tv James Shepard North Carolina College CSPAN February 24, 2019 1:23pm-1:44pm EST
institution with a rock about that is when they took over, the change the name and the do not change the curriculum and the individual who was leading that institution. what's important about that a larger historical scale, when we say that it's the first states deported -- state supported institute for african americans and openly as little art's come we never had a hide behind the concept of being an a&m university or mechanical arts institution, he was openly supporting liberal arts education in the deep south from 1910 throughout his steve: so would part of his legacy be dr. martin luther king and dr. ralph abernathy and others? prof. ellis: i would think all of these hpcs, it's about black leaders, right? one of the things that i often tell individuals, that his largest legacy, you can go back to early readings and writes of dubois, he wrote an article of building black durham, and he, in that article, he states that,
in without north carolina, a institution, durham would be a slum-filled migrant community, but because of this institution that was created here in durham, north carolina, you have a prominent black middle and black professional class, a class of individuals who go on to become teachers, doctors, lawyers, and black professionals. ironically, when shepard is out in 1947, he's out campaigning for funds to create a medical school because he didn't believe that there was enough representation of african-americans in the state of north carolina, medical doctors, and so he believed that his institution would transform black life in america. steve: how is he viewed by his peers? and was he a national figure during this time? prof. ellis: he was a national
figure on a political level. he was a very heavy hitter. many individuals don't know about him in the sense of his college. a lot of individuals knew about him as a political heavyweight. in the sense that he made statements on political issues in the 1920s and the 1930s,that, in some cases, were controversial. however, the residual effect of that was more institutional funding for his particular school. steve: what was he like as a person? prof. ellis: it appears that he was a very stern individual, from my readings. he was very conservative. but he was very smart as it relates -- related to not being put into a position personally to acquiesce to the jim crow era. meaning, when he was having -- when he wanted to go purchase clothes he would have individuals come to him.
they the tailors would come to him and show him clothes to try on and when he wanted to be photographed, he would go -- i'm told his photographer was out of new york city. so he was very mindful of the customs of jim crowism. understanding who he was in the black community, he never wanted placed into a position where he would have to take a second class seat because he knew the black community was watching him and he knew he was the leader of that community. steve: ann wonder if you can put -- and i wonder if you can put his life and the time period in context, because clearly, this is before the 1950s, and the civil rights movement of the 1960s and the legislation put forth by johnson what did he face in terms of racism? prof. ellis: he faced very, very staunch racism. but he was very, again, he was very calculated. many individuals often ask the question, what would booker t.
-- booker t. washington have been like if he had lived beyond 1915? one of the reasons why i chose james shepard because, in many ways, the early writings of him was that he was booker t. washington of north carolina, and he lived beyond 1915, so you start to see the racial climate shift post1-915. more individuals, more african-americans are demanding things now. as the reproach goes away, in many ways he goes, by the end of his life he starts to shift. one instance that i discuss in this work is, on a cold winter day, in january of 1927, he goes to the state capitol to lobby for funds for his institution. he has on an overcoat. he has on a hat. he gets on the elevator with all white legislators, racial etiquette of the day was african-americans were always
supposed to take their hat off in the presence of white males. well, while he was on this elevator he kept his hat on, no one said anything, but a few days later, one of the legislators requested a bill to remove funding from the institution from under the school, the public instruction, and put it under directly under the rule of the legislators, because he wanted to really punish shepard for that. and so those were some of the ways that shepard, he didn't overtly challenge white supremacy in that time. he did it in a more subvert way. so he didn't remove his hat which was a really challenging the racial etiquette of the day, but at the same time, he came back and said i didn't realize i had my hat on. so those are the types of ways that he would attempt to ondo -- to obfuscate the racial etiquette of the day.
steve: what motivated you to write this book? prof. ellis: i read a book in graduate school titled gender and jim crow by elizabeth gillmore, a great work on race relations in the state of north carolina and in the south, and there was a chapter on the ivory tower, and there was one passage about james shepard, and that's what led me down this trail. trail. steve: so based on your research, how do you think he would view the state of race relations, generally speaking in this country in 2019? prof. ellis: i think he would look at the state of black colleges, and he would say that they are more needed today than they were even back in his heyday. the reason i say that is that by 1930, the naacp shifts its focus from human rights to civil and part of that shift was, in some ways, an attack on black education, and looking at the
dual system saying these black institutions are not properly funded which means they are not properly prepared to train african-americans, which means they are getting second class education, which means that, it violates ferguson. on one hand everything they are saying is true but on the other hand it's attacking these black . -- black institutions. so what he was arguing, in many ways, without overtly arguing, that if these black institutions go away, the number of african-americans that had the opportunity to receive higher education, to go on to become black professionals, would decrease. so i think in the 21st, century,if shepard were here today i think he would make the same argument in the 21st century, and possibly use some of the similar tactics that he in the 1920's and 1930's. we see that during the great depression, post great depression, funding for his institution actually increased.
he received more programs, he was one of the first institutions of higher learning for african-americans to actually receive graduate programs, and he received those graduate programs by 1938 and 1939. steve: is that your message to historians here in chicago? prof. ellis: that's one of them. steve: what else? ellis: i think that, again, out of the 101 historic black colleges and oourts, when we look at those individuals those institutions created, even today, we so, in this most recent governor's elections throughout the south, you had, in georgia with the spellman graduate, in florida, you had, florida a&m university graduate out of maryland, i believe you had another hbc graduate. this still shows the relevance, not just the historical relevance, but the present day relevance of historically black colleges and universities. all still living up to that mission of training the next
generation of leaders within the african-american community. steve: when professor ellis is teaching students in tallahassee, what are the students asking you? prof. ellis: it depends on the day. some of the questions are, is this still relevant? some of the questions are, how could some of these instances happen? the questions are, if they could -- if these individuals could do the things they were able to do in more overt challenges, why can't we do it today? so those are a lot of the questions that i receive, particularly at florida a&m university by my students. steve: and what final question in researching this book, anything surprise you that you didn't know? prof. ellis: a lot surprised me. because when you look at the
early readings of james shepard, he was totally painted as an accommodationist just like beeker t. washington is totally painted as an accommodationist. one of the things that, after i did my research, i find that these, all of these individuals are very nuanced, pragmatists, many of them took a lot of heat for the decisions they made, but when you look at the legacy of the institutions that they left behind, the thousands of individuals that they trained, thousands of lives that they changed, the communities that they changed, the way the geography, if you will, changed, because of some unpopular decisions they made, in the instance, but in the long term, the institutions that they created, that they established, and the students that they trained at those institutions, really, really changed the narrative of the south, i believe. for generations. steve: i'm guessing, based on
the picture on the cover, very distinguished gentleman. if he walked into the room, you would stand up and take notice? prof. ellis: very. i mean, his house still is on that campus today. when you walk in the house, i tour two a private years ago, you can still feel his aura. if you go on campus there is a statue of him in front of the administration building. you can still get the sense of his commanding presence there on the sidewalks, at his institution. there are footprints on the sidewalk, which represents shepard's footprints, because even today you can't go to north carolina central university without knowing who he is. you can't really go in that area of north carolina without knowing the name james shepard, and he's transitions out since 1947, for a young historian like myself who didn't know anything about him, until i picked up that book years ago to
understand the decision of who he was, it's very, very powerful, to take him out of just being a black college president, and making him, really understanding his role as a racial uplifter, from really about 1890 to 1947. steve: thank you for telling the story. >> on august 20 8, 1963, an estimated 250,000 people gathered at the lincoln memorial to demand civil rights legislation in the march on washington for jobs and freedom. , columnists commemorate junior's 90thking birthday by discussing the 1963 march and is i have a dream