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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Terry Sanford, December 18, 1990. Interview L-0050. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Role of higher education in promoting social change

Sanford discusses what he sees as the unique role of higher education in promoting social change. In particular, Sanford argues that the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill played a particular influential role in the advancement of social progress during the twentieth century because of the high volume of leaders that emerged from that particular institution. Sanford especially highlights the role of individuals such as Frank Porter Graham, Anne Queen, and William Friday.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Terry Sanford, December 18, 1990. Interview L-0050. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

Do you have any kind of closing comments that you would like to make on things in particular about Anne that you can recall, or about the Campus Y that we haven't discussed and it's role just at the University?
Well, I think to go back to your question about social change that maybe I use this example a number of times in explaining to people why in the early sixties North Carolina seemed to be so far ahead of the rest of the South; that I thought the difference was education and I said, primarily, Chapel Hill, because at the turn of century, Chapel Hill was where most of the leaders of the state came. To put it another way, most of the leaders came from Chapel Hill or came to Chapel Hill. And I think Chapel Hill had that concept of how to make the world better as being a function of the University. I think they had it from the turn of the century on. I think you can look at the history of the University. Now, I could also tie in some efforts of other Universities. There were two or three great people at Wake Forest. Certainly academic freedom in the country got its greatest boost from Trinity College, which is now Duke. But of all of these forces, Chapel Hill had to be the principal force, because the most people who were taking up positions of leadership went to Chapel Hill. And I think to have social change, you almost need a continuity of spirit that comes from a University, not necessarily from one person at a University, but from the University. And I think Chapel Hill has played that role, sometimes played it badly but sometimes played it extremely well. And over the sweep of history, extraordinarily well. The highlight of that was Frank Graham. But you can go back prior to Frank Graham or you could go back to Battle. You could go back to Edward Kidder Graham who died of flu in World War I and then you had [unclear] and two or three other people that were great educators. And then Frank Graham came in in about 1928 and was the great spokesman for social change in the South. He thought things that you probably think wouldn't need a champion; the sharecropper. There aren't many sharecroppers left, but that was a great burden on society. He was a champion of labor unions. You could get shot in North Carolina for being for a labor union. And he was certainly the first very effective voice to do away with segregation. So, a lot of your social change does come from the University climate that goes out to the state through its graduates and sustains them, I suppose, by being kind of a bedrock back there that is a constant reference point as you are trying to find your way in your own activities and your own community or in state government or wherever. I think Anne was very much a part of that bedrock. Now she didn't influence everybody that went to Chapel Hill. Some of the people that went to Chapel Hill never were influenced by any good motivations, of course. But by and large, the spirit that made the difference that I've recited to people from the turn of the century on was the kind of spirit that I think Anne added to Chapel Hill. She came from a background, of course, that made her particularly sensitive to injustices. You know her background was one of poverty, of working in a mill, of deciding to go to college, of finding that opportunity at Berea College. I was a Trustee of Berea College. And then of going on to Divinity School and then coming here. Well, she wasn't a part of Chapel Hill, but somehow she refreshed that spirit in Chapel Hill at a time that I think that it especially needed refreshing. Bill Friday had come there and Bill is a fine administrator and of course, made a tremendous contribution to the University, but Bill had the responsibilities of dealing with all the establishments he had to deal with. Like I got Jake Felts, who actually and incidentally is a product of Chapel Hill, to be my Anne Queen at Duke. He's now head of the Student Union there. You need that kind of person that gains the confidence of the students and assures them that it's all right to be in favor of change and improvement and higher ideas. And I think she played that part very well at Chapel Hill.