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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with James Atwater, February 28, 2001. Interview K-0201. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Black North Carolina youth could either attend a black college or an integrated college out of state

Atwater and other black youth in Chapel Hill did not worry about being excluded from UNC because they had access to nearby black universities and integrated universities out of state. North Carolina provided scholarships to black students to encourage them to travel north for college rather than try to integrate a local white university.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with James Atwater, February 28, 2001. Interview K-0201. 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

JENNIFER NARDONE:
But still at this point, your being so close to UNC, UNC was not desegregated.
JAMES ATWATER:
It was, it was still segregated.
JENNIFER NARDONE:
It was still segregated, right. It wasn't desegregated. I was double negativing. Negating, I guess. So, it was still segregated, but you were still so close to this university, was there any-did you talk about that at all? Do you remember talking about how your options might have limited or not limited because of-
JAMES ATWATER:
Well, I don't know that we talked about it to a great deal, it was the status quo. And we knew that there were African American or black universities within reasonable proximity, and there were some that had reasonable reputations because our teachers had come from them. So there wasn't the idea that we were necessarily being deprived of something, other than the fact, well, this is an outgrowth of segregation. And we're part of it and we'll go along with it, we can say for now, but by the same token, and this is something I mentioned to Bob Gilgor, many of us had relatives who were say in the North or West somewhere, and we-our family had relatives in Philadelphia, we went to Philadelphia, my grandmother lived in Philadelphia, couple uncles, aunts. So, we went to Philadelphia from time to time, and we saw the difference. I mean, when we were kids, we saw the difference in the things we could do in Philadelphia we couldn't do in our hometown. So, we knew there was something else other than what was going on in our [unclear] . And the other thing was, I know that my mother especially, made a point of letting us know about what I think, we can generically call progress. When there was an African American who moved into a situation in which African Americans normally were not found, either because that person had shown the ability to do, or because somebody opened some doors. And I think that the other thing was that there was a good deal of encouragement, from some whites in the white community. Some of the-I think in all honesty we have to say is because they wanted to be able to preserve the status quo. But some of it was, I think, was well meaning from the standpoint of they wanted to see progress, so the specific example that I take is-I don't whether your familiar with the program, that several Southern states established during the period of segregation. If a black student wanted to study a certain subject on the college level that was not taught in the black schools, they would get a scholarship to go to a white school, in Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, wherever.
JENNIFER NARDONE:
And for college?
JAMES ATWATER:
For college. For college.
JENNIFER NARDONE:
Wow. No I hadn't heard of that.
JAMES ATWATER:
I don't have extensive that program was-
JENNIFER NARDONE:
But it to a northern school.
JAMES ATWATER:
It took you to a northern white. And this was, the idea was, they would keep us out of their schools.
JENNIFER NARDONE:
Right.
JAMES ATWATER:
But they would let us get an education. So, it may have lasted only a short while, but I know that that was a program. And I heard for a short while people talking about it, because I also worked as a waiter at the Carolina Inn, and the conversations, well, we can get into that. But anyway, I remember hearing some person say, a white person, I don't remember who it was, but they said, "well who won't take that," rather than going, staying here and going to UNC, when you can go to the University of Michigan on a scholarship. Well, all right. Well, that gave us an opportunity to get out, but it also kept them out. Kept us out of those schools. So I think that's- the other thing is, when they saw that we had opportunities, there usually was encouragement from them to take advantage of them.