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Hortense McClinton grew up in an all-black town of Boley, Oklahoma during a time where society was completely segregated. She could not go to school with white children nor drink from the same water fountain. Her parents, likewise, could not eat a meal at a restaurant where white families dined or even step foot into any other establishment owned by whites. A grandchild of slaves, McClinton had no idea of the world she was born into. In a recent interview with NPR she discussed her initial experience with racism, an incident that occurred when she went to visit her uncle in Guthrie, Okla., a city just about 90 minutes away from where she grew up.

“I didn’t realize how segregated everything was. I went to the movies and I didn’t know blacks were supposed to sit upstairs. And I sat down and they told me to go up. Well, later that evening when we were eating supper, I was talking about it, and I said they make the children sit upstairs. My uncle said, ‘They make you sit upstairs because you’re colored.’ And that was my first experience.”

A testimony to her mental, physical, and emotional strength and will, McClinton left Oklahoma in pursuit of higher education. She graduated from Howard University in the 1930s and became the first black professor at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Now 95 years old, McClinton says that while some things have changed, some things have not.


“It’s very sad to me, at 95, to know that there is so much hatred still in the world. I know that’s not a nice thing to say, but it’s true. I do feel it.”

Mario López (@M5Motie)