Greensboro College in the Civil Rights Era, 1954-1973


Alumni Voices

(Click names to hear audio)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edward Bryant ’61
Born 1936 in Richmond, Virginia. Discusses the GC administration’s reaction to his involvement in the sit-in movement downtown. Graduated with a degree in Education and Social Science.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Linda Wilson Tatum ’69
Born 1946 in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Discusses living on campus during the aftermath of the assassination of Martin Luther King. Graduated with a degree in Education, then worked as a journalist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Penny Shamberger Nichols ’73
Born in 1950 in Greensboro. Discusses black and white students’ political awareness and good campus race relations. Earned a degree in Music Education and English, then worked in the Guilford County Schools.

 

To Hear More From These Alumni and Others

  • You can read the full transcript of Ed Bryant’s interview at “Civil Rights Greensboro” hosted by UNCG Library. You can also read one of Bryant’s Collegian 1960 pro-civil rights “Around Cracker Barrel” editorials here.
  • You can also read the full transcript of CRG interviews with two of Bryant’s GC classmates who also participated in the 1960 sit-ins; Anne Bishir and Richard O’Neal.
  • You can listen to the full audio recording of Linda Tatum’s interview and read more about her.
  • You can listen to the full audio recording of Penny Schamberger Nichol’s interview and read more about her.
  • You can find additional interviews with white GC alumni who attended between 1954 and 1973 at the GC Alumni Oral History Project page.

 

GC Student Participation in the Sit-ins

Richard O’Neal
Courtesy of Greensboro College

On February 1, 1960, four black male students from A&T University sat down at the segregated lunch counter in Woolworths Cafeteria and demanded service. This was the beginning of the sit-in movement in Greensboro- a movement that brought national attention. GC students Anne Bishir (’61) , Richard O’Neal ‘(61), Lowell Lot (’60), and Edward Bryant (’61) participated in the sit-in movement in the days and weeks that followed.  O’Neal, Bryant, and Bishir all claimed in later years that the Board of Trustees pressured President Harold Hutson and the Dean of Student to keep students “in line” by being told they would not be allowed to graduate if they continued to go downtown to support the black students’ protests.  O’Neal even received anonymous death threats.

 

 

 

 

 

Greensboro College’s Desegregation

A May 1960 Collegian article surveyed students from Wake Forest College, Duke University, and GC on their support for integration of their respective campuses. These are the percentages of students who responded the following: “(your university) should accept qualified students without regard to race or color by, 1. Immediate Future 2. Near Future 3. Never 4.

 

Response

% WFU Students  Responding

% Duke Students Responding

% GC Students  Responding

Immediate

21%

36%

13%

Near Future

24%

20%

40%

Never

55%

44%

47%

Six years before, in February 1954, another Collegian poll indicated that 47.53% of GC students supported the general idea of integration, if not specifically on campus. The article concluded that “the students of Greensboro College need to learn to associate with students at Negro Colleges.”

Here is the order in which public and private colleges and universities in the Triangle and Triad began to admit the first generations of African American students.

  • University of North Carolina Chapel Hill 1955
  • University of North Carolina Greensboro 1956
  • Guilford College 1962
  • Wake Forest College 1962
  • Duke University 1963
  • Elon University 1969
  • Greensboro College 1969

Greensboro was unique in having two black colleges within walking distance of Greensboro College’s campus. Some have argued that the fact A&T and Bennet Women’s College were so close, they deterred many black students from wanting to attend Greensboro College, and may have contributed to GC’s late integration.  Penny Shamberger, a Greensboro native, recalled that her mother wouldn’t let her attend A&T State University because its students were mostly male. And Penny didn’t want to attend Bennett College because it was all female. So Shamberger ultimately decided upon Greensboro College because it was co-ed and because it also had a sound music program at the time.

By the late 1960s, GC’s pioneering black students, like William Estes, Leonard Lassister, Shamberger, and a few others were “integrating” into campus life.  Shamberger did not recall experiencing any discrimination or racial tension while at GC.

Leonard Lassiter ’73 with classmates on campus
Courtesy of Greensboro College