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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with John Ivey, July 21, 1990. Interview A-0360. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

SREB's purpose to make education more available

John and Melville Ivey respond to questions regarding the purposes of the Southern Regional Educational Board. When asked about the contention that some saw the SREB as an organization designed by southern governors to prevent the desegregation of schools in the South, John Ivey explains that as the executive director of SREB, he believed the organization's sole purpose was to use politics in order to make education more available to southerners, regardless of race. As a result, he publicly support judicial and legal measures for desegregation, which was a position somewhat unpopular among some of the political organizers of the SREB.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with John Ivey, July 21, 1990. Interview A-0360. 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

JOHN EGERTON:
I want to explore one part of the whole construction of SREB with you to clarify a point. There was a lot of talk in the press at that time about the governors' collective strategy to avoid desegregation. It had become a big issue. The University of Arkansas had admitted black students to their graduate schools without court pressure that same year. Kentucky was about to do it under a court order. Maryland and Missouri, all these border states were all ready. Texas had a big lawsuit going and the governors were looking at the probability that they were going to have to desegregate higher education. They didn't want to do it. Somebody in their ranks came up with this essentially political solution that if we let the white vet students go to Auburn and the black vet students go to Tuskeegee and we send black medical students to Meharry and the white medical school won't have to be desegregated. It was a political stop gap measure for them. Somehow when it got staffed, it got staffed with people who didn't have the same ideological motivation. As a consequence, as time went on, it was only two years later in October of 1950, in a case in Maryland where a black student wanted to go to the University of Maryland and there was a big dispute. You were quoted in the paper as saying that you favored the admission of that black student and that the purpose of SREB was not to block desegregation but to make education more available. Have I given a correct interpretation of the events of that time?
JOHN IVEY:
One hundred percent.
MELVILLE CORBETT IVEY:
He was the friend of the court. He took an awful beating for that.
JOHN EGERTON:
Before we talk about the beating you took, I want to talk about the time right at the time you took the job. Do you recall the governors or their staffs essentially spelling out for you the political realities of this job and what the limitations were as far as race was concerned?
JOHN IVEY:
I don't remember.
JOHN EGERTON:
You made up your mind to come back to Atlanta and take this job. The organization was already created, I mean the governors had said, "we are going to do it" and they were putting up the money to staff it.
MELVILLE CORBETT IVEY:
But there wasn't any staff.
JOHN EGERTON:
There wasn't any staff.
MELVILLE CORBETT IVEY:
It was a card table for a long time.
JOHN EGERTON:
You were it.
MELVILLE CORBETT IVEY:
That's right.
JOHN EGERTON:
So, I'm wondering if anybody in the political realm said to you, "this is what your job is and these are the limitations, we're trying to keep black students from going to these schools?"
JOHN IVEY:
I don't recall any series of discussions like that on the limitations on the Southern Regional Education Board as a device to keep blacks out of white schools and whites out of black schools.