Comments from grads of other decades
Comments from staff, administrators, community members
History of integration
Making college home
A team united
Pride and tradition
Remembering the early days
Comments from graduates of other decades: 1, 2
Willie Earl Johnson ('68):
Being the only black in anything, it just has a psychologically negative effect on you if you are the only, the only — then you have a disadvantage from the start. … In one of my accounting classes, I remember the teacher telling us that the most that any black person in there was going to make was a C. That's the best grade you would be able to get. That in itself was enough to almost discourage you, but you did what you had to do and you graduated. I thank the Lord I was one of the people who was able to graduate in four years and went on about my business.
Dennis Stephens ('72, '76 M.S.):
When I came to the university I was a young 17. I had experienced discrimination and prejudice. I knew exactly what it was. Thus, if I experienced such in the classroom or on campus, I developed more zeal and determination to succeed. I never dropped a class, because I would have considered that a failure. Prejudice existed, and I can attribute these actions to people being ignorant.
Angela Hawkins ('95):
Overall, my experience at North Texas was positive. I had friends who went there who talked about the school, and they liked it and enjoyed it. It was a type of culture shock for me. I came from a magnet school that was small, and North Texas was a big campus and predominantly Anglo. It was very interesting to sit in class. I especially remember my literature class in the Lyceum — 500 students and I was the only black in the whole class. That was very interesting to see how other students treated us, because racism is still alive at UNT.
Dennis Stephens ('72, '76 M.S.):
I became a very close friend to Mr. Sam Steen, a white guy in one of my P.E. classes. Even after I graduated, earned a master's degree and had children, he remained my friend. While on campus he encouraged me to pledge Talons, which I did. … If there was another black student or minority student in that organization, I can't remember. Although Mr. Steen did not look like me, he genuinely cared about me. This was very important to me. Not only was I his friend, I was a part of a group.
Angela Hawkins ('95): We did have some good role models before us (older students) who really took us under their wing when we got there as freshmen and told us, "Take this teacher. Don't take this teacher. You can go here but you can't go here" — those type of things.
James Gray ('66, '67 M.A.):
I don't think North Texas should be the recipient of complaints if it happens to admit someone who was reared as a bigot. That's a reflection on their parents more than anything else. I mean, when you walk through North Texas' doors and when you graduate, there's no one waving their hand and magically everyone leaves their bigotry and their hatred at home. It's a lot of years to undo. By the time you go to college, if you are already a bigot, I doubt four years at North Texas is going to undo that. … Until the time you go to your grave there will probably be some situation where you run across the wrong person, who was raised to feel differently about racial or ethnic minorities. … I don't think it's completely something you can legislate away. If you want to change it, you ought to change it in the families. Because parents teach that type of behavior. And that's where it's going to have to stop.
Where we are today
Artist Thornton ('93, '98 M.A., '03 Ph.D.): I think things are getting better, but there's a lot more work that needs to be done. There is progress. There are people who want to prepare you and nurture you along the way. There are factions in place just like in society that will deter you, especially if you are African American — "You're not supposed to do this. You're supposed to do that." The social philosophy of stratification is still in place, but there is great improvement. I'm proud of the University of North Texas and what they are doing. I'm not downplaying anything. I'm very happy for the success student-wise, faculty-wise and student support-wise, but there's a lot more work that should be done to make it better. I think it should be the best place in Texas. Period.
What they learned
James Gray ('66, '67 M.A.): A lot of the negative experiences at North Texas prepared me for other things I faced later on. As part of my residency training at Johns Hopkins, we had to go to Shiraz, Iran. I had no problem with going to Iran. I kept thinking if I could deal with what I dealt with as an 18-year-old at North Texas, I can sure deal with whatever Iran's going to throw at me when I'm a grown man. So that gave me confidence. I would not like it to happen again to other people just because they look like me. But you can take the negative and turn it around into something positive.
Gloria Phillips Stephens ('72, '77 M.M.E.): As I think of the integration pioneers who paved the way for subsequent African-American students, I am humbled by the fact that they made it and kept going in less than ideal situations. I think that's one of the best lessons that we can teach kids now, that nothing really comes free or easy — not just with racial diversity but in other areas where you have to work hard in order to succeed. … That alone is worthy of celebration.