynamic study of the civil rights movement
  • Cusick exposes Chapel Hill's racial progress and limitations
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  • The Southern Oral History Program transcripts presented here on Documenting the American South undergo an editorial process to remove transcription errors. Texts may differ from the original transcripts held by the Southern Historical Collection.

    Funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this title.