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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 >>

Fears of interracial dating at Clemson

Gantt remembers that the fear of interracial dating permeated Clemson just as it did much of the white South: Clemson administrators discouraged Gantt from attending a school dance, for example. But with typical confidence, Gantt went, and he danced. He did, however, limit his social life at Clemson to focus on his studies.

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

There were people who were quite concerned about my dating habits as to whether I would end up seeking to date one of the white girls on campus. That gave the president and some others a great deal of concern in that first semester with no one else there before Cindy came. There was a big dance, Brook Benton, a pop singer, was going to be there. I decided I wanted to go and a few people in the administration wanted me not to go because they thought that people would be drunk at the dance portion of the thing and I'm standing around, I might get some lonely young lady who would ask me for a dance and I would be crazy enough to dance with her. That might create a problem. Think about that.
LYNN HAESSLY:
So did you go?
HARVEY B. GANTT:
Yes, I went.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Did you dance?
HARVEY B. GANTT:
Yes, I danced.
LYNN HAESSLY:
With white girls?
HARVEY B. GANTT:
Yes.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Any problems?
HARVEY B. GANTT:
No. Nobody did anything. That's the way I felt, anyway, that they wouldn't. I just thought that the administration was a little bit too cautious. At any rate, that's the only sign that people were concerned about what my social life might be like. One of the big fears of that period was the fear of the mixing of the races; the fear of interracial dating was always in the back of the minds of the dyed-in-wool segregationists. They saw that as the end of whatever. Then Cindy comes along and I just primarily treated her as a sister for maybe six months. I mean I would just take her and we'd go to dinner together, we'd occasionally go out on a date together. I'd introduce her around to the black community which was very nearby and it turned into other things.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Did you feel that the attitudes towards racial mixing had to affect the way you came to college? Did you feel like you needed to be extra careful because of it?
HARVEY B. GANTT:
No. I didn't believe in that attitude and I guess I was developing fast as being a person who would, if I didn't believe it I could take it all away. I couldn't support doing something that was not a part of my belief system. What I'm saying is that if I met a person and I liked that person I thought I had the right to talk to that person and be whatever I wanted within the bounds of decorum and everything else, with the values of our society. But someone simply say that because I'm black I can't talk to someone white insults me in terms of who I am. So you can't confine me that way and I refuse to be confined that way. So, I admired some very attractive girls that were on campus but I've never been aggressive in the sense of pursuing them and I didn't in that case. I think most of my concentration probably was on my studies and my social life was somewhat limited.