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Oral History Interview with Joseph Califano, April 5, 1991. Interview L-0125. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).
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  • Abstract
    Joseph Califano served as the Secretary of the United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) from 1977 to 1979. In this interview, he discusses the main considerations and objectives of the criteria for desegregating higher education, particularly in North Carolina. Califano assesses former University of North Carolina Chancellor William Friday's general policy-making style, arguing that Friday's usual progressive thinking was restricted by the university's Board of Governors, the state's white political establishment, and the large number of black colleges throughout the state. Califano further explains how his anti-tobacco stance raised the ire of North Carolina officials. Because of these factors, Friday and North Carolina politicians resisted Califano's involvement in the state's higher education system. Contrary to North Carolinians' perceptions, Califano argues that the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) did not single out UNC for its reluctance to desegregate. He contends that the Nixon and Ford administrations failed to enforce civil rights laws, which led to an increased involvement of the federal courts. In turn, the federal courts applied significant pressure on him to pursue the desegregation of higher education. Califano admits that he sought to reframe how the OCR considered cases and remove the Office from the control of federal courts. Toward the end of the interview, Califano evaluates his tenure as a HEW official.
  • Rationalizing North Carolina's resistance to HEW criteria for desegregation
  • North Carolina politicians forged a bipartisan alliance to reject Califano's stance
  • Desire to strengthen the OCR and enhance its ability to enforce civil rights law
  • Evaluation of OCR's role in enforcing southern desegregation of higher education
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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.