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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Barry Nakell, October 1, 2003. Interview U-0012. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Developing interest in civil rights

In this excerpt, Nakell recalls how he became interested in civil rights law. His upbringing planted an early interest, which he nurtured with an internship program in the South and civil rights demonstrations.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Barry Nakell, October 1, 2003. Interview U-0012. 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

MM: Well, I guess I’d like to get, again go back a little bit in time maybe and talk a little bit about your own background and getting into law and sort of how that relates to the passion you obviously developed for the situation here speaking from your own experience. For example when you were in law school or became a law professor, what drew you to the issues here? BN: Well, I think it’s fair to say that I had my own social and political consciousness aroused by the civil rights movement. I was in high school when the civil rights movement was getting strong, and I had my eyes opened to discrimination then. It was all around me, but I hadn’t noticed it. So I became very concerned about the unfair treatment of other people, and I think that probably my senior year in high school I became very much interested in that and started learning about it. MM: You went to high school where? BN: I went to high school in Michigan. MM: Go ahead. I’m sorry. BN: I think when I was in law school of course, I think that was a large part of my motivation. When I was in law school I worked one summer for, or part of one summer for it was called LSCRRC, L-S-C-R-R-C, Law Students Civil Rights Research, I don’t remember the name. But it was an internship program for law students who would go down South and help work with lawyers from the North who were coming down for limited periods of time. I worked for Marian Wright, who is now Marian Wright Edelman, in Jackson, Mississippi in the civil rights movement and also I spent, I took a week out off of law school and went down to Selma, Alabama during all the voting rights demonstrations there. So a large part of my what was shaping me then I guess was the civil rights movement. MM: Then you decided to go into law and law school, I mean, I’m sorry, a professor of law specifically to sort of teach others or— BN: Well, I don’t know that I specifically had that in mind but certainly when I joined the faculty of the law school, I was in civil rights and continued my work in civil rights generally. I think my work with the Indians when Janie and the group came down to talk to me, it was right away very clear that that fit right into what I was interested in. So I was glad to work on that.