In the fall of 1966, the University underwent a significant transformation when former professor Hortense McClinton joined the School of Social Work as the first black faculty member to be hired at UNC.
Today from noon to 1 p.m. at the Tate-Turner-Kuralt Building, McClinton will be joining faculty, graduate and undergraduate students in the “Lunch and Learn Workshop” to discuss her experiences and evaluate the University’s strides toward diversity.
Time: Noon today
Location: Tate-Turner-Kuralt Building.
McClinton was hired at UNC about 11 years after the first black students joined UNC. Ralph Frasier, LeRoy Frasier and John Brandon were admitted in 1955.
On Monday, McClinton spoke with The Daily Tar Heel about those experiences and her ambivalence toward her significance in the history of the University.
DTH: How does it feel to be the first black faculty member?
Hortense McClinton: It doesn’t feel any way to me. It was just a thing.
I don’t have any feelings about it.
DTH: Do you feel like you have accomplished something great by being the first black faculty member at UNC?
HM: I felt like I did the best I could but other than that, I was just a faculty member and I was there for 18 years. I was 66 years old when I retired and I’m 92 now, so I’m just like any other human being.
DTH: How did you go about becoming a faculty member at UNC?
HM: I had graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and I worked as a fieldwork supervisor to students.
I was working at the VA hospital and they had students from UNC. I worked there with them when I was asked to come join the faculty at UNC.
DTH: What challenges did you face?
HM: There’s always prejudice, even now, just in different forms and you learn to take it.
It doesn’t bother you.
There’s nothing they can do about me and nothing I can do about them. I did face challenges later.
They were not at the School of Social Work in Chapel Hill, though.
I can’t say there were not any there but they were generally in the larger schools and campuses. It was 30 years ago so I can’t remember exactly.
DTH: What sticks out in your memory about your time at UNC?
HM: One thing I remember is going to the library, either Davis or Wilson, and it was just lovely to me.
I could get all the books. I remember saying to myself, “I am the professor and I am ordering the books.”
The lady that worked in the library thought I was a graduate student.
I also remember marching in the first graduation as a faculty member and I think a lot of whites were shocked to see me there.
DTH: What was your mindset coming from a city like Philadelphia to North Carolina?
HM: Since 1948, I grew up in an all-black town in Oklahoma and some things were prejudiced here than I was ever accustomed to in Oklahoma.
I went to a university in Washington that was very segregated but you didn’t feel it very much.
I then went from there to Philadelphia to work on my master’s.
DTH: Did you have any expectations joining UNC?
HM: No, I really didn’t. I had concerns about my own ability like how would I do with students.
DTH: Did UNC call a lot of attention to you as the first black professor?
HM: No. Not at all.
And I tried not to make it a big deal. It wasn’t a big deal at all.
DTH: Looking back on your time at UNC, what did you enjoy the most?
HM: It was a wonderful experience, but the biggest experience was interacting with the students and working there as a professor.
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