The Personal Challenges of Integrating UH in the 1960s
Now one of the nation’s most diverse research universities, the University of Houston admitted its first black graduate student in 1961, and its first black undergraduates in 1963. It first integrated its athletic teams in 1964, making it one of the first white southern public university to do so. On October 1, 2012 the University of Houston sponsored “Revolution on Cullen,” a public symposium to explore the personal challenges of integrating the UH campus. The event, introduced by UH President Renu Khator, featured two prominent alumni who spoke about their student experiences and the challenges the faced . Moderator Alison Leland interviewed the two men about why they decided to attend the University of Houston, and what they faced when they arrived.
Former NBA player, coach, and commentator Don Chaney, who helped integrate UH athletics, talked about the isolation of being one of only a handful of black athletes in the athletics dormitory, and about the pressures he felt to deliver winning games . Activist, former Houston city attorney and recent mayoral candidate Gene Locke, spoke about the ways that he and fellow students pressured the UH leadership to more fully change campus culture, including by hiring more African American faculty and by expanding financial aid and housing opportunities for Black students.
The event also featured a keynote address by novelist Attica Locke (Gene Locke’s daughter). She read from her first book, Blackwater Rising, a novel partly set on the UH campus that gives a firsthand perspective on the personal dynamics of student activism in the tense atmosphere of the early 1970s .
Students, alumni, staff, faculty and members of the wider Houston community attended the event and engaged in lively conversations during the Q&A sessions and at the reception after the event.
This event was sponsored by the Department of Political Science, the African American Studies Program, the Center of Public History-Houston History Project, the Phronesis Program in Politics and Ethics, and And rews Kurth LLP.