Editor’s Note: In honor of Black History Month, today’s post about the desegregation of the University of North Carolina School of Pharmacy comes from Christian Brown, a PharmD candidate at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, and Ben Urick, an Assistant Professor in the Center for Medical Optimization at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy.
When thinking about school desegregation, many picture 6-year-old Ruby Bridges, flanked by federal marshals and ascending the steps of her New Orleans elementary school in 1960. Others may think of the Little Rock Nine, who desegregated Little Rock Central High School in 1957 under the watchful eye of the 101st Airborne Division.
On the campuses of public colleges and universities around the South, though, many of the first Black students were graduate and professional students who successfully challenged the color line and gained admission to previously segregated state-sponsored programs as early as the 1930s. Although some of this history is well-known—particularly about the desegregation of law schools—the desegregation of other types of professional schools has not received much scholarly attention.
The history of the color line at Southern schools and colleges of pharmacy has been particularly understudied. Recognizing this gap in the research, we decided to investigate the history of our own institution, the University of North Carolina Eshelman School of Pharmacy. We recently began the UNC Pharmacy Desegregation Oral History Project (in partnership with the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy) to collect and record the experiences of the first Black students at the UNC School of Pharmacy. We hope to connect their stories to current pursuits of diversity, equity, and inclusion at the School and in the profession at large. To date, we have successfully interviewed two of the School’s earliest Black graduates, and we’re excited to share some of our preliminary findings.