Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Martin Gerry, August 28, 1991. Interview L-0157. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Locating a new veterinary school at NCSU reinforces white educational power

Gerry thinks that while political pressures attended the process of building a desegregated veterinary school, they did not affect the outcome. He remembers the event as an important symbolic gesture: white decision-makers had to decided whether to place a prestigious program on a black site. Eventually, they located the school at North Carolina State University, a decision that reflected the desire to enhance the school's reputation rather than advance integration.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Martin Gerry, August 28, 1991. Interview L-0157. 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

WILLIAM LINK:
You said earlier that OCR received a lot of pressure on that case.
MARTIN GERRY:
Well, on North Carolina, not so much just the veterinary medicine line.
WILLIAM LINK:
North Carolina generally?
MARTIN GERRY:
Yeah, sure.
WILLIAM LINK:
And that shaped the resolution of the case? Is that accurate to say? That the vet ߞ
MARTIN GERRY:
That's hard, you knowߞthe point is you getߞI mean, it's a political job.
WILLIAM LINK:
Yeah.
MARTIN GERRY:
It's very rare you have any major civil rights case where there aren't political pressures from somebody. I don't really think it had a lot to do with shaping it, in a sense, except in the very large sense that it had shaped the whole approach. But it wasn't a situation where we wanted to do something, we were stopped politically. I don't remember that happening. Not over the veterinary school and not when Peter was there. Now when I was there I was stopped from moving against North Carolina formally by the secretary.
WILLIAM LINK:
On the vet school case?
MARTIN GERRY:
Yeah.
WILLIAM LINK:
Yeah.
MARTIN GERRY:
But that was later.
WILLIAM LINK:
And do I have this right? The actual resolution of the vet school case was underߞwas when Peter Holmes came back briefly, is that right?
MARTIN GERRY:
Right.
WILLIAM LINK:
So there was an interlude there where the case was resolved and took a very different turn than it had earlier in the summer of '75?
MARTIN GERRY:
Right.
WILLIAM LINK:
And that was the end of the case. Of course, as you said earlier, once something like this becomes resolved officially you can't bring it up again.
MARTIN GERRY:
Right. Exactly.
WILLIAM LINK:
Once the department officially approves ߞ
MARTIN GERRY:
Well, you know, the thing about it that was so important wasn't just the decision. The decision had some importance. But the symbolߞsymbolically here was a very prized sort of academic possession. That was what really made it important. Had it been, you know, the School of Social Work or something, it might have been different. But within this sort of hierarchy of, I guess, college administrative snobbery, veterinary schools are pretty prized things. So, it really was a kind of bigger-than-itself issue, if you know what I mean. It was the university system of North Carolina deciding, from my view-point, whether they were actually seriously going to consider even putting a program that would unquestionably attract white students to a black site. There are very few schools, it seems to me, you could have put at any black campus that would have had that Howard impact that I'd mentioned, where it really was clear that there would be significant numbers of white students. But I think it's clear the veterinary school was one of those examples. And, you know, the issue you get is how often in any university system do you get to make those decisions. And, of course, as you know there is an unwritten rule that you only do one veterinary school per state. And, of course, they're still some states that don't even have one.