Abraham Holtzman and Political Activism

Governor James Baxter Hunt, Jr. reflects on the development of his personal and political philosophies, including his opposition to segregation, many of which developed in classes with Dr. Abraham Holtzman.

Interview on 2012-05-29

Transcript

00:00:00.000 Probably the professor that influenced me the most in college
00:00:06.053 was Dr. Abraham Holtzman.
00:00:08.916 And he was a dynamic teacher.
00:00:12.803 and he would teach about the Constitution
00:00:19.056 and he would teach about the leaders who had led the country politically,
00:00:24.984 the decisions of the Supreme Court, all of that,
00:00:29.234 and you learned how politics worked at the national level and at the state and local level.
00:00:36.022 And again, he would talk about the issues
00:00:42.060 and you'd learn about what was happening in the country,
00:00:44.485 what was happening in the Congress, and you'd often say, that's wrong.
00:00:51.051 That's not right. That's unfair. And I did that a lot.
00:00:57.339 My political philosophy was developed there
00:01:01.545 and my activism was developed there.
00:01:05.859 And of course a lot of that comes from
00:01:12.710 what you believe about what's right and wrong in the world.
00:01:15.740 I believe that God loves us all
00:01:18.677 equally
00:01:21.132 and wants us all to have a good life and be treated fairly.
00:01:25.127 It's wrong to mistreat people
00:01:27.649 and it's wrong to be mistreated,
00:01:29.888 and I've spent my life trying to correct that
00:01:34.541 and to see that people are given a fair opportunity to have a good life.
00:01:38.469 But Abe Holtzman made a profound impact on me
00:01:45.266 and I think stimulated me to political activism,
00:01:48.579 to run for office,
00:01:50.695 to choose the issues that I thought were important
00:01:53.840 and treating people right and giving them an opportunity
00:01:56.270 to be all they can be. I sometimes say, all that God wants them to be.
00:02:01.080 I had started - in my senior year in high school
00:02:05.465 I had written a senior paper
00:02:08.703 laying out why I thought Brown v. Board of Education,
00:02:15.164 which ruled segregated schools to be unconstitutional,
00:02:20.502 I wrote a paper in high school saying why it was wrong.
00:02:25.736 I thought that separate but equal, really equal, ought to be enough,
00:02:33.691 and it took me some time during college,
00:02:39.732 reading books like "Black Like Me" and a lot of others,
00:02:44.349 to realize that segregation, enforced segregation, is inherently wrong.
00:02:51.381 You can't have that. It just doesn't work.
00:02:54.547 When you're forced to be separate not only are there practical consequences
00:03:00.729 but the fact that you are forced to do it is wrong.
00:03:04.097 And it is legally wrong and it is constitutionally wrong.
00:03:07.896 And of course I began to meet black students, black leaders,
00:03:15.080 as I said read books, hear speeches by people that I admired and was impressed by.
00:03:25.312 I began to hear stories of
00:03:28.865 how badly people had been treated.
00:03:32.299 And I knew a little bit about enforced segregation,
00:03:38.184 the rigidity of it, the unfairness of it,
00:03:41.759 but I didn't really understand enough about how
00:03:44.816 people who were segregated and discriminated against felt.
00:03:50.152 I learned that at NC State
00:03:53.459 from many of these professors, some of the speeches I heard, things I read,
00:03:58.252 had a profound influence on me,
00:04:01.093 and of course with the
00:04:07.324 interest in politics that was developing in me
00:04:12.018 I began to see that this is a political issue.
00:04:15.904 You have to do something about this politically.
00:04:18.797 The laws are wrong; they have to be changed.
00:04:21.813 The customs are wrong; they have to be changed.
00:04:24.602 And if you're going to get active and try to
00:04:29.723 be a force in the public policy arena
00:04:33.423 you've got to be a force to change segregation
00:04:36.976 and permit equal opportunities.