Interviews by Topic: Race Relations

In Part 1, Elizabeth begins by talking about her high-achieving family. Educated at Harvard Dental School, her father was one of only two black dentists in Providence at that time. He was additionally active in the NAACP and a variety of community programs, pushing the same expectations he had for himself onto his daughter. Elizabeth discusses the inevitability of pursuing a PhD; her lack of choice in choosing Pembroke; and being a highly visible token among her classmates.

25th Reunion, class of 1985

This interview with members of the Brown University class of 1985 summarizes the economically, socially, and racially diverse undergraduate experiences of Frances S. Lee, Suzanne Beth Goldberg, Margaret E. Rosen, Karen Smith, Allyson Tucker, Katherine Sabin Melchoir, and Jill Anne Hereford, at their 25th reunion.

First, the interviewees are asked why they chose to attend Brown and what their thoughts and experiences were concerning the “new curriculum” that abolished course requirements and allowed for a more open exploration of subjects.

25th Reunion, class of 1986

This interview with members of the Brown University class of 1986 highlights the undergraduate experiences of Lisa M. Caputo, Linda M. Sanches, Marcy A. Sandler, Judith Anne Williams, Pamela B. Weiler, Janet L. Kroll, and Christa M. Champion, during their 25th reunion in May 2011.

Anna Rena Hass, class of 1917

In the first part of the interview, Anna Rena Hass discusses early life on her family’s farm and the decision to attend Pembroke despite wanting to get married and become a nurse. Hass describes the courses she took in her two years at Pembroke and some of the formative people she met during that time. In the second part of the interview, Hass elucidates the Brown dress code and describes political events, life in Cuba, and her arrest. 

Beatrice Elizabeth Coleman, class of 1925

In this interview, Beatrice Elizabeth Coleman discusses her career as a teacher in normal schools in North Carolina and Pennsylvania; the African American communities in Providence and at Brown and Pembroke in the early twentieth century; and her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha. At the time of the interview she was 102 years old.

Bernicestine E. McLeod, class of 1968

This oral history features three members of the class of the Pembroke College class of 1968: Bernicestine E. McLeod, an information management consultant; Sandra L. Richards, a professor of African American Studies and Theatre at Northwestern University; and Marcia D. Lloyd, an artist and professor of Painting at the Massachusetts College of Art. 

Cecile Lena Kantrowitz, class of 1930

Cecile Lena Kantrowitz Israel begins this interview by explaining her Russian heritage and Jewish upbringing, her father's career as a Hebrew teacher and cantor, and tracing her roots to Baal Shem Tov. She discusses her education at Classical High School, her mother’s liberated beliefs, and why she chose to attend Pembroke College. Regarding her education at Pembroke, Israel describes her first days, joining Phi Beta Kappa, and being a student of languages.

Charlotte Nell Cook, class of 1964

In Part 1 of this interview, Charlotte Nell Cook discusses her upbringing, her decision to attend Pembroke College with the help of scholarship aid, and her general academic experience during her college years. She then recalls an anecdote about dating, describes the dynamics between male and female students, and touches on the near-total lack of black and other minority students. She thoroughly discusses the strict parietal laws that came about during the office of Dean Rosemary Pierrel.

Constance Worthington, class of 1968

In this interview, Constance Worthington begins by talking about her family’s involvement in Brown University, and her eventual decision to transfer to Pembroke College. She then discusses her challenging time at Brown being a student, single mother, and a widow, and what it was like raising a son later diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.

Deborah J. Greenberg, class of 1979

Deborah J. Greenberg begins her interview by sharing some family background information including her childhood in Chicago, her mother’s position as a therapist, and the world travels that were funded by her father’s position as a professor at the University of Illinois.

Elizabeth Branch Jackson, class of 1945

In Part 1 of this interview, Elizabeth Branch Jackson begins by talking about her high-achieving family. Educated at Harvard Dental School, her father was one of only two black dentists in Providence at that time. He was also active in the NAACP and a variety of community programs, pushing the same expectations he had for himself onto his daughter. Jackson discusses the inevitability of pursuing a Ph.D., her lack of choice in choosing Pembroke, and being a highly visible token among her classmates.

Ferelene Bailey, class of 1974

Ferelene "Nan" Bailey begins by discussing her childhood, the benefits of living overseas during her childhood, her experience applying to Brown University, and her expectations of her experience. She spends a significant amount of time discussing the various and bountiful activist groups she participated in, and more broadly, social turmoil during the seventies surrounding issues such as the Vietnam War and birth control.

Gail Y. Mitchell, class of 1973

Gail Y. Mitchell begins Part 1 of this interview by discussing her sheltered upbringing in a very religious household, her desire to attend a school where she could feel more independent, and her decision to attend Brown University. Mitchell talks about working as a student assistant over the summer, and about living at Pembroke and in the dormitories there. 

Javette D. Pinkney, class of 1980

In this interview, Javette D. Pinkney begins by explaining the academic initiative and activist spirit that brought her to Brown. She fondly remembers a “feeling of community,” and campus dating, in spite of instances of racism. She describes her involvement in a number of campus activities and social groups and recalls spearheading the College Venture Program - a pilot program financed by the Braitmayer Foundation to help students who needed or wanted to drop out of college temporarily.

Jeree Palmer-Bechkham, class of 1983

In this interview, Jeree Palmer-Beckham begins by discussing her time in Providence, where she lived with her first husband, and explaining her completion of a Brown University degree in theatre arts through the Resumed Education Program (RUE).  Palmer explains how attending Brown impacted her life in theatre, particularly the production “Shades of Brown,” which led her back to the New York theatre scene. She discusses various productions she has worked on in New York.  

Joyce Loretta Richardson, class of 1963

Joyce Loretta Richardson begins her interview by discussing the experiences and people that led her to apply to and attend Pembroke College. She cites experiences such as going to boarding school, having a high achieving family, rejection from Radcliffe, and her fear of swimming. She contrasts her experience at boarding school with her arrival to Pembroke, discussing the stereotypical “Penny Pembrokers,” encountering racism for the first time, and being shocked into silence. She explains the extent to which gender and racial issues were not identified and the suppression she felt.

Julie Uhm, class of 1993

Julie Uhm participated in this interview in her first semester at Brown University in 1989. She discusses her Korean heritage and her high school experience as an Asian American in New Jersey. She explains her encounters with racism throughout her life and broadly describes her observations of race relations in the United States and on the Brown campus. Uhm notes that Brown was not her first choice school but the homogeneity of other campuses influenced her decision.

Justine Tyrrell, class of 1943

In Part 1, speaking fifty five years after her graduation, Justine Tyrrell begins her interview by noting that she is one of seventeen family members to graduate from Brown University. She states that she always knew she would attend Pembroke College and recalls asking Dean Margaret Shove Morriss for a scholarship. She briefly discusses the difficult transition from Pawtucket High School to Pembroke and mentions that her first job after graduation was at Army Security Agency as a crypt analyst.

Karen E. McLaurin, class of 1973

In Part 1 of this interview, Karen E. McLaurin begins by discussing her decision to attend Brown University, and her determination to succeed. She talks about a summer program she attended that was specifically for students who were deemed less likely to succeed at Brown. McLaurin also recalls minority students at Brown, their importance to the community and the college, as well as her experiences as an African-American woman at Brown. She discusses the various faculty members who she knew as a student and shares some of the difficulties she had with them.

Katharine Curtis Pierce, class of 1962

On the occasion of her 50th Reunion, Katharine Curtis Pierce looks back on the highlights of her time at Pembroke College. She begins by explaining her expectations for Pembroke and the “finishing school for Episcopal girls” that she found in its stead. Pierce talks about dorm life, her dissatisfaction with that atmosphere, her time pursuing social work, as well as her work resettling refugees in Vietnam at the National Council of Churches.

Lillian S. Berberian, class of 1957

This interview concentrates on Lillian S. Berberian's family life and her experiences as a city girl – a female day student who attended Pembroke College but did not live on campus, and she reminisces about life-long friendships with other city girls. She explains that her parents expected her to live at home while she attended Pembroke, and she describes her days on campus  as “an outsider.” 

Linda J. Peters, class of 1982

In Part 1 of her interview, Linda J. Peters begins by sharing some background information, including her multiracial identity and growing up in a black neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois. She also recalls her reasons for choosing to attend Brown University.

Lois Black, class of 1953

In Part 1 of this interview, Lois Black begins by explaining what it felt like to attend Pembroke College with a working class background. She describes her first experiences of Pembroke, including living in East House, and the differences between private and public high school students. Black goes on to disucss racism at Pembroke, the exclusion of women from the Brown Marching Band and Brown Sailing Association, and her participation in student movements for desegregation and reformation of gracious living regulations.

Lydia L. English, class of 1985

Lydia L. English came to Brown in 1981 as a resumed undergraduate education student, after having worked in banking in the U.S. Virgin Islands for eight years. In this interview, English states that her initial motivation to receive a liberal arts education was her newfound interest “in how cultures interact,” gathered from her extensive work in the Caribbean. English talks extensively on the challenge of juggling an adult, professional, career life with an undergraduate education, particularly with regards to managing finances, as she supported herself throughout.

Marcia D. Lloyd, class of 1968

This oral history features three members of the class of the Pembroke College class of 1968: Marcia D. Lloyd, an artist and professor of Painting at the Massachusetts College of Art; Bernicestine E. McLeod, an information management consultant; and Sandra L. Richards, a professor of African American Studies and Theatre at Northwestern University.

Meera Viswanathan, class of Faculty

In this interview, Meera Viswanathan, then-Professor of comparative literature at Brown University, discusses emigrating from India to Los Angeles in 1961. She describes the language barrier she experienced and her process of assimilating to American life through using the English language. She explains being unable to identify with classmates in elementary school or holidays such as Christmas or Halloween, and regrets losing much of her native language.

Peggy J. McKearney, class of 1975

Peggy J. McKearney begins Part 1 of her interview with a brief description of her family background, including her childhood in Connecticut and Massachusetts. She says that her love of the Boston Bruins determined her decision to attend Brown University in the first year after its merger with Pembroke College because Pembroke had established the country’s first intercollegiate women’s ice hockey team.

Penelope A. Baskerville, class of 1968

Penelope “Penny” A. Baskerville begins Part 1 of this interview by recounting her family life and early education in New Jersey. She discusses the experience of being a racial minority at Pembroke (Baskerville was one of six African-American women in her class) as well as the general novelty of the college social experience, stressing the strength of the friendships she developed. Baskerville recounts her extracurricular involvement, the founding of the Afro-American Society, and the unique nature of college in the 1960s.

Rosemary Pierrel, class of 1953

In this interview, Dr. Rosemary Pierrel Sorrentino describes her leadership as Dean of Pembroke from 1961 through 1972. Dr. Sorrentino, or Dean Pierrel as she was known to Pembrokers, reviews the rapidly changing societal norms, her perceptions of the demands upon Pembroke and upon her role as Dean, and the failure of leadership that led to the abrupt end of Pembroke College as an administrative unit within Brown University. She is quite candid about her opinions and her colleagues. She notes that shared values began to erode after 1966-67.

Sandra L. Richards, class of 1968

This oral history features three members of the class of the Pembroke College class of 1968: Sandra L. Richards, a professor of African American Studies and Theatre at Northwestern University; Bernicestine E. McLeod, an information management consultant; and Marcia D. Lloyd, an artist and professor of Painting at the Massachusetts College of Art.