Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Guy B. Johnson, December 16, 1974. Interview B-0006. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

N.C. Newbold's efforts for black students in North Carolina

The North Carolina Director of Negro Education, N.C. Newbold, worked to raise grants and financial appropriations for new all-black colleges and schools. Before he started his work, there few high schools and no black libraries. He also worked with religious organizations to start a biracial high school program.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Guy B. Johnson, December 16, 1974. Interview B-0006. 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

There was a man, Mr. N.C. Newbold, who was State Director of Negro Education. In those days, there was complete segregation and very little money appropriated for Negro schools and in fact, the high schools being almost non-existent for Negroes. It was a bit unusual to find the states getting worried about doing something.
GUION JOHNSON:
Dr. Newbold was a very gentle person, too. Dr. GUY B. JOHNSON: He was very shy.
GUION JOHNSON:
Extremely shy, he talked in almost a whisper. Dr. GUY B. JOHNSON: But he had a lot of sense in his heart and he was known around the country as one of the very best of the southern state agents for Negro education. And under his influence, since he was a kind of spokesman, you see, . . . he was a white man, but he was a spokesman for the blacks. And he was the one who pushed through the legislature increased appropriations for Negro schools and colleges, etc. So, he gradually began to make a lot of progress in getting the appropriations improved for the Negro schools. Now, since he acquired a regular reputation around the country for this, he had a little standing with some of the foundations. And one foundation, probably the General Education Board and possibly Rosenwald and very possibly both of them, made little grants from time to time. Now, just to mention a few of these little things: For example, he had a grant to do a bibliography of the best source materials on the Negro. The idea was to get this out where librarians could see it and encourage them to get a basic collection on the Negro.
GUION JOHNSON:
Where did he send his kit? He prepared a kit of books . . . Dr. GUY B. JOHNSON: No, that's another . . .
GUION JOHNSON:
Another project? Did that go to the libraries or to the public schools? Dr. GUY B. JOHNSON: To the libraries. That's going to be my second . . .
GUION JOHNSON:
I'm sorry, I'm talking ahead. (laughter) Dr. GUY B. JOHNSON: So, he got Dr. Edgar Thompson of Duke to collect, to assemble this bibliography and, oh, I suppose that there were four or five hundred entries, which I think that he based on what was in the best libraries, especially Duke and Carolina. And then they published this. It was a very slim little volume and I forget what it was called, but it was basically a bibliography of the Negro. And I suppose that it was quite useful to some of the librarians who, in those days, usually had very little on this subject. And especially for the Negro libraries themselves. So, that was useful. Then, another thing, he had a little grant . . . he and I got up this notion of a small traveling library which could be circulated to various schools, white and black. So, I chose the books. I suppose there were about twenty of them. They made a shelf about this long, and of course, his grant paid for the books and for the freight and so forth, and I got some students over at A&T College woodwork shop to make a nice little case . . .
GUION JOHNSON:
A beautiful case. Dr. GUY B. JOHNSON: . . . a beautiful case of various types of woods, all nicely matched and waxed and varnished. It was like a moveable shelf with a handle on top. And then they built a little case with a lock on it for the traveling. You could just set them in this thing, close it, lock it up and it was ready to be shipped. Well, I did correspondence with a lot of schools and wound up with a list of those who wanted to use it. It was free, you see. They just told when they wanted it and we would ship it and then we would put the key to the lock in an envelope and give them the name of the next recipient. And supposedly, they put this where people could use the books, and put them back in and they would forward it to the next place. Well, this thing circulated quite a bit. I don't remember how many schools, maybe not more than ten or fifteen at all, and we lost very few of the books. I thought that we would lose a great many, but not many. And then, there was one other little project that he had a grant for, and that was to encourage meetings and contacts between white and black college students. And he called this the Division of Cooperation in Education in Race Relations. In addition to being a project of the North Carolina Commission, I think that it was also something of a project in his official office as state director . . .
GUION JOHNSON:
He also got the cooperation of the religious groups, the YMCA, the YWCA and the Wesley Foundation and the Newman Foundation and then the MYF, the high school program. And this project went on for years. I remember going to Duke after we came back from working on the Myrdal study, and speaking on the impact of the war on the Negro. And students from A&T in Greensboro, from North Carolina Central and Duke and Carolina and Meredith came for this little meeting on the campus at Duke. So, this was a part of the continuation of this. Dr. GUY B. JOHNSON: Each school would select its students and Dr. Newbold's money, you see, paid for travel out of this and usually the host university or college would provide a little lunch, and so they would have a program. Some students would talk about what was going on on their campuses and then, usually, there was someone, some older person from the Commission or wherever, who would have something to say. And this had the effect of bringing together a lot of students from both races who might never have had any contact with each other otherwise.