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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Floyd B. McKissick Sr., December 6, 1973. Interview A-0134. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

A lifetime of civil rights activism

McKissick has been active in politics, and a political activist, his whole life, he says. He joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) when he was twelve, and since then has worked with the Progressive Party, led voter registration drives at historically black universities, and became the first African American student to enter the University of North Carolina School of Law in Chapel Hill.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Floyd B. McKissick Sr., December 6, 1973. Interview A-0134. 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

FLOYD MCKISSICK:
I've been active in North Carolina politics I think since I was about sixteen or seventeen, in high school. And shortly after high school. I've just been involved in politics…I was in the NAACP when I was twelve.
JACK BASS:
You graduated from high school when?
FLOYD MCKISSICK:
In 1939, in Asheville, North Carolina. And from that time on, I was in politics in Asheville, North Carolina and wherever I went. I went to school in Atlanta…Morehouse College and I was in politics there and I was in the Progressive Party, the Wallace party and I worked actively there and I think probably the first real politicalization came when the city council of Asheville, North Carolina refused to permit Paul Robeson to speak at the city auditorium, and this small delegation of an integrated group went to the meeting of the city council in Asheville to ask them to change the policy to permit Paul Robeson to speak. And I ended up that…I just went there as one of the group, but I ended up being the spokesman, practically the spokesman, for the group.
JACK BASS:
When was that?
FLOYD MCKISSICK:
Oh, check your records…this is the same thing I was telling you earlier…check your records during the Progressive campaign at that time…
JACK BASS:
This was during the Wallace campaign?
FLOYD MCKISSICK:
Henry Wallace.
JACK BASS:
Henry Wallace, yeah. [Laughter]
FLOYD MCKISSICK:
Yes, be sure, this is Henry Wallace in this campaign. [Laughter] So, at any rate, I was active up to that time in voter registration drives and working with the Progressive Party and I was president of the Atlanta University chapter…Atlanta University, of course, includes Morehouse, Spelman and Morris Brown at that time. Now it includes Clark University in Atlanta. And I ended up being elected president of that group of Wallace for President people, where you had all five universities, well, actually, the three major universities and two other schools, including the Atlanta School of Social Work and the Atlanta School of Mortuary Science at that time…anyway, I ended up having the presidency at that time in Atlanta. We had voter registration drives and there was another fellow by the name of Don West from Oglethorpe University who was quite active in the movement and basically the politics was to bring out a great number of blacks that could be calculated to influence the Progressive Party at that time. Certainly young people, and that was the movement that I was in at that day. I think we had the first integrated party…to raise funds, we had the first integrated party at the old Morehouse College gym and it was predicted that hell was going to break loose because of it, because of this integrated party in those days. This was in the '39, '40 and '41 school years. During that period of time. Some of these specific dates could be run down.
JACK BASS:
Were you the first black student at the University of North Carolina law school?
FLOYD MCKISSICK:
Yes.
JACK BASS:
And you brought suit to gain admittance, right?
FLOYD MCKISSICK:
Right.
JACK BASS:
And this was what?…you entered in…?
FLOYD MCKISSICK:
I entered in 1951.