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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Harvey B. Gantt, January 6, 1986. Interview C-0008. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Gantt arrives at Iowa State University

Racial segregation limited Gantt's college choices, but he managed to choose an unconventional place for a black student: Iowa State University. The small number of black students there gave Gantt culture shock. He remembers his frustration that many white students assumed he was a football player.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Harvey B. Gantt, January 6, 1986. Interview C-0008. 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

When you began to think of going to college, what colleges did you pick out and apply to?
Well, there were two ways I looked at that. In the circumscribed world of segregation, there was Howard and Tuskeegee and A. & T.
North Carolina A. & T.?
Yes. I never applied to them. I only applied to Howard. But I had made a decision already, being into what I thought America was going to be all about in the future—that is an integrated world—I had already made a decision that I was going to go somewhere to get an integrated education. In other words, I wanted to be in a school where I was taught by black and white professors, etc., because architecture is practiced mainly by whites and I thought that you needed to be in an environment where I got that kind of teaching, or at least integrated teaching. I was a National Achievement Scholar out of high school and that meant that I had some scholarship to any school that I could get accepted to. Howard, and I applied to Iowa State, and Ohio State, and a few others, I don't remember all of them. And decided ultimately, I think I got accepted to all of them, the Ivy League schools were beyond question for me, I got accepted at Iowa State, thought that that would be a great place to go. It was in the midwest, in the middle of the country, in middle America. I got out there and didn't like it.
How many black students were there?
Not many. In fact, there weren't many blacks anywhere. And that was a culture shock for me; it was really a considerably different place than I had thought it would be. I was mesmerized by the big-time college football and seeing so many black athletes and assuming that the schools were a lot more integrated than they were and made it complicated to find out. Very few blacks matriculated at those universities and those that did were primarily athletes. As a matter of fact, in the first couple of days I was there standing in the registration line, everybody assumed that I was playing on the football team, which insulted me and was degrading.