An Unexpected Trailblazer Who Desegregated A Southern College In 1956

Mar 9, 2018

JoAnne Smart Drane and her classmate Bettye Ann Davis Tillman in 1956.
Credit UNCG

Before the University of North Carolina at Greensboro was a thriving liberal arts school filled with rich and diverse voices, it was Woman’s College. When JoAnne Drane stepped foot on the campus in 1956, the school was one of the largest women’s colleges in the country, but it was far from diverse. In fact, she was one of the first two black students.

Administrators made it clear that the recent Brown v. Board of Education decision permitted Drane and Bettye Tillman to attend the school, but some parents and other students felt otherwise, including those who sent  letters of concern insisting bathrooms remain segregated. This proposition was equally heavy to Drane who had never attended school with white students or had a white teacher.  But not everyone was hostile, nor was it all doom and gloom.

More than 60 years since she made history, JoAnne Drane joins host Frank Stasio to talk about how she navigated college in the midst of the Jim Crow South, and why her time at UNC-Greensboro remains an important part of her legacy.