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Title: Oral History Interview with Blyden Jackson, June 27, 1991. Interview L-0051. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Jackson, Blyden, interviewee
Interview conducted by Parker, Freddie L.
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
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Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Blyden Jackson, June 27, 1991. Interview L-0051. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series L. University of North Carolina. Southern Oral History Program Collection (L-0051)
Author: Freddie L. Parker
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Blyden Jackson, June 27, 1991. Interview L-0051. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series L. University of North Carolina. Southern Oral History Program Collection (L-0051)
Author: Blyden Jackson
Description: 127 Mb
Description: 28 p.
Note: Interview conducted on June 27, 1991, by Freddie L. Parker; recorded in Unknown.
Note: Transcribed by Jovita Flynn.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series L. University of North Carolina, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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Interview with Blyden Jackson, June 27, 1991.
Interview L-0051. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Jackson, Blyden, interviewee

Interview Participants

    BLYDEN JACKSON, interviewee
    FREDDIE L. PARKER, interviewer


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This is Freddie Parker. Today I'm interviewing Professor Blyden Jackson, who was a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for a number of years and also Associate Dean of the Graduate School.
Professor Jackson, if you could start this by giving us a bit of biographical information—where you were born, early childhood, and that kind of information. We'd appreciate it very kindly.
I was born on the Ohio River in a town in Kentucky named Paduca, in western Kentucky. When I was only four years old, my father, who was the school principal, changed jobs from a school which was named Lincoln, incidentally, in Paduca to a school in Louisville which was also named Lincoln. So I grew up in Louisville. I went to what we called grade school—I don't know what they call it now—in Louisville and high school. Incidentally, again I have great affection for the high school I attended. It was a splendid school and had faculty which probably in training and quality matched the faculties of many small, liberal arts colleges. I had some very fine teachers. And one of my best teachers was an English professor who had studied at Harvard. I pause now to emphasize this because I suspect the time I spent in his class may have had a great deal to do with the fact that all of my adult life has been spent either studying or teaching English.
When I finished high school in Louisville, I went to Wilberforce. I could hardly have done otherwise. Both of my

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grandfathers were AME ministers. In my family there have been two AME bishops, and almost as much as the names of Frederick Douglas and Booker T. Washington, I heard the name Richard Allen in my household as I was growing up. After I took a bachelor's at Wilberforce, I stayed at home for a year. You'll forgive me if I sound as if I'm boasting when I say what I'm about to say. [Laughter] See, I finished high school at fourteen and while my parents never said so, since I wanted to go to graduate school at Columbia, I think they did not want me to go to New York City in my late teens. I think what they feared most, and fear is perhaps too strong a term here, was that it would be Harlem of the Harlem Renaissance into which I would be launching myself and that was a rather exciting Harlem and also an excitable Harlem, and they probably had that in mind. My mother died just before I went there. She died suddenly, very suddenly, just before I went to New York.
I went to New York and entered Columbia. It was in the height of the Depression. They were even cutting teachers' salaries, and when they cut my father's salary, although he didn't say anything about it, I decided to come home. So I never did take a master's at Columbia. When I got home, I faced the problem of trying to get a job myself. It took me about two years to get a regular job. My first job, by the way, was a WPA job, and I've always bridled when anyone in my hearing attacked the WPA. I'm very pro WPA. But I got a regular job teaching school in Louisville at a junior high school in 1934. Let me digress again for a moment. The job I got was actually the job

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that had been vacated by Juliette Delacott. It may well be that some of my hearers don't know who Juliette Delacott was. She was a very fine young Assistant Dean of Women at Fisk University, who was accompanying some students in a car that was traveling along the road from Nashville to Atlanta, when the car was involved in an accident and she was terribly injured. But no physician—there were only white physicians that lived in that area—no physician would attend her, and she died as a direct result of that accident.
But back to my own story. So I became a member of the Fisk faculty, first to replace her, but very quickly I was hired as a permanent member of the faculty. I had been working in the summers on a doctorate at Michigan, and once I got to Fisk, I continued working on the doctorate. This was the Fisk of Charles S. Johnson, and he shortly became president after I went there. And he was very influential in getting fellowships. He [Laughter] probably sat on virtually every board that had anything to do with Negro education. I wish I had time here to tell you about my interview with him when I went into…
By all means, please do.
Well, I went in. I knew about his power, and I had decided, as anyone with any common sense could, that it was virtually the height of folly, if you wanted advance of any sort, to continue to serve on a college or university faculty without a doctorate [Laughter] . You didn't the degree, right, right. [unclear] And I wanted to speed up the process of getting a doctorate, and I remember going in to see Dr. Johnson,

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for whom I had the highest respect. I never found him, as some people said he was, I never found him cold. I thought he was very human, and I also thought he was very, very shrewd. And I remember going in. He was on the Rosenwald Board, and as you know, the Rosenwald Board gave fellowships. I wanted a Rosenwald Fellowship, and I talked to him, I'm sure, for at least twenty minutes. He was sitting behind his desk. He smoked cigarettes, and he was puffing on his cigarette, one cigarette after another. And his face was impassive, and my heart was sinking lower and lower and lower. Finally I decided that I had shot my [unclear] . I felt I'd lost it, but I didn't think it had traveled very far. And so I got up and my heart was in my boots. I sort of backed toward the door, and he was still sitting there impassively. And just as I started to turn and put my hand on the door knob and go out, he called me. He called me back. Well, at that time Fisk had for its freshman something called the writing laboratory, and I was the director of the writing laboratory. And he called me back, and said, "Mr. Jackson, before you leave I wanted your recommendation. We're going to have to have a new director of the writing laboratory next year, and whom would you recommend?" And I [Laughter] couldn't recommend. I just said, "Oh, thank you, sir. Thank you, sir," because I knew he was telling me that I had the fellowship. But I went on. I got the fellowship. And I'm still puffing myself. Actually, I didn't need it. What had happened was that the man who was chairman of the Department of English at Michigan at the time, a very distinguished scholar named Wendell, one of the greatest scholars of all time in

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English Neoclassism, had apparently noticed me and noticed me with some favor. And he told me, "You know, Mr. Jackson," he talked rather abruptly, "Mr. Jackson, we get lots of university fellowships at Michigan, and I'm on that board." [Laughter] And I got a university fellowship, and I had this Rosenwald Fellowship. So I took my leave of absence just almost dancing on air and went back to Michigan. And much to my delight, for the second year the Rosenwald people just extended my fellowship. Then the university fellows extended my fellowship. So that I spent my last two years at Michigan the beneficiary of these two fellowships and completed my residence work feeling almost like [unclear] . Came back to Fisk to resume my teaching there, and I completed my doctorate by writing the rest of my thesis.
When did you finish that, if I may ask?
Well, I finished my thesis, I'll never forget it, in the fall of 1952. I had an excellent chairman, Professor Bater, and I remember him telling me, letting me know by telephone that my thesis had been passed around among the other advisors. It's, I think, true to say that really you're top advisor is the one that really counts, but he was telling me it was all of them. We set the date for my orals, that I'd go through the ritual of the orals, and get my doctorate, and we set it for January, 1953. And my father, of course, was still in Louisville, and I was in Nashville. I called my father and told him. Why, he was just delighted, and within a few days I got a telephone call from Louisville, and my father had died. So I drove up to Louisville from Nashville with tears in my heart, but I was thankful that he

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at least knew that I had finished it. So I went up to Michigan in January and took my orals which was brief, got my doctorate, and went back to Fisk.
Since this is the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I should…. Shortly after I got my doctorate, I did my first stint of teaching in the university system, if you want to call it that, of North Carolina in the summer, I think, of '53. I was a visiting professor of what was then called North Carolina College. Shepard was dead, although the memory of him was still strong, and much of his influence was still on the campus. He had been succeeded by Dr. Elder, Alphoso Elder, and Elder was the president that summer. I felt rather that I knew him well because I had taught a niece of his. He had a brother, a very fine insurance man in Louisville, and I had taught both of the brother's children. I got to meet what was, at that time, a very fine faculty. Of course, Dr. Edwards was there then. But Barksdale was there in English. Charlie Ray was still living and very active. The man who was later to become president or vice chancellor—I'm never sure now how those things go—Patterson, was teaching English. He was not an administrator of any sort at the time. By the way, Vadorset, who became an ambassador, was there working in the News Bureau. He's had a very distinguished career since then. Many people are familiar with him. I remember that there was a psychologist named Kyle who was pretty well known. I had contacts that summer that were extremely pleasant, and that's when I began a life long friendship with Barksdale and Charlie Ray. So I spent that summer there.

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But in 1954 I suppose I got the itch for my own [unclear] . I don't know why, because I certainly liked Fisk.
More than one school was approaching me and trying to get me to come as head of an English department. English department's at Negro colleges then were constantly on the search for doctorates. And I actually didn't have Southern on my mind, but I was on my way to teach the summer at Texas Southern University. I agreed to stop off at Southern, and when I looked at that situation—I guess I can honestly say this. How can I put it? I'll just put it frankly. The contrast between what I knew about the English department at Fisk—small though it was, it was an excellent department—and what I found at Southern, which was a much larger school, seemed to me to be just a sort of challenge. So I left a school I liked very much and went to Southern. Southern and Howard were the largest schools among Negroes. That was in 1954, and I tried to do the best job I could of recruiting there for the English faculty and also I, like any good department head, any department who wants to be worthy of his salt, I tried to work on the conditions for my University. When Southern at last begin to multiple its deans, they had one dean, of course, when I went there, but Negro schools were getting larger and getting different. So they'd started a graduate program at Southern, and they made me graduate dean. That was in the early '50s. I forget the exact year. I think it was '53. I worked at that.
Then in 1958 a very attractive woman came down to Southern. She had completed a doctorate at NYC, and she agreed to marry me. I'd never been married. I was already forty-seven years old.

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But I married her. She's been a very fine wife. We stayed there at Southern until in the late '50s and early '60s, more really in the '60s, white schools began to try to recruit Negro teachers. Well, anyone who is familiar with this, and has some knowledge of the history of the Negro in America, knows that at that time there were Negroes who were involved by what they called the "brain drain." That is, they knew how strong the attraction might well be for their holders of doctorates to desert Negro schools and go to white schools, could envision what would happen. My wife and I were very much aware of the brain drain, and we thought there was some substance to the fear. But Southern had a fairly large number of doctorates. We kept getting offers from white schools. I won't name some of them. Finally, it came down to, for us, certainly for me, the question between two schools. I won't name the other one, but it was dear to me, two white schools. But a member of the faculty at UNC talked to me, a marvelous man, Louis Ruben, and I turned aside from the school that had really wanted to go to. Very much touched by his argument that if I came to Chapel Hill, I would do more than integrate the faculty of Chapel Hill. That I would precipitate what could well be a break through in the whole Southeast, because other schools, he pointed out, in the Southeast tended to follow Chapel Hill's example. There were no Negro professors in any school in the Southeast, and if Chapel Hill hired one, or some…
UNC did not have a black professor before you came in 1969?

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Is that right?
There was no black professor in any school in the Southeast. There was only one black professor at that time in any school in the South and he was in Texas. He was a marvelous man. I'm sorry that you didn't have the opportunity to know him. He has been dead for years. He was, incidentally, a North Carolinian by birth. He was protegee of Odem and Vance, right here at the University. Name was Henry Allen Bullock. He taught at Texas Southern. The year before I came here, he accepted a job at the University of Texas. So he was really the first Negro professor to my knowledge anywhere in the South. And to my knowledge, I was the first in the Southeast.
One question before we go on. You mentioned that you went to the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.
That's right.
What was experience like, the time that you were there? Did you come up against very much racism? Was it a pleasant experience for you? Overall, what kind of experience was it for you?
For me it was a very pleasant experience. If you'll recall, I said I was teaching in a junior high school, and I started in the summer. So it was during four summers that I got my master's, and I suspect, through my experience, there were many teachers during the same thing, whether they were white or colored. You taught the year and then you rushed up [Laughter] to the other school. It was hectic, and you didn't have much

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time to worry, at least I didn't have much time to worry about anything except my studies. I would think that almost any teacher would agred with me with what I'm about to say now. Almost any teacher, it seems to me, who goes to summer school has, among other things in his mind, the fear of not doing well because he's afraid that the students he's teaching [Laughter] back at home will find out that he's having trouble at school himself. [Laughter] Will laugh at him behind his back, if not to his face. Obviously, there was no integration on the campus at Michigan. The white students, it was just barely possible that you might form a friendship with one or two white students. Most of them were, of course, courteous and distant. Some of them were courteous and obviously anxious, willing to be friends. You could run into some of them who showed their feelings, their racist feelings. I quickly recall one incident. I was taking a course in which the course was seated alphabetically, and the girl sitting beside me on my right—I was on the aisle—was a white girl from South Carolina. She made it very clear, in little ways, she never said anything to me at the beginning. She made it very clear though by the way she came in and sat down and leaned in the direction away from me that this was an insult to her. Until the first examination. Again, I'm not trying to be immodest in this. When they brought the papers back, it was a course in Shakespeare, and it was taught by a blind professor, one of the most famous [unclear] . He lectured, by the way, not sitting down, but by pacing across the front of the class. He knew the room well enough so he wouldn't hit any walls.

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Brilliant lecturer. And, of course, he had an assistant who really did everything for him, read to him the papers, and brought him in, and whatnot. Well, after the first test, he came in, and his assistant, who happened to be a woman, a woman of middle age, passed out all the papers except one. And then she said something like this, "Professor Mishkie has asked me to read from this paper which I have in my hand. You will, of course, immediately recognize why." And the paper she had in her hand, the blue book—that's all we used, blue book—she read this blue book, and it was mine. Then when she finished, she walked over and gave it to me. I think she did that deliberately. Then after that, this girl wanted to be friendly with me, and I would not be friendly with her. I really wasn't. I try not to be malicious but I just had made up my mind. I was never going to have anything to do with her.
But two or three of my best friends at Michigan were white. One reason is the reason which, for example, my present interviewer will recognize very easily. As you get farther and farther up the academic ladder when you're trying to get a degree, an advanced degree, and certainly with a doctorate, the number of people who are paddling upstream with you decreases rapidly and radically. [Laughter] And then the time comes when there are few of you, and you all are very close. You're taking courses together, and then you're working on a dissertation, and you see each other in the library. At Michigan, by the time I got up to that point, there were only seven or eight of us, and we actually had a little club. We met and read portions of our

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dissertation to each other and all that sort of thing. So two or three of my very best friends at Michigan were white, and they stayed friends of mine.
One of them, incidentally, I can't remember why he used to come to Chapel Hill, but he had a relative. His name was Tom Whitmore. He got his doctorate, and he was teaching, I think, at Wright State. But yes, I had colored friends who were close, but I had white friends who were close too. And I saw no difference in them. And I don't really see any difference, except for the fact that we did have these things all around us that reminded us that America was yet not integrated, truly integrated. Michigan had a big Union for men, and if we sat each other in the Union, it was a question of us sitting down, eating, talking, well, that's all right. And one of them especially stayed my friend even after we left Michigan. 'Course, he taught in Virginia not too far from here. His name was Tom Leigh, and until his death we communicated.


Okay, Dr. Jackson, will you continue, please?
Let me just say one more thing about those fears at Michigan, which anyone who listens to this tape may find interesting. I've just said something about whites, but I want to say something about one of the Negro students there. I went to Michigan at the same time—my years at Michigan overlap those of Elsie Roxboro. Those of you who may have some knowledge of Langston Hughes' life know that she is the woman who some people thought he would have married. I never thought so because I always thought that Lang was married to his poetry, not only because he was a genuine poet, but also because for years and years he never made any money. And with the close knowledge I thought I had of Lang, I had the feeling he would never marry unless he thought he could really support a family. And he didn't really make any money until his last years. But Elsie Roxboro was a tragic figure to us on the campus. We never did anything to disturb her. We knew she was passing for white, and we'd pass her and not even speak to her. But she had this great dream of a career on the stage. The dream never came true, and as a matter of fact, she followed it to New York City, and as happens to far too many who go there, she ended up, for her, an early death.
But back now, as I think I may have said, I left Fisk in '54 and went to Southern. I actually stayed there fifteen years, my last years as Dean of the Graduate School. I think I referred

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already to the fact that I married. Then in '69 I came to Chapel Hill. My wife did not teach the first year we were here. She had a post-doc fellowship, and she was working on a book which she finished. Then she started teaching in 1960, and I am absolutely sure that my wife was the black woman who was hired on the tenure track here at…
In 1970?
In 1960. No, no, in 1970. I came in '69. Then she had this year in which she had this fellowship. Then in 1970 she was hired. We both stayed here then until our retirements, and she took early retirement in the same year that I retired in 1983. And that's the story of our connection with the University.
Now, I have just one other question. You mentioned Langston Hughes. Just what kind of an association did you have with Hughes? Was it at Michigan or after you left Michigan or just in your professional careers?
Well, when I went to New York City in 1931, I stayed at the old Harlem "Y." Those of you who have read Invisible Man may remember there's a reference in it to the "Men's House." Well, the Men's House in Invisible Man is that YMCA. Ellison stayed there some years later. Well, it was a sort of place where, actually it was a very convenient lodging house for most of us who were going to graduate school. A large percentage, I would say, of the Negroes who were going to graduate school in New York when I was there, lived at the old Harlem Y, as we call it now. When I got there in '31, Lang and his friend Zel Ingram had just

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come back from that trip to the West Indies which they describe in Hughes' second autobiography, I Wonder as I Wander. They were living on the fifth floor of the Harlem Y, and I was living on the fifth floor of the Harlem Y with a roommate named Howard Jason from the rather famous Negro family, the Jasons. They had lived in Puerto Rico and he spoke Spanish well. He took a doctorate in Romance Languages. Well, right around the corner on Seventh Avenue was a very nice restaurant run by a Negro from French Martique, and I'm trying to remember his name. I won't come back to me. Because the restaurant was named after him. But at any rate, we ate dinner there every night. There were four or five of us who ate there every night, Lang and Zell, Jason and myself. And usually the fifth number of our group was a chap our age. He was a graduate student too. He was in business, named Scott Walker. His home was Philadelphia but his father had made what, for us, was a ton of money out in Minnesota, in St. Paul. I guess when the railroads were being built, the Northern Pacific and the Union Pacific, whatever it was, across the top of the United States, the saloon did very well. The father had died, but he left money for scott. Scott had a sister, and I think he took care of both of them. But we'd meet there. We got two bonuses. We got the bonus of the fellowship, and that did not include a lot of talk for Lang. Lang was a listener. We did the talking; he did the listening. [Laughter] But it also meant that if Lang was going out that evening, and he was going out many evenings, he would not only take Zell with him, but he'd drag Jason and myself along. Scott

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didn't go usually. So I got not only to meet Lang, but to meet other figures who were part of the Harlem Renaissance. Almost anywhere we went, they'd be gathered. They were great talkers, and it usually meant animated talk for several hours before we came home and went to bed. That didn't last long though because Lang left, in that famous swing he made. The first trip he made reading his poetry to paying audiences that carried first to Hampton. And then, it seems to me, the second point on that trip was Chapel Hill, and that was when that famous incident occurred involving his eating in this restaurant with whites, and anger. Some of the people in Chapel Hill, these young liberal white students, took him over to some restaurant on Franklin Street, and, of course, outrage there over his eating. But it started then in '31. We liked each other. There wasn't any problem with us keeping it up. And then when I came to Fisk, of course, it was facilitated by the fact that Arna Bontemps was there at Fisk, and Arna and I obviously became quickly friends. That was a small faculty. So with Arna there, Lang was writing to Arna all the time, and he'd sometimes send me a message or ask Arna about me, and then I'd know where he was. Then I saw him at other places around the country. As a matter of fact, in the late forties when I was finishing up my doctorate in Michigan, he came there. Lang always had this dream of being a great dramatist. [Laughter] And he had written a strange kind of a play that he called—actually he didn't call it a play, he called it a drame. I think it was supposed to be a mixture of dialogue and music, I'm not sure. But they gave it a trial there at

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Michigan. They had a rather nice academic theater there in Michigan called the Lady of Reynolds Repertory Theater, and he brought it there before its Broadway opening. It didn't do too well, as I remember, on Broadway. That meant he had to come and spend some time at Ann Arbor, and it was that kind of a thing. Of course, as long as he was there, we were butting into each other and having a good time talking about our mutual friends and that sort of thing. That lasted almost until his death. I didn't see him the last few years of his life, but I stayed in touch with him through Arna. He'd write. And it was Arna who told me that he was frightened for Lang because now that Lang had started making money, he was eating too much. And Arna was right. He was right. It was true. Lang had at last become relatively prosperous and was succumbing to the sins of the flesh.
Okay, back to Chapel Hill now, or maybe before we get to Chapel Hill, I think you've already mentioned the names of a few people who were instrumental in your life. Were there other people who were instrumental in your academic life, in your scholarship, who really impacted you or influenced you in any kind of way, say, before coming to Chapel Hill or even since you've been in Chapel Hill?
Well, there was always my father. I told you about my high school teacher. I can't at the moment remember anyone particularly. Although I'd have to say that the sort of life one lives as a teacher, a scholar, unless the person is unusual, makes for him a great many colleagues who feed him and build him

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up. I just can't remember them all. There were so many. For example, I mentioned Buck. Well, I never had a lot of contact with Buck, but Buck was an inspiration to me. Both of us did a rather large amount of work for the Southern Regional Education Board in the '60s. The last time I saw Buck was in North Carolina. This sort of thing. You get to know a person pretty well. The SREB, the Southern Regional Education Board, had elected a group of scholars and writers at a little school, a nice little school, in western North Carolina near Asheville named Warren Wilson College in the summer time to write a book. Well, I'd never heard of a book being written by committee, and I said to myself, "Oh, this is crazy." But you know, it turned out well. The book, which is a small book, did get written. What they did was we divided up, two of us to a chapter, and we'd meet in the morning. Then we'd divide into these pairs and go away and work. In the evening we'd get together and talk some more. Bullock was there, and that was the last time I saw him.
At Fisk, of course, there was Arna himself. I had a very fine department head, a woman from New England, a New England spinster, if you want to call it. She'd never married but she was a fine woman, Doris Garry. She was white. The man who was to become president for Fisk for some years, James R. Lawson, he grew up with me in Louisville. He was a little younger than I was, but he was there at Fisk when I went there, as a professor of physics. He headed the department of physics. He had succeeded, for his time, a rather famous Dr. Imes. And Lawson and I were virtually inseparable. We had a foursome there as a

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matter of fact, not that I think about it. Lawson and Herman Long, a person whose luster I need not commend to you—Long was to become president of Talledega and then to die an untimely death because he was too young. He died in the '60s. All of a sudden they discovered he had cancer, and it was too late, and he died. And the fourth member was another person who came to a tragic end. We were all Michigan Ph.D.s. He was a Michigan Ph.D. in sociology. Let's see, Long was a Ph.D. in sociology too, and, of course, Lawson was a Ph.D. is physics. But the fourth person, I haven't given his name yet, was Nelson Palmer, and we were there together. Oh, we'd spend the first part of each evening after dinner, from say about 7:30 or 8:00, we'd spend it—we were all great talkers, and we'd meet at a place called the Waikiki, a restaurant. The two streets that run along through Fisk, going north and south, are 17th Avenue and 18th Avenue, and just about a block or so east of 17th Avenue was the Waikiki Restaurant. It was used by students at Fisk and Meharry, but we'd meet there after our work was over in the evening. This was our equivalent of the tavern in Chaucer. We were all great talkers, as I said, and, of course, we settled all the problems of the world. [Laughter] One member of our group was white. Lee Lloyd, he was a mathematician. Among his other achievements he managed to get very much in trouble with the House Unamerican Activities Committee, [Laughter] and finally had to leave Fisk because of that, really. And he ended up at a Canadian university. So I've named Lawson and Long. Two other persons that I haven't named that I should put in this group—one was

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someone who became extremely and deservingly prominent in Negro higher education because he was the president of Clark, thought of so highly some years ago, Vivian Henderson. He died, far too young, in his fifties. And the other person I haven't mentioned was, at the time, dean of the med school at Meharry, Bill Allen. So there we were. I had very close contact with all of them, Bill Allen, Viv Henderson, Herman Long, Jim Lawson. I also got to know very well at the time, what I would suppose we can call a most distinguished Negro artist of his generation, Aaron Douglas, because Douglas and I, we rented an apartment from the same landladies. There were two sisters there named Stone. They were ladies who had done very well as beauticians. I don't think they ever did a Negro woman's hair in their lives. They had a beauty parlor down in the heart of downtown Nashville, white Nashville, and so they did very well. I think I should tell you one other thing about these ladies to be sure you know who they were. Their names were Stone, that was their maiden name. They were sisters to the woman, who incidentally lived only a block or so from us, who was married—Walter White had a brother in Nashville in the postal service. I'm talking about the Walter White, the NAACP Walter White. And this brother was married to these Stone sisters' sister. They all were just as white as Walter White, all of them. The Stones were just as white as Walter White. I taught their sister's daughter. She had a daughter who was at Fisk when I went there, very brilliant student. I don't know what happened to that girl. I think she eventually got a doctorate herself. I think he ended up in some place like

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Wisconsin. I'm not sure. But I had the Stones there. I would walk up, see, my apartment was upstairs over the Stones in the house in which they lived. And then the Stones owned a house next door, and Doug's apartment, as we called it, there were numbers that were on the—I can't remember if it was on the first floor or second floor. But his was on one floor of that house, and then Grace Jones, Bishop Jones's—we call it the white Methodist Church and the white Methodist Church had two Negro bishops. One of them was named Jones. R.E. Jones, the bishop, his brother was for years and years the president of Bennett. You may have heard of the Jones, David Jones, Methodist bishop. Well, David Jones' brother had some children, and Grace Jones was his daughter. She was Bennett's president's niece. Grace lived in one apartment in this other building owned by the Stone sisters, and Aaron lived in the other. Actually, I don't want to get started because when you start, I would just about end up having to tell you that everybody at Fisk was my close friend, on the faculty, and it would not be far from the truth.
Let's come back to UNC. What was the experience at UNC? I guess you were here for fourteen years from '69 until about '83 as a full-time professor and also Associate Dean of the Graduate School. What was that experience like in terms of you coming on board as the first black faculty member? What kind of pressures? How did you react to the pressures or were there any pressures that you may have felt? How was the experience during those fourteen years plus?

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Well, they weren't, in the sense that many people might often suppose there were pressures, there weren't any. I mean, I didn't encounter any great wave anti-Negro racism when I got here. I benefited from the fact that there were just nice people in the English department who actually bending over backwards, it seemed to me, to be sure that I knew that I was welcome in their department. The man that was head of the department at the time, Carroll Horris, was also a Michigan Ph.D. [Laughter] And a very fine chap and politically a liberal. There was no problem there. The chancellor when I came here was a man who certainly was anxious for me to get along, and that was Carlyle Sitterson. I don't want to say anything, and he might not want me to say, and yet I want to tell you this. 'Course we were living in adjoining houses, and sometimes we walked home together, not that often, but sometimes. And we talked. But I had a conversation in his office once, and I don't know whether he'd want me to tell it, but the subject of the black faculty did come up in that conversation. And I could quickly see, I thought, that he did have some concern less I should suppose that he was at all lukewarm in his attempt to expand the number of Negroes here. See, we didn't have any, except for wife and myself. [Laughter] We didn't have anybody. So he said something to me that I already knew. That at schools like UNC if professors, and especially the full professors, were not committed to a program, that program was in deep trouble. [Laughter] The head of the school might make all sorts of pronouncements and exert himself in all sorts of ways, but universities like Carolina are actually

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run—and maybe I shouldn't say this so openly—by the full professors. If you can't persuade them, if you're in the department of history, for example, and you can't persuade your full professors in that department to do a certain thing, you are up the creek without the paddle. I already had divined this. That what we had at Chapel Hill was a situation in which there was still left enough of what someone would call the "Old Tradition" to impede the recruitment of black faculty. It would not be an open thing. It would be subtle thing. Let us suppose someone in the department of mathematics—I'll just choose one—brought up a candidate. Said, "Here, we've found this black professor, and we'd like to hire him." Nobody would say, "We don't want him because he's black." But some of the people there would say, "Oh, we'd like to have him, but he's not qualified." [Laughter] "We've looked at his record of publication, and it's just not up to our standard." [unclear] You get the sort of thing. What had happened, I think, is that Sitterson was experiencing, finding departments that were doing this to him. So I could sympathize with him. I knew he was telling the truth. So I was on the Faculty, whatever they call it, Council, I think they call it here. And the Faculty Council set up a committee on the recruitment of black faculty. I'm trying to think of the fine young man that was here that chaired the committee. The committee had its meeting, and then when it appointed to the faculty, the annual report, the man who read the report was a genuine liberal. Not that every genuine liberal would do this. I'm not trying to impugn everyone. But he was also a member of

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the department of religion. So after he had presented the report, he could not restrain himself from adding his own speech to it, and in the course of this speech he did want seemed to me to be a thing that we shouldn't have had. He dwelled for some time on the sins of the University against Negroes in the past. Racism, the long standing racism at UNC. Well, whether or not that was true, and certainly there had been long standing racism, but some of the members of that Faculty Council were not only professors—you anticipate what I'm going to say—they were also alumni. [Laughter] And what was inevitable happened. After that man sat down, in the discussion which ensued, one or two of the alumni who were virtually livid with rage [Laughter] rose to say things. They weren't going to attack the report that openly, but to defend their university. I wanted to try to do what I could to get some of the poison out of this situation. So what I did was to wait until what I considered an appropriate moment and then made this little speech in which I said that I could understand how it's easy to think that you're not guilty of a certain prejudice. It's easy to do that. And it just happened that I had just gotten from my undergraduate school Wilberforce, it's latest thing that they send out to the alumni, and the feature of this brochure, whatever it was, was a description of the dedication of a building on the campus, the latest building on the campus, and it was called the Martin Luther King Building. And I said, "And when I saw the name [Martin Luther King], I got very angry." And then I waited a

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see, Martin Luther King is a Baptist." [Laughter]
And of course, what happened….


In the '70s when we were talking about this report, one of the things, which was a part of the picture that should not be forgotten, was the limited number of Negroes with doctorates and with other qualifications who could reasonably be expected to be hired at white schools. I understand that we still have not expanded this pool sufficiently. My understanding is that now, instead of the number of Negroes who are getting their doctorate increasing, it's going down. This is something, I believe, that we could do something about. I don't know just what Bill Graves plans to do when he goes into his new job as president of the United Negro College Fund, a fund which I commend to everybody who's listening to this. But one of the things which he might want to do, he wants to get a lot of money, 250 million dollars, which is certainly quite reasonable when you consider what he wants it for. But one of the things he might want to try to do is to make a special effort to expand the number of Negro students who get their doctorate, because what we have to do is to staff not only the white schools but Negro schools. I'm very happy when I see a Negro professor with a doctorate to UNC, but remember I taught for fifteen years at Southern. And I want Southern to have its share of these.
One final question, Dr. Jackson, what about UNC's efforts at recruiting—you mentioned recruiting faculty—what about recruiting students? What has that been like? What was it like during the years when you were there?

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I never knew much about that. Actually, I can't say that I ever took what you would call a significant role in that. My own guess from the little bit I read about it now is that it's not going to get any easier here for two or three reasons. One reason is the fact that, with the limited pool, the most prestigious universities are a real threat to any school in America, prestigious or not. I mean, when you've got schools like Harvard and Yale and Stanford pressing for Negro professors with doctorates, what can a school, even one as good as we think UNC is, do against them. Then, of course, there's something else that's happening, and I'm glad to see it happening. Negro colleges are doing, from the little bit I can see, they're doing more than they've ever done before to keep their Ph.D.'s. Their budgets, I admit, are not as—we hate to say this—but surely they don't get the lion's share of the money that goes to the white schools, although Negro schools are doing a little better, but within those budgets it's obvious that the chancellors and vice chancellors and presidents and vice presidents on Negro college campuses go to sleep at night scheming to keep [Laughter] their doctorates. They don't want to lose them to anybody. They don't want to lose them to white schools, but they don't want to lose them to other Negro schools. The only answer to the question—and I won't extend this any to talk about it—the only answer to the question, it's the only answer, we have got to get more Negroes into channel that leads through to the doctorate and keep them there 'til they get the doctorate. Just have to.

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That's the only answer. There's no other answer. Anything else is rhetoric.
Okay. Anything else you'd like add?
No, except that I'm flattered that you came. I mean, any recognition of this kind is flattering, and I thank you.
Okay, we thank you very kindly too.