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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Elizabeth Brown, June 17, 2005. Interview U-0019. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Reflections on the benefits of diversity

Brown describes the way in which diversity causes interests to intertwine. For example, her college boasted exceptional diversity, which meant that any student who wanted to win a leadership role in student government had to appeal to more than one group of people.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Elizabeth Brown, June 17, 2005. Interview U-0019. 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

Okay, when I first came down here, I began to-up in Kentucky in high school, since it was a Catholic school, it was mostly Irish and German background and a lot of people who didn't know whether it was Irish or German in their background. But when I came down here, I got a lot of it [integration] in college. Our college was integrated even though it was against the state law because they registered them as foreign students, but they were-the nuns wanted the college to be integrated. So it was people from Haiti and the Caribbean islands and so on. A lot of Chinese and a lot of Hispanic kids so I was used to that in college. But then when I came to here, I began to realize there were a lot of people of Lebanese [descent]- they called themselves Syrian at the time but later on they changed it to Lebanese descent. There are two big churches here; one of them is sort of Greek Catholics and one of them was sort of Lebanese Catholic on south side. Then there were a lot of English, background English, Irish persons, and then there was a tremendous amount of Italians that were attracted here with the steel mills. Then John Carroll had some other that were like Slav, Slovak kind of persons like Slovinski and those families that came from a small parish outside the city that's still going today. Then I heard the kids talk about the fact that they had [what] was considered sort of a weak president. He really wasn't, I think he liked the position but not the dedication that the president should have. They criticized him. Some of the people criticized him, and some of the students criticized him and said when they were campaigning for this position, their parents told them you don't have a chance because you're not an Italian because that was the biggest voting [bloc] at the time. So I began to realize that. I began to realize it was like the nation in a microcosm because if you didn't have an ethnic group behind you, like maybe the football team or if you were a girlfriend of a football player or whatever, you didn't have that block behind you or the band also had another block. They would vote for it. So you needed one of those big blocks of persons to be elected, and a lot, not all but a lot, of our student council presidents and officers at that time had Italian names. So they started talking about the-we got a lot of black leaders. You would hear grumblings that this, they vote as a block. I would always tell them, when I came here. Now let me tell you because the thing is their parents, a lot of their parents came here, and they could go home and check with their parents. They accused that of the those of you that are Italian that happened when you were here, and I point out to them. I said, those Italians couldn't have been elected by themselves. Even if every one of Italian descent voted, they were still. They had to get somebody else in there to vote for them. I said, if every single black in the entire school voted for this whoever it was, president or whatever, they'll have to get someone else because there's not enough to call it. So don't talk to me about blocks. I said if there's a football player, all you football players vote. If there's a band member, you would vote for him and so on. So I was able to, because of my background I was able to tell them that.