Julius Chambers (Learning Activity)


Julius Chambers (Learning Activity)


Julius Chambers was a member of the University of North Carolina's Board of Governors from 1972 as a representative of his alma mater, North Carolina Central University. In 1977 he resigned out of protest over the Board’s handling of desegregation. Chambers has three interviews which are available as part of the Southern Oral History Collection. In these excerpts from the 2007 interview, he is talking about eliminating program duplication in the UNC system.


Southern Oral History Project


Interview with Julius Chambers by Judith Van Wyk, March 6, 2007. L-0266, in the Southern Oral History Program Collection #4007, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. http://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/sohp&CISOPTR=4765&CISOBOX=1&REC=3




oral history




Judith Van Wyk


Julius Chambers


Page: 10

Q: It’s my understanding that one of those things that became a major bone of contention for Bill Friday and the university, where they just went “no,” is when HEW wanted them to do away with program duplication. Explain to us what you wanted, what the Legal Defense Fund and HEW wanted to achieve by doing away with program duplication.

A: Program duplication? Well, if you provided the same program at the white and the black schools, you’re just perpetuating the segregation that you were trying to address. I think everybody knew that. If I could get the same thing at Chapel Hill that I could get at Central, I would stay at Central or I would stay at Chapel Hill. We knew that those duplications would simply prolong the period when we would be able to have a racially mixed university. Additionally, we also knew that the state could only afford a certain amount of programs, and we couldn’t have ideal mathematics at both Chapel Hill and Central, nor science or other programs like that. We just didn’t have the resources to do that. What we did was we would put the ideal programs at Chapel Hill, and the not so ideal programs at the HBCUs. So program duplication not only deterred integration of schools; it also perpetuated the inferior programs that were offered at the historically black colleges because we just didn’t have enough money to duplicate the superior programs we had at Chapel Hill.

Q: It’s my understanding that some historically black colleges in North Carolina
actually counter-sued against HEW, because they felt that by doing away with duplications that in the process you were actually threatening their very being and to do harm to them. Can you talk about that?

A: Well, there has been that concern, and I think largely because people were apprehensive that if we proceeded to integrate, blacks would lose everything. There was no assurance that if we integrated the colleges and universities, the historically black colleges would remain. If we integrated the nursing program, for example, people would question why we needed a nursing program at Chapel Hill and one at Central. And since the one at Central hadn’t been getting resources and would not be competitive with the one at Chapel Hill, we would eliminate the one at Central. Folks began to worry about their jobs and worry about the preservation of the colleges and universities that we’ve known, so I wasn’t surprised that people were concerned about that and would fight to try to preserve what they had. But I also knew, and I’m sure many others knew, that we weren’t going to get the better facilities that we needed unless we did more to integrate and put pressure on the university to assign the facilities and funding that these HBCUs needed.

Q: The University as you said before would argue the federal government had no business as bureaucrats telling them that they had the same goal, that they both wanted to integrate, but that the university—that they were actually damaging the institution and that they had no business telling them how to do it.

A: The University had many opportunities to correct the deficiencies that existed, the disparities between the black and the white schools. And again, I think everybody knew that those disparities existed, and I’m sure everybody knew that black kids were suffering as a result of the university’s perpetuation of these differences. The only way we would get any relief would be for the federal government to intervene, either through the courts or through the administrative proceedings, and direct the university to do more. And that’s what happened. I don’t think we would have gotten off first base if we had waited on the university to do something.

Page: 14

Q: You stepped down from the Board of Governors in protest. Can you talk about that and tell us why you did that?

A: Well, as again I said that I thought that the university and Dr. Friday were moving too slowly with the efforts to remove the barriers and to integrate the schools. I saw that more and more kids were going through these programs and coming out with the same kind of deficiencies that I had, and I thought that was really unfair and unreasonable. And so
I asked about expediting efforts to desegregate. That was rejected by the Board. . . .

Q: What was your interaction with Bill Friday throughout this time again?

A: Well, again, I disapproved of the pace that Dr. Friday endorsed for eliminating race discrimination in the schools, but I respected him as a person. I understood that in North
Carolina at that time, one could only move at a certain pace.

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Southern Oral History Project, “Julius Chambers (Learning Activity),” The State of History, accessed June 30, 2022, https://soh.omeka.chass.ncsu.edu/items/show/300.