Black College Activism and Disciplinary Suspensions/expulsions, 1960-1962: An Interview with Rosemari Mealy

Journal of Pan African Studies, May 2014 | Go to article overview

Black College Activism and Disciplinary Suspensions/expulsions, 1960-1962: An Interview with Rosemari Mealy


The following interview with Rosemari Mealy, JD, PhD (City College of New York, CUNY, Center for Worker Education) about her book Activism and Disciplinary Suspensions/Expulsions at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs): A Phenomenological Study in the Black Student Sit-in Movement, 1966-1962 (Edwin Mellen Press, 2014) was established January 20, 2014 by JPAS senior editor Itibari M. Zulu and completed April 12, 2014 by Rosemari Mealy (Aventura, Florida).

IMZ: First, can you tell us a few things about yourself, and how it directed you to conducting this study?

RM: To begin, I would like to thank you for this opportunity to share some insights into the publication of my book for readers of The Journal of Pan African Studies (JPAS). I grew up in the southern part of the United States so I was always keenly aware of the disparities that existed between Black folks and White folks. By that I mean the economic disparities that defined the barriers of separation along the lines of segregation and Jim Crow laws, both of which were validated by institutionalized as well as personal racism. Therefore, growing up in those environs even at a very early age I rebelled against that system by going into the White Only toilets out of the eye-sight of white folks, refusing to call them Miss or Mister and when I was called nigger, I fought back as a child using language that if my parents heard would surely have been cause for a verbal lashing. On the other hand, I have to say my father inspired me to be a fighter because he was also a rebel and a risk taken as a member of the NAACP during the 50's and 60's in our backwoods country town. I remember him discussing the importance of fighting for Black people having the right to vote, driving people to the polling places and challenging the segregated and unequal education system. For my family viewed education as basic to the pathway of freedom and both of them did all they could to ensure that we completed our formal schooling. My strong family ties gave me a sense of who I was as a Black women growing up in racist America, which obviously played an important role in my own life's journey as a revolutionary activist.

When I chose law school after several other careers, this demanding journey was embarked upon with the goal of securing another set of skills to use in our continuum quest for justice. In law school as I mentioned in the book, I had a professor who was expelled from Southern University for participating in the Black Student Sit-in Movement. I was intrigued by his experience. When the opportunity afforded, I started researching the case, which led me to several others. Other than analyzing cases just for their legal implications, I was deeply interested in knowing who those individuals were beyond the pages of case-law books, court dockets, and newspaper articles. These were individuals whose names had not made the headlines at the time of their suspensions and expulsions, nor were they mentioned in much of the Civil Rights history. I wanted to know what motivated these young Black men and women to take such a risk, and what happened to those individuals in their lived experiences once their higher education was interrupted.

Were they still alive? How could they be found? These were intriguing questions, and would remain so because the opportunity after law school never presented an opening to explore the answers to those questions. I reluctantly shelved this desire to investigate further into the recesses of my mind until what appeared to be an auspicious and most opportune moment when the idea was resurrected in what eventually became my dissertation topic.

IMZ: How did you go about selecting the six participants, and why is their story important in history?

RM: There were actually nine participants selected to participate in the study. Three were in the pilot study and the remaining six individuals became a part of the actual study. …

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