Shaw Hall and the Integration of UNCG, 1956
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro was established in the late 1800’s as a women's college. The university was one of the first in the region to admit African American students in 1956, but did so in a manner that reflected a desire to maintain the color line by admitting only two black students and only after a lawsuit required the admission of black applicants. Joanne Smart and Bettye Tillman became the first black students to attend the institution and were assigned to share a room here in Shaw Hall in 1956. Both women graduated in 1960. Within one decade, the University expanded its scope of operations and admitted its first male students. Today, the university is a leading regional university with a history that reflects both the progressive spirit of this section of North Carolina and its greatest challenges.
Backstory and Context
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro was established in 1891 as a women’s college, under the original name of State Normal and Industrial School. In its first year, the school instructed a student body of 223 women in business, “domestic science” and teaching. By 1949 it was the largest all female institution in the U.S.
The University changed names several time, eventually becoming Women’s College of the University of North Carolina in 1932, and then University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 1963, when men were first admitted.
Prior to 1956 the University complied with the segregation norm, and only white students were admitted in enrolled. However, in 1956, two black women were enrolled in the college. Chancellor William Whately Pierson 'welcomed' the two women by stating that they were "admitted due to a federal court ruling and not by the consent of the governed or the will of the people.” The girls were isolated in their own dormitory, and instructed to use their own restroom facilities.
The Black Power Forum was hosted November 1-3,1967 by the University of North Carolina at Greensboro SGA. The forum brought a lot of controversy to UNCG as topics such as the Vietnam War and the Black Power Movement were discussed. Several Ku Klux Klan members tried to infiltrate the forum but were essentially stopped by campus police.
The UNCG Neo-Black Society was established in 1968 with goals to help black voter registration and develop black history courses. NBS was soon recognized as a a student organization and was appropriated funding and office space. This funding was threatened when a group of white students argued that NBS discouraged white membership. In response to those allegations, in 1973 a new constitution was approved stating that all races were welcome to join NBS. A minor in Black Studies was finally developed in 1982 and in 2006 The African American Studies program was developed.
Today the University continues to function under the name University of North Carolina at Greensboro. The school offers hundreds of enrollment programs and graduates thousands of students per year.
"UNCG to Honor Pioneer Students" by World News, http://article.wn.com/view/2010/01/31/UNCG_to_honor_pioneer_students/ "Civil Rights Greensboro" Accessed September 26th, 2014. http://library.uncg.edu/dp/crg/topicalessays/racereluncg.aspx "Civil Rights Greensboro" Accessed September 28th, 2014 http://library.uncg.edu/dp/crg/topicalessays/blackpowermovement.aspx