Interview with Mary Frances Berry

So, can you, ah, give us some illustrative stories or anecdotes, talking about the old Howard?


Well, when, at Howard in the, um, late fifties, um, and in the period before the Civil Rights Movement began, ah, the atmosphere was that, "What we're about is to try to, um, educate you at this capstone of Negro higher education so that you can be as much like whoever your counterparts are at great White university, wherever that is, and that is your goal when you're here." And the entire ethos of the place took that approach. And it was a very good institution then, as it, ah, as it has been since. But the culture mitigated against any kind of real focus on Black consciousness or anything of that sort. But that started to change when the Civil Rights Movement began in the South. And it started to change with students from Howard, who got involved in teach-ins on the campus, and discussions of the issues, and national leaders came from around the country, and there was ferment in the place. And I think that somethi--even though some of the students left and went to the South to work in the movement, the ones who were there, and the ones who came after them, set the sort of tone and climate for the student rebellion and the movement that took place later on in the 1960s.