While the Woman’s College (now UNCG) student body was desegregated in 1956 (for more information see this post), the faculty did not include any African Americans for more than a decade. In fact, in 1964, the UNCG faculty council actually defeated by a narrow margin a resolution endorsing “the merit employment of faculty and staff personnel at this institution without regard to race, color, creed, or sex.”
It was not until 1967 that the university hired the first African American into a faculty position when Ernestine Small joined the School of Nursing. Small received her B.S. in Nursing from Tuskegee Institute in 1963. While at Tuskegee Institute, she was a member of Alpha Kappa Mu Honor Society. She would later go on to receive her M.S. in Medical-Surgical Nursing from the Catholic University of America. Prior to coming to UNCG, Small worked at Moses Cone Hospital in Greensboro as a staff nurse and for the United States Employment Service Professional Registry as a private Duty Nurse. In fact, when Moses Cone Hospital integrated its cafeteria, Small was the first African American employees to dine in the space.
In accepting the faculty position at UNCG in 1967, Small not only became the first African American faculty member on this campus but the first African American faculty member in nursing at any non-historically black institution in North Carolina. While at UNCG, Small served as an advisor to the Neo-Black Society and the Nu Rho chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. In 1989, she was the third recipient of UNCG’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Service Award. She was also active in the North Carolina nursing community serving as the first African American president of the North Carolina Nurses Association (1979-1981) as well as being on the North Carolina Board of Nursing (1982-1985).
Odessa Patrick, featured in a previous Spartan Stories post, was the first African American academic staff member at Woman’s College when she began work as a lab technician in 1958. It was not until 1969, however that she was granted faculty status. During her time as a faculty member, she taught courses covering the principles of biology, vertebrate physiology lab, invertebrate zoology lab and mammalian anatomy. Patrick was also actively involved on campus serving as an academic advisor, faculty advisor, laboratory coordinator, graduate advisor for the Omicron Eta Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., and treasurer of the Black Faculty/Staff Association. She also received UNCG’s Martin Luther King Jr. Service Award (1991).
In 1969, Dr. Joseph Himes became the first African American to hold tenure at UNCG when he joined the university’s sociology department. He was also the first African American to hold an endowed professorship at UNCG. At the time of his hiring, Himes was one of six African Americans on the UNCG faculty.
Himes received his B.A. and M.A. in Sociology and Economics from Oberlin College in 1931 and 1932 respectively. In 1938, he earned his Ph.D in Sociology and Economics from Ohio State University. Prior to his time at UNCG, Dr. Himes was a Fulbright lecturer at Helsinki University in Finland and Madras University in India. Additionally, he spent 23 years at North Carolina Central University as a professor of sociology.
Over the course of his career, he authored six books and published more than 100 articles in professional journals. Himes earned numerous awards including UNCG’s first Martin Luther King Jr. Service Award (1967), the Irwin V. Sperry Award (1970) and the DuBois-Johnson-Frazier Award for Race Relations (1980). He was actively involved in a number of professional organizations including the Southern Sociological Society where he served as president from 1965-1966 and the North Carolina Sociological Society, where he was not only one of the founders but also the first president (1969-1971).
Much of the information in this post was compiled by Lucy Mason, a student researcher who worked in University Archives during Summer 2015.