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0:01 - Interview introduction

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Partial Transcript: My name is Lisa Withers and today is Tuesday, June 30, 2015. I am in the home

Segment Synopsis: Interviewer introduces herself and states the purpose for the introduction

0:38 - Personal background

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Partial Transcript: My name is Lisa Withers and today is Tuesday, June 30, 2015. I am in the home

Segment Synopsis: Grissett shares about her upbringing and early education

2:36 - Decision to attend UNCG

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Partial Transcript: And so, it was a—through the encouragement of my counselor that I

Segment Synopsis: Grissett describes the process that led her to choosing UNCG as an institution.

5:44 - Early education

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Partial Transcript: Okay, I was going to ask as a follow up question, so you attended both high

Segment Synopsis: Grissett talks about her educational background and what integration was like in her experience

12:53 - Choosing a major at UNCG

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Partial Transcript: We didn't have stability in our teaching faculty so when I went to UNCG I had

Segment Synopsis: Grissett recalls how she chose her major at UNCG and the career path that her major led her to

15:09 - Teaching career

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Partial Transcript: So you were a social studies teacher?

Segment Synopsis: Grissett reflects on her career in teaching and administration

16:31 - Favorite subjects

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Partial Transcript: And so you mentioned, you talked about you had that French teacher.

Segment Synopsis: Grissett mentions a teacher that she had in school and her favorite subjects.

18:22 - Support at UNCG

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Partial Transcript: In fact my husband was a substitute teacher in my math class

Segment Synopsis: Grissett talks about an academic support system she wished had at UNCG.

20:09 - African American students at UNCG

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Partial Transcript: Yes, I'll follow up, well actually follow up now. So, you mean not everyone who

Segment Synopsis: Grissett describes what life was like in her small group of African American friends

23:24 - Social life at UNCG

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Partial Transcript: Yes, I'll follow up, well actually follow up now. So, you mean not everyone who

Segment Synopsis: Grissett describes the social scene at UNCG

27:38 - Academics and political protest

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Partial Transcript: I just had a good time and for the first time in my life, I flunked a course.

Segment Synopsis: Grissett talks about the correlation between her academic life and some of the political things that were happening at the time

30:27 - Parents reaction to UNCG

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Partial Transcript: So, I just wanted to back up a little bit.

Segment Synopsis: Grissett recalls her parent's reaction to her decision to attend UNCG

32:00 - Interactions with professors

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Partial Transcript: I was going—in talking about, you know, studies and classes, you mentioned Dr.

Segment Synopsis: Grissett recalls her favorite professors and the ways that she interacted with them

33:57 - Early experiences at UNCG

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Partial Transcript: [Laughter] Alright, and so you already started talking a little bit about your

Segment Synopsis: Grissett remembers her first days on campus and early moments she had with friends and roommates.

37:25 - Social activities on campus

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Partial Transcript: So, not a lot of extracurriculars?

Segment Synopsis: Grissett recalls social activities that happened on campus that she attended.

39:17 - UNCG dining hall

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Partial Transcript: Well, you kind of already started answering one of my questions I had. What was

Segment Synopsis: Grissett talks about the food and the atmosphere of the dining hall

40:50 - Comparing dorm life and home life

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Partial Transcript: But the—I loved the convenience because, you know, coming from a

Segment Synopsis: Grissett talks about the differences between her life at home and her life on the UNCG campus. She expands on where she lived on campus and the things that happened on campus

47:52 - Men at UNCG

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Partial Transcript: Okay. Another thing I was going to ask. So, when you came in your freshman

Segment Synopsis: Grissett recalls the beginning of UNCG becoming a co-educational institution

49:30 - Campus traditions

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Partial Transcript: [Laughter] Were there any traditions that you remember? Any campus or school

Segment Synopsis: Grissett talks about campus traditions that she remembers

50:46 - Protest on campus

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Partial Transcript: Yes, well another thing I wanted, before I get to the end of my—the end of the

Segment Synopsis: Grissett talks about protests that happened on campus, and in the larger Greensboro area

53:52 - Involvement with UNCG

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Partial Transcript: Yes, well another thing I wanted, before I get to the end of my—the end of the

Segment Synopsis: Grissett describes her involvement with UNCG since she has been a graduate of the university

56:21 - Impact of UNCG

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Partial Transcript: Because, you know, what you would want to people to know about your time at

Segment Synopsis: Grissett encourages others to attend UNCG, and she shares a few personal reflections about her time there

59:15 - Interview conclusion

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Partial Transcript: Well, thank you so much Mrs. Grissett. I greatly appreciate your time today.

Segment Synopsis: Interviewer ends the interview


LW: My name is Lisa Withers and today is Tuesday, June 30, 2015. I am in the home of Mrs. [Dr.] Zelphia Grissett, Class of 1973, to conduct an oral history interview for the UNCG [The University of North Carolina at Greensboro] Institutional Memory Collection's African American Institutional Memory Project. Thank you Mrs. Grissett for participating in this project and for sharing with me your experiences today. I'd like to start the interview by asking about your childhood. If you could please share when and where you were born?

ZG: Alright, I was born in a little place called Wampee, South Carolina, which is actually in the Little River section of North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. That's where I was born but I grew up--I was born there because my mother was visiting her father at the time, my papa, Johnny. So, but I actually grew up in 1:00Brunswick County [North Carolina], in a little community called Longwood, North Carolina. And, I went to school at the elementary school there, which was Longwood Elementary [School] from grades one through eight and then from there I went to Shallotte High School for my ninth grade year and that was the first year of integration by choice in North Carolina. So, I was among the few students that helped to integrate what was the all-white Shallotte High School. At that time, parents had to--if they wanted bus transportation, they had to either take their children to the route if they didn't live on the route. So, my mother had to take me roughly two miles to meet the bus. About half-way through the year, she started working, for the first time, a public job which meant 2:00though she could take me to the bus stop in the morning, I had to walk from the bus stop home in the evening, which was about two miles. So, consequently, they thought it wasn't safe. So, after that freshman year, I went back to Union High School, which was the all-black high school in our part of the county at that time, and so, I did my sophomore through senior year at Union High School and graduated valedictorian of that class. And so, it was a--through the encouragement of my counselor that I--that one of the schools that I applied to was UNC Greensboro, and so that's how I ended up there. I applied to Chapel Hill, UNC Chapel Hill [The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina]. I applied to NCCU [North Carolina Central University, Durham, North Carolina], and to UNC Greensboro. And so, I did not get accepted at Chapel Hill. I did get accepted at NCCU and UNC Greensboro. And so when I 3:00talked to my counselor about how to make the choice, she said to me--well, my parents were poor. They didn't have any money so I knew I had to either get some kind of scholarship or student loans in order to go to college because really college wasn't a--wasn't even on my horizons as a possibility until my junior year. I got a chance to go to Governor's School and then for--then I said, "Well yes, college is possible for me," because I would have been the first person in my family to go to college, in my immediate family to go to college. So--but in any case, my counselor said to me, she said, "If you--either school would be a great school for you. But if you, if you want a financial aid package, at NCCU, you are going to be competing with children who have families of five, six, or more in the family. So they are going to out qualify you because, at that time, 4:00we just had the three children in my family. At UNCG, I had a better chance of getting a financial aid package." And I think she had an ulterior motive too because she had--she had been systematically sort of pushing the top students from Union to the white universities in the university system. So I think part of her motive was to get me to choose UNCG because she wanted me there. She thought I would be able to excel there so. So, I chose UNCG and I'm glad I did.

LW: Yes, so you just mentioned that, you know, with the ulterior motive, do--have any idea why she might be pushing all the top students to go white universities?

ZG: Well, I think it wasn't necessarily all the white-- top students. But, there was--there was I sense that I witnessed from the eighth grade on, a move in the county to test Brown [vs. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, 1954]. That's why I was a part of that integrating Shallotte High School and 5:00this--my counselor was also a teacher at my elementary school in the community where I lived. So there was a concerted effort to say, "If this is our right, then we are going to, we are going to claim it." And so, she was encouraging those who wanted to--I don't think it was necessarily a forced thing but those that they thought would excel in those environments, that would help push the doors open, I think there were some of us that were pushing in that direction. I was one of those people.

LW: Okay, I was going to ask as a follow up question, so you attended both high schools. Is it Shallotte?

ZG: Shallotte High School.

LW: Shallotte and also Union. Could you speak to a little bit, to maybe--were there differences between the two that you witnessed or how would you compare those two?

ZG: The difference to--well, at Shallotte, of course, there was hostility 6:00because it was the first time that Shallotte had been integrated but I did well there. I--there were teachers that welcomed me. I was lucky enough to have teachers, most of them, who welcomed me, who challenged you positively to excel, and I remember a home ec [home economics] teacher said to my mother that I didn't appear--I wasn't afraid but I was very good as masking, masking my actual emotions. I was afraid but I faked it to until, you know, I faked it and I was tall, you know, so I-- I guess I could pull it off. I did pull it off. I did pull it off. But for the most part they were welcoming and we had, you know, the materials were new. At Union, all the teachers were inviting and they pushed you 7:00but we had secondary materials. You know, we had materials that had been used by the white students. I mean, you could, you could see the names had been written in there and passed on. You had more modern materials, up to date materials, at the, at the white school and better facilities. Yes, those were the differences that I saw. But, the, the push academically, I think was more for me at the black school than at the white school, you know, the fact that I could hold my own meant that no one, I don't think anyone put the, deliberately put any barriers in my way, but I don't think anybody necessarily helped me either, so, but--.

LW: So, I was going to ask, you mentioned that the integration for high school 8:00was by choice.

ZG: Yes.

LW: So what was that decision to go to Shallotte High School for your freshman year?

ZG: Well, it was the decision made by my parents.

LW: Okay.

ZG: I remembered there being a meeting at the church. The church was right beside our elementary school and it was a meeting to decide, you know, what students or a strategy, I guess, for getting some students into the schools that first year of choice and they wanted to have students go who were strong academically and who were even tempered, you know, and maybe able to handle, you know, what may come at them as far as stress or racial slurs and maybe even some attempts at violence, you know, so. I think they picked us very carefully. My parents volunteered me, you know, to be a part of that. I had, I had another sister who was a year or so behind me, but she did not go that first year. But I 9:00did so, but it was like a strategy, a united effort in the community to, to test Brown, you know.

LW: Okay.

ZG: And my, my father, my parents were very civic-minded and they were about progressive change for blacks in our community.

LW: To test Brown. So, when you were in high school, this is Brown v. Board, 1954, had just passed.

ZG: When I was in high school--I was in high school in the sixties.

LW: Oh, okay.

ZG: It's just that had not gotten--North Carolina was slow to--.

LW: With the "All deliberate speed clause."

ZG: Right, yes, yes.

LW: So that's what they were trying to--okay, okay.

ZG: Yes, the all but deliberate speed didn't come until 1965.

LW: [Chuckles] Until much later.

ZG: Yes.

LW: Okay, I was just trying to get my time period right.


ZG: Yes, they were doing it in the slow lane.

LW: [Chuckles] Okay, and so.

Mr. Grissett: Zelphia.

ZG: We're on tape.

Mr. Grissett: Don't forget to tell her about the way the students treated you all either. Spit balls and all.

ZG: Oh me. I had spitballs thrown at me down in study hall but, you know, that was pretty typical.

LW: In high school?

ZG: In high school, my first year at Shallotte.

LW: They threw, they threw spitballs?

ZG: Yes, we had, we had study halls back then and you, we, I always sat down in the very front. It was in the auditorium in front of the stage and white guys would sit in the back and throw spitballs down on your head. That's probably the most--I had one call me the nigger girlfriend. That's probably the worst that happened to me.

LW: Whew, wow. I'm sorry, I'm just thinking about spitballs. You had the spit 11:00all on you.

ZG: Yes, yes, yes. Well, you know [chuckle]

LW: Okay, and so you mentioned that your attendance at Governor's School was what helped make the idea of college possible.

ZG: Yes.

LW: I know, when I was coming through high school, we still had Governor's School. I was wondering could you share your experience and maybe what was about it that helped you make the decision that you wanted to pursue going to college after high school.

ZG: Well, I never thought that I was going to school beyond high school, you know, because my parents were poor. And I was always a good student because that's what I was good at. I'm good at being a student. I loved school, everything about school. And, they expected me to excel and I did excel. But, when I got to go to Governor's School, that--and I went. I studied French in Governor's School because I had teacher and I kind of got excited about the language and I had a pretty good vocabulary. And that was challenging, you know, 12:00forced you to expand. I don't know that I did as well as I could've done but I know that I enjoyed the experience and it opened my eyes to the possibility as far as what might be college opportunities and I had these visions of becoming an interpreter at the UN [United Nations]. So this whole horizon kind of opened, you know. But then I got back to Union and my teacher left. She moved to D.C. [Washington, District of Columbia] to teach and, you know, we didn't have--our teachers were in and out. We didn't have stability in our teaching faculty so when I went to UNCG I had, I thought about social work as a possible major, you 13:00know. But then, after I took one course, a sociology course that dealt with child abuse and I got to see pictures of where children had been abused and I thought to myself, "How?" I don't know that I have the emotional, what it took emotionally to deal with that kind of depravity day in and day out as a part of my work, you know. So I--and then the professor was--he was the type that you would tolerate me, you were tolerated. But he didn't particularly, he wasn't particularly inviting as far as a person of color was concerned. That was pretty obvious. And then I took a history course under Dr. [Loren] Schweninger.


LW: Oh yes, Loren Schweninger.

ZG: Yes. And wow, that was just like, hey. I was impressed that he studied under John Hope Franklin and so [chuckle] I just, I took everything I could. I told--I said well--I'm going to major in history. He kind of opened that up for me. I got excited, I got hooked, and then my dad said to me, he said, "Well, what are you going to do with a major in history Zelphia?" I said, "I don't know daddy." "Well, have you thought about teaching?" I said, "Daddy, I don't want teach. I don't want to teach." He said, "Well, why don't you go ahead and get your teaching certificate just in case. Would it take much to get it?" And actually it didn't. You know I had to add a few more courses, a couple of ed [education] courses and so I got my teaching certification along with my degree in history, BA [Bachelors of Arts] in history. I ended up teaching and that has been--that was my career.

LW: So you were a social studies teacher?

ZG: I was a social studies teacher at the high school for a number of years and 15:00then I went into administration. And I became a assistant principal and principal at Union, the Union Elementary School and also Shallotte Middle School. Shallotte Middle School was the former Shallotte High School so that was significant for me in that I was able to help integrate that original school site and I became principal before I retired. I also worked in the district office as Director of Personnel, of Human Resources and Personnel. I worked primarily with the novice teachers and then when I retied I was Assistant Superintendent.

LW: Assistant Superintendent.

ZG: Yes, Yes.

LW: And this was Brusnwick County?


ZG: Brunswick County Schools. Yes.

LW: Okay.

ZG: And after I retired here, I went in--I went across the line to South Carolina [chuckles] and I was an Assistant Principal for three years and then I worked with teacher evaluation for three years over there, retired July 2014.

LW: Well, congratulations on retiring.

ZG: Well thank you, thank you.

LW: Okay, wow that was a lot.

ZG: Oh.

LW: But it's good stuff. I'm trying--I'm trying not to repeat too much but also to have enough clarification for the transcript.

ZG: Okay.

LW: And so you mentioned, you talked about you had that French teacher.

ZG: Yes.

LW: And so was that probably one of your favorite subjects because--.

ZG: It was.

LW: Okay.

ZG: I thought I had a facility for language.

LW: Okay.

ZG: I don't know if I did at the time, but I thought I did.

LW: [Laugher].

ZG: But I kind of lost all that vocabulary but it was just something new and novel.

LW: Okay.

ZG: So I kind of, you know, took to it, you know.

LW: [Chuckles].

ZG: But, she left, she went to D.C.

LW: Okay.

ZG: To teach and so we didn't get another person to teach French. And then they eventually put Spanish--they implemented Spanish but, so I kind of lost, I lost 17:00my vocabulary. And then the fact, it might was because I had French a couple of years in high school and got to UNCG, I couldn't start out in the first class they put me in the second class. And I struggled to get, to get those credits, but I did okay [chuckles]. I had a "C" one semester, a "B" the next. So I made it, you know. But--.

LW: Okay.

ZG: Because see you went into that class, there was no English. She was speaking in French from the beginning to the end, so. But I made it.

LW: Yes ma'am and so I thought it was interesting you mentioned how there seemed to be a lot of teacher turn over?

ZG: At my high school.

LW: Yes, at Union High School. Was there a reason for that or do you know why that may have happened?

ZG: Well, you're, you're in Brunswick County, which is, you know, it's like a poor county. And, even though there were beaches, that wasn't necessarily an 18:00attraction for someone coming to live here. So, they had trouble finding someone to teach like math. Like my senior year, our math teacher didn't arrive until maybe about two or three months into the school year. In fact my husband was a substitute teacher in my math class [chuckles] my senior year so consequently I--when I went to UNCG, math was my weakness. And, luckily one of the girls in my circle of friends was a math major. So, she would tutor me in math then I would read over her papers because she wasn't, she wasn't too good at writing her papers, English papers. So, I would look at her English papers and she 19:00coached me in math and so one semester we made a "C" and one semester we made a "B" [laughter]. But we got through. And, I was thinking, I know now there are all kinds of tutorial programs on campus. My son went through and my daughter so I know that those things existed. If they existed then, I wasn't aware of them. I wasn't able to access it. So, having friends who supported me, you know, and I could support them, that was important to me making it through the areas of my academic life I didn't feel I had the exposure and the experience I needed to be successful but we stuck together. And of our group that graduated, you know, we 20:00were among the few that graduated, that were in our dorm our freshman year.

LW: Yes, I'll follow up, well actually follow up now. So, you mean not everyone who came--.

ZG: Well, there were six of us in our dorm. Of course there was just a sprinkling of black folks at UNCG back in the 1970s, '69-'73 timeframe. In our dorm, we were in Hinshaw [Residence] Hall. There were only six of us in that dorm. Six blacks and we called ourselves The Super Six [laughter].

LW: I love that.

ZG: The Super Six. Of that, of that group, three of us actually ended up--I'm going to take that back. I think three of us ended up finishing. Two of us on 21:00time, maybe one later. So, out of that, that group of six, half of us finished. Now, I've lost track with those girls that didn't finish with us. I don't know if they later went back and finished or not. But I think finished on time, really just two of us. I know, another girl, my former roommate, I think she finished later. But, so, but we had a great time together that first year.

LW: Yes, I was going to ask if you knew--. I have heard that there were different variants with each class as far as the number of students who did complete the coursework in four years and so I didn't know from your perspective was there a factor of what may be determined if a student did or did not?

ZG: Well, I don't know. I know for--I know at least one got married. I know 22:00that one of the girls was from Asheville [North Carolina] and I'm thinking she might have transferred to a university closer to home, I think one dropped out because of financial reasons. She wasn't able to I guess keep arrangements for finances for--didn't, maybe wasn't willing do student loans as I did. But actually my closet friend and I, the two of us that graduated on time, we actually graduated a semester early. And that is because we went to summer school. I know after freshman year when I came home and my mama said to me, she said, "Now I have to work in tobacco. She said, now you come from Greensboro, the only job you can find here is working in tobacco." She said, "Now, if you can find you a job on campus or you can find some work in Greensboro, your best bet is to stay on campus and go to summer school." So, that's what I did. I 23:00stayed on campus and got a job working with the first and second summer that I was there working with the Upward Bound program and so, my girlfriend got a job, somewhere in the city, so we, we finished in December and we came back and marched with the class in May of '73. So we just doubled up and got up out of there, because see, you know freshman year was the year you made all your contacts. You know, you party hardy. You know, they guys from A&T [North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University, Greensboro, North Carolina] would come and check out the freshman girls. And, if you're going to get the hookup, you got it then. But this was the test. You knew that you weren't the one if you didn't get invited to A&T's homecoming or to the big events on campus. So, after freshman, year, I didn't have a hook up, my girlfriend didn't have a hookup, so we said, 'We're going to get on our coursework and get the hell up out of here" [laughter]. So that's what we did.

LW: So when you said you weren't the one as far was--to be the date.


ZG: The girl.

LW: The girl. Okay.

ZG: The girl, the main squeeze.

LW: The main squeeze, okay. Just wanted to make sure I understood.

ZG: Yes, if you didn't get invited to homecoming or events on A&T's campus, you were not the main squeeze. And I'll tell you something else too. If you were, at that time, if you were a student at UNCG, you didn't ever, you did not advertise in Greensboro proper that you went to UNCG because it was a, it was a negative. You, we would say, "Hey, we're from the city." Oh no, you did not say that 25:00because if you said you were from UNCG, it's like "Ohhh," because it was, the impression was that you were hawty-tawty, wanna-be's over on the white campus. That was the image that blacks who attended UNCG had at that time. They were light-skinned and they were, you know, bourgeoisie, whatever. So, you know, you didn't dare say you went to UNCG. No, you don't own up to it.

LW: So, is that in conversation with students from A&T or Bennett [College, Greensboro, North Carolina] or anyone?

ZG: That was pretty much anyone black that we, you know, came in contact with.

LW: Okay.

ZG: That was kind of the stereotype.

LW: Okay.

ZG: That we were under.

LW: Oh, that's interesting. This is the first time I've heard about that this is the image, you know, that perceived notion.

ZG: Yes.

LW: Because when I was going to ask, I've heard of the parties, the house parties.

ZG: Yes,

LW: Going to house parties with A&T students. I didn't know if you experienced 26:00that or--.

ZG: One time there was a--I found her picture but I couldn't find her name in the--but Francis Jones. I think she was a junior, a sophomore or junior, when we were freshmen. Now she was the founder of the Neo-Black Society. And so, she--they pretty much kind of put a arms of protection around us that freshman year so that the first house party we went to, she took us. She took my little group and she cautioned us, you know. Don't drink anything, you know, because you never know what they put in the punch and all that stuff. And so we went to this party and it was, you know, it was jamming and whatever. And then she smelled something. She smelled some marijuana. So she herded us out there so quick, you know. So she kind of took care of us. And that kind of was, that kind of helped us kind of know that we needed to be circumspecting where we went and who we went with, you know. So, we always kind of went in groups, I guess, in 27:00herds [laughter].

LW: Safety in numbers.

ZG: Safety in numbers, yes. So, but, that first year was the party year for us, because I was so sheltered at home and so to leave home, which was my first time leaving home, to go to college? Oh, and to be free? Make my own decisions. I went absolutely crazy. I just had a good time and for the first time in my life, I flunked a course. I flunked biology in my freshman year, first semester, and, I flunked it because in high school, I could pretty much take notes, pay attention in class, and whiz the test. But I found at UNCG, you had to read the 28:00textbook [laughter], take notes, and pay attention in class, you know. I was missing a very important study skill. But I felt so bad about it and--reason why I felt bad about it, is that not only had I failed, but I told my mother, I said, "I'm going to fail biology, I just know I am because I haven't been able to, you know, do well on a test." And she said, "I know how hard it is when you're with all those white folks. So you just do the best you can." And I felt so bad. I said, "Here my mama thinks I have failed because I'm in this alien environment, oppressive environment, and the truth is I have been partying my ass off" [laughter]. So, I felt so bad. So, I said, whew. So I had to take biology over. It was a requirement. And, what saved me, and it's really bad to 29:00say, that year, there were all these demonstrations on campus. The Kent State [University, Kent, Ohio] thing had happened. All the demonstrations on campus and there were so many students that were out of class that the university did a pass/fail grading system that second semester and with my enhanced study skills, and pass/fail, I got my biology credit. And that's what I always associate with Kent State. I know it's perverse, but I always associate with Kent State with an opportunity to pass biology at UNCG. And I did because it was a hard course. It was a course that you had majors and non-majors in the same class and it was horrible. I could do okay with the labs but just, you know, it was just over my head. So it was just--anyway, I passed. And later, I confessed to my mother 30:00[laughter], later in life.

LW: I'm curious, what did she say?

ZG: Oh me, she just laughed. You know, she just laughed. My mother was she was the sweetest thing. She wanted us to excel. She didn't have a chance to have the education opportunities that we had, so she was happy--I was successful by then so I could tell her. You know, she didn't take it too hard, too badly, but--.

LW: So, I just wanted to back up a little bit.

ZG: Okay.

LW: I know that you had mentioned, you know, with the high school integration it was your parents who decided with that.

ZG: Yes.

LW: So, I guess know that they were very civic-minded, what was kind of their reaction when you decided when you announced that you were going to UNCG for college?

ZG: They were okay with it.

LW: They were okay with it.

ZG: Just the fact that I was going and the fact that I had a financial package 31:00to go, you know because I did all my applications myself. I applied for student loans so I got a package. And pretty much what they did, they gave me free reign to get ready to go, you know. We patched up, sewed up my little clothes. Because, at the time, all my clothes were like handmade clothes and we got everything ready. And the--they took me to Greensboro and dropped me off freshman year. And, after that, when I went back and forth all that time, I had to take the bus, the Greyhound bus. So it's the Greyhound bus, me, and my footlockers. And they came and picked me up when I graduated. But, after that freshman year fiasco, I reigned myself in and I did, I made, I did what I was supposed to do. Yes.

LW: I was going--in talking about, you know, studies and classes, you mentioned 32:00Dr. Schweninger.

ZG: Yes.

LW: Yes, and so what, he--I don't want--I--one of my classmates was doing research about, you know, he was one of the individuals within the university's history, you know, for his momentous role because, you know, the Neo-Black Society was calling for more black professors and he happened to be hired and so I was curious if you could speak to what was it like to be in his classroom. What was it like to interact with him?

ZG: He just, he just made everything come alive for me, you know. Like I told you, you know, when I heard he studied under John Hope Franklin, I said, "He gotta know his stuff." You know, and so, I don't know. It's just, I just caught on fire. And he, I guess he saw that in me and he encouraged me to do graduate study, you know, when I was about ready to graduate, he tried to encourage me to 33:00do further study but I thought that I needed to come out and go to work, you know, rather than go forward but I was--he was very encouraging. He, like I said, he tried to push me. He took the time to talk to me, you know, about doing graduate study. And then, but I came home in December and in a few months later I met my husband and so, my parents were concerned that I wasn't going to go and get my master's as I said I wanted to do. And so my husband told them he would ensure that I fulfilled my dream of getting my degree, so he never stood in the way of me getting my master's. He helped me out. So, I ended up getting a master's in secondary social studies and I got a second master's in education administration and I got my doctorate in education. So, I kept going until the limit. So I love being a student.

LW: [Chuckles] Alright, and so you already started talking a little bit about your campus experience. So, do you remember what it was like the first time you 34:00stepped on UNCG's campus that first day?

ZG: I don't know if I remember the first day because it's always that struggle of getting--there were long lines to get registered, I remember that, and to get your classes. That's before things were automated like they are now. So you stand in line, you know, in long lines and get your classes and then to go get your books, you know, and I don't remember. I think Francis and some of the folks in the Neo-Black Society, I think they still played that role of looking out for us to making sure that we were settling in. I don't know if they were doing that in partnership with the university or if that was just an issue that was separate and unique to them, with their focus on us, I don't know. But, but, 35:00you know, I finally got my classes and once that was clear it was just, and my books, and once that was done, it was a matter of me getting the class. And I'm a morning person so, you know, I would get the early schedule, you know, so I could go ahead and get that out of the way and have the afternoon to relax and study when the dorm was quiet. But, I was, I was thinking about, you know, how I might, what that experience was like for me and I think I don't know if I felt invited to the university. I don't feel that there were any barriers put in my place so it's like I was accommodated. I was tolerated but I didn't feel that I was invited. So, I would react to that I wasn't involved either. I was not involved. I had a--my roommate who had became my roommate after freshman year, Dot Stokes [Dorothy Stokes, Class of 1973] was involved and I saw a picture of 36:00her. She got involved with Elliott Hall [Elliott University Center], Elliott Council. Elliott Center Council and so she would kind of keep us informed with what was happening in the Elliott Center. You know if there were concerts because she was kind of involved in that. I think that's because maybe she knew some of the folks from her high school in Winston [Winston-Salem, North Carolina] Reynolds High [Richard J. Reynolds High School, Winston-Salem, North Carolina] that might have gotten her involved. But I wasn't involved. When it came down to the Neo-Black Society, I did attend some of the meetings. Some of their meetings and affairs, and I attempted to help with other blacks who were coming in after, after me. But then there was a hierarchy within that too, so, 37:00if you were someone like me, I was basically, I was basically the average introvert so I did not, I did not get myself involved. My entire focus was on getting my academics done, my study time done. Earning my degree and moving on. So, that was my focus there.

LW: So, not a lot of extracurriculars?

ZG: No. Nope, nope.

LW: Nope.

ZG: And I mean, I don't know if even if you call attending a ball game? Now, I attended some concerts, dances on campus. I remember we had Kool and the Gang before they were, you know, world famous. They performed for us.

LW: Oh, that's a music group--could you say the name again?

ZG: Kool and the Gang.

LW: Kool and the Game?

ZG: Kool and the Gang.

LW: Oh, Kool and the Gang, okay.


ZG: Yes, Kool and the Gang, performed at a dance I think when we had dances. We had the Impressions to come once. But that's, that's one regret that I have, you know, because I should have taken more advantage of the cultural opportunities that were available and I did not. And I think that's because I didn't want to do it solo. Because, at that time, UNCW [The University of North Carolina at Wilmington], UNC Greensboro was a Monday through Friday campus, which meant that folks were there during the week, Monday through Friday, for classes but on the weekend, it was dead. It was--the only people on campus on the weekends were folks like me who did not have a car and could not go home. Now I would go home with my girlfriends sometime but I hate to impose on them every weekend. Go home and eat good, you know. But they were really good to us and feed us but, but that was a quiet time for me to get my studies done. And just to, you know, just 39:00to chill. And they--they always served a good breakfast on Saturday mornings in the cafeteria, served real eggs [laughter]. So, I looked forward that because I had simple tastes back then, didn't take much to make me happy. But--.

LW: Well, you kind of already started answering one of my questions I had. What was the dining hall like?

ZG: The food was institutional but there was a plenty of it [laughter] and you could, you know. If you got up and went during service hours, you know, you could eat. I probably ate too many potatoes and drank too many cokes. I was addicted to cokes and on the weekends, you got real eggs instead of powdered eggs. That's the thing I remember. I also remember that I injured this guy that I thought was cute. I wanted to talk to in the cafeteria one morning. I developed an infection in my eye and gone to the infirmary and they bandaged my 40:00eye up and so my depth perception was off. So I had gotten these grits and something else on my tray and I went to sit at this table where this cute guy was and I, I thought I was putting my tray down gently but it kind of bounced a couple of inches and it splashed hot grits on him. So, hey, my chances with him were gone [laughter], the crazy girl with the one eye and the hot grits. So, but, it was usually a social time. People were in and out, you know. It was, like I said, you know, it was institutional food but there was a plenty of it. And I, I had the full meal plan the first year but later I kind of switched it. You had some--I liked that part too. You had some flexibility with your meal planning because I didn't eat three meals a day. So I would--went to two meals a day and kind of save me some on my expenses. But the--I loved the convenience because coming from a very poor environment, and this might seem strange but, we didn't get running water and an indoor bathroom until I was sixteen years old.


LW: You mean at home.

ZG: At home.

LW: Oh.

ZG: And so, when I went away from school and I could take a shower as many times as I wanted during the day. When I walked to class and sweat, take a shower, you know. Just to have that convenience was just wonderful. And I liked the way the Elliott Center was set up. They had listening rooms, I don't know if they still do or not. They had listening rooms that you could reserve and have piped in the music of your choice. So, whenever the dorm got overbearing for me, too noisy, I would go to Elliott Center, pick out my music, have it piped in, and I would stretch out in the middle of the floor and let the music just flow over me. It was wonderful. And the campus was so beautiful. I found it peaceful 42:00and relaxing so, no one bothered me. I didn't bother anybody. So, I just enjoyed--. When I wasn't with my friends, I enjoyed the beauty of the campus. I enjoyed the conveniences that were there for the students.

LW: So--wow that--I kind of got wrapped up and lost in that description [laughter].

ZG: It's a beautiful campus.

LW: It is, and it still is, although they have made a lot of changes.

ZG: Yes.

LW: It's still a beautiful campus. So, you mentioned that in your first year, you lived in Hinshaw.

ZG: Yes.

LW: Did you stay in Hinshaw or did you move to a different dorm?

ZG: I went to a different dorm. I'm trying to think. I tried to stick with the 43:00older dorms because they felt more homey.

LW: Okay.

ZG: Because there was, you know they had the high rises.

LW: Yes.

ZG: But I just like the feel of the older dorms and space. I don't know why, but, Weil-Winfield [Residence Hall]. I don't know if it's still on campus, open or not. It's like across from the Quad. I was there the rest of the time I believe and I might have gone to one of the more modern dorms during the summer time. But I basically stayed, I think in Hinshaw and Weil-Winfield were the dorms that I lived in when I was on campus. They were the older, older dorms. I think Hinshaw became a male's dorm. I don't know what it is now.

LW: I couldn't tell you. I didn't stay on campus [chuckle].

ZG: Yes, yes. I think that was important to be on campus. There were some folks I knew that commuted but it was important to be on campus because the library, 44:00you know, I enjoyed going to the library to study because I really couldn't study in the dorms except on the weekends. And I had a little niche in the library that I would go. It was like a on top of a stairwell and there was a window and a desk and I would go there and I would sleep. I got tired, took a nap, wake up, go on and study. But I just liked the convenience. I liked, I liked the feel of academia, the quiet time to study and reflect.

LW: Okay.

ZG: It suited me as a student. I suited me.

LW: [Chuckles]. And so, what do you recall about maybe some of the rules and regulations of the university. Whether it be in the dorm or, I know with other alumni, they talked about, you know, they remembered when it changed over from being--.

ZG: Well.

LW: Woman's College [The Woman's College of the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, North Carolina] you had curfews and things.

ZG: Well we had curfews. And I remember getting locked out one night because we 45:00went to that shoe, the Impressions, and so we were just jamming, my girlfriends and I. So, we were, you know, they invited us to come, to come out with them after the show. So, we did. We went over to their hotel room so they thought they were going to get some action, which they did not but we lied saying we were from A&T. We told them we were from A&T and that we had to get back to the dorm before curfew. So, we caught a cab, went to A&T's campus. My girlfriend knew a friend from Winston who was at A&T but their dorms were locked too at that time of night. So, I remember we ended up taking a cab to the Apple House downtown [Greensboro] and listening to "Rainy Night in Georgia" on the jukebox until the dorms opened. So when the dorms opened [chuckle], as it was six o'clock, we were standing in the door waiting to come in when the dorm opened. But the word had gone out that we had been partying with The Impressions, so. The Super Six, so, you know. But they had rules about curfews and they had rules 46:00about visiting, guys visiting in the dorm rooms there were certain times. And I didn't find that restrictive. I thought it was good, you know. I think--couple of years after I was there, they had these concepts of residential college and I had a couple of girls from here that went there that were involved with the residential college experience. But there were no rules that I found oppressive. I always felt safe on campus. The only time that I put myself in danger is that jaunt, you know, with The Impressions thing, you know, and staying out and being in a restaurant with, you know waiting until the dorm would open up. That was the most, scariest experience I had but--because I knew I needed, I should have been in the dorm [chuckle] instead of out there hanging out all night long. First time staying out all night long, you know. Country girl, my mama would 47:00have--she would have whipped me with a switch if she knew I was out there at that time of night. But, we had a dorm mother, I guess, you call her although if that was really her title or not. But, someone we could go to and it was-- I felt safe, pretty much. The girls were, you know, it got noisy but they were respectful. I don't recall there being any incidents, you know, where there was any kind of trouble. Pretty orderly I liked the fact that, you know, we had access to the living room portion of the dorm, because we had the guests to come over. Could have gotten a little crowded sometimes, you know, if somebody showed up but it was just home, home like. Yes, but I felt safe.

LW: Okay. Another thing I was going to ask. So, when you came in your freshman year, the university was still finding its way. You know, it just became co-educational.

ZG: Yes.

LW: So, I didn't know if you had any memories or what your perception was being 48:00that, you know, with the men you may have encountered or the lack of men on campus since it was then a co-educational university.

ZG: There were just a few guys that we knew, black guys, and I really didn't, you know, didn't identify with, or noticed, about the white guys but there were a few black guys who were friendly but we, we really, really didn't have much association. You might see them at Neo-Black Society meeting but I think they were, maybe, a class or so ahead of us so, I really didn't have much interaction with them. In fact, I ran into a couple of them a couple of years ago at A&T's 49:00Homecoming and I think they remembered me. I remembered them but I don't know if they remembered me. Like I said, you know, I was pretty introverted. So, I didn't--but, you know, like I said, guys would come on campus freshman year and usually girls made their, their hookup then.

LW: Yes, you've talked about that.

ZG: Yes, we talked about that. So, hey, I didn't make the cut, so.

LW: [Laughter] Were there any traditions that you remember? Any campus or school traditions that you remember that happened?

ZG: I don't remember any traditions, like I said, I kind of felt like I was--.

LW: That's true.

ZG: Like, on campus but not a part of campus. And that's the thing I always told my children, when they went off to school, you know. Take advantage of all the cultural opportunities that are there on campus, you know. Just don't, 50:00don't' paint yourself into a little box because you don't have to anymore. I think I painted myself into a box because I was in an alien environment and I did not feel that I was necessarily welcomed but no one bothered me. But I didn't put myself in the position for anybody to bother me, you know, so, I kind of found safety in a little world that I created for myself there on campus.

LW: Yes, well another thing I wanted, before I get to the end of my--the end of the interview questions. I know in the beginning you mentioned Kent State.

ZG: Yes.

LW: And the protest.

ZG: Yes.

LW: Could you describe the protest or where there any on campus? A protest that happened in Greensboro about the incident?

ZG: The protest, yes, the protest on campus.

LW: Okay. Not many people have mentioned that.


ZG: Yes.

LW: I was going to ask further.

ZG: Yes, there were protests on campus. There were kids giving speeches, you know, anti-war [Vietnam War] speeches and I was thinking at the time, you know, apart from the Biology thing, that I didn't feel like I had enough information to be a part of that, you know. So, I would stop and listen to some of the speeches that were being made going to and from class but I wasn't a part of the demonstrations. I didn't understand what was going on. I knew about the war. I knew that I had lost a church member in the war. In fact, my husband's classmate, high school classmate, but I didn't feel I knew enough to be an activist or to be involved in that but it was almost, it's almost like you are 52:00watching a TV show. It was like I was watching and observing but I wasn't a part of. But it was so pervasive on campus at the time, the demonstrations and students really being side tracked from academics because of that, the university instituted a pass/fail policy that semester.

LW: It's interesting not many other alumni have mentioned that they happened. Do you remember where on campus or you just know it was on campus?

ZG: It was on--I remember, now I--there used to be, when I walked down to Hinshaw, and walked to Hinshaw and walked across and go down between the library and some building like the, it was an open, I don't know what. Probably, in 53:00front of Elliott or--.

LW: Okay.

ZG: McIver that space.

LW: Yes, in front of Foust Park?

ZG: I don't know what they call it.

LW: Okay.

ZG: But it was like crosswalks and there was Elliott and McIver back over here and--.

LW: Okay.

ZG: But it was right in the middle of campus.

LW: Okay.

ZG: At the time. That was the middle of campus.

LW: Okay.

ZG: That was where.

LW: That was where they were taking place, happening.

ZG: Yes.

LW: Okay, do you recall even like observing whether other protests that happened during your time or was that like the main one that you observed?

ZG: That was the main one I remember observing. I don't ever--I don't recall hearing about anything else.

LW: Okay.

ZG: That sparked that kind of response from the student body. And I'm assuming that all those were students. I don't know if there were other people who were non-students or not on campus. I don't know, but yes, I do recall that.

LW: Okay.

ZG: Yes.

LW: Well you've already shared with us what you did after you graduated UNCG. Have you been involved with the university since graduation?

ZG: I have not. I've not really attended any of their, the homecoming or any of 54:00their events, you know. I always try to contribute a little bit each year [chuckle] to each university I attended. I think that's important. My little dollars plus somebody else's dollars makes some bigger dollars. But I have not been involved. I usually go with my husband to his Homecoming events. He's all about I'm an adopted Aggie [A&T mascot, laughter]. So, but I have not been--you know, we were riding through campus and my daughter went, finished there so, you know, we went to graduation. My son finished and graduation there but as far as 55:00me being involved--. Now, there is like an email list serve that kind of goes around from our class and I know that some of my classmates are actively involved and that there is some discussion about getting more involved since you got a brand new chancellor and so, so I've been listening to that. There's a group that kind of gets together during A&T's Homecoming and socializes and I hear about that. Now, I haven't actually been a part of that either. So my husband goes to AggieLand, the car and everything is tied up so I just, I just chill [chuckle] with my Kindle and I'm cool, you know. So, but, I get the publications from the university. I know the university continues to grow and expand. I always felt like I got a quality education at UNCG. I was proud, am proud to be a UNCG graduate. And, so even though I wasn't involved in the whole 56:00campus experience, I got the most important thing, I think, which was my degree and that sense of pride in being a UNCG graduate.

LW: Yes ma'am. Well, Mrs. Grissett, with your last comment you actually answered my last two questions.

ZG: [Chuckles].

LW: Because, you know, what you would want to people to know about your time at UNCG and the impact it made. And so but, I don't have any more formal questions. Is there anything else you would like to add to the interview?

ZG: I don't know. I encourage others to attend, you know, when I was in the school system, I would encourage others to consider it. You know, I think it's a wonderful university. As I told you earlier, I encourage them to, to have that total experience, you know. To really get the most of it but I'm a very social 57:00person so I'm not really interested in the social, the alumni association and all that stuff. I'm not really all that interested in that but I do appreciate, I think, this step up in life that my experiences there gave me. And, I will encourage others to consider UNCG.

LW: [Chuckles].

Mr. Grissett: Why don't you tell her about that [unclear] professor?

ZG: That's not pertinent to my experience [chuckles].

Mr. Grissett: It's pertinent to the UNCG experience.

ZG: My son is also a graduate of UNCG but that was--he was music major and we had to do the--he was not, he was not graduating on time and so, we had to do, what we do for a kindergartener. We had to call a meeting with the Dean and say, you know, we need a plan for this young man to graduate but before we met, the reason that we chose to meet, the Dean had really spoken to him in really 58:00derogatory terms. We found out about. You know, he--I don't think he's no longer there but he had no idea that my son was a product of educated parents, you know, or even that I was an alumnus, you know. So, it was a very difficult meeting but we met with him and we came out with a plan, I said because he will graduate, and we had plan. He was delayed but he did graduate and for the longest time, and I still see material now from the music, School of Music with his image on it, you know, still using his image. But, it was not pleasant but we got him graduated, got him graduated.

Mr. Grissett: She needs to know what he told him about him not being college material.


ZG: Well, he got his degree.

LW: Well, if you want it on recording [chuckles]. It's okay.

Well, thank you so much Mrs. Grissett. I really appreciate your time today.

ZG: My pleasure.

LW: And, I'm going to stop recording.

ZG: Okay.