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Welcome to the Kathrine R. Everett Law Library’s digital collection “Law School First – The African Americans Who Integrated UNC-Chapel Hill.” The collection includes photographs, biographical sketches, legal documents, oral history transcripts, and contemporary news articles related to the efforts of students and civil rights organizations to desegregate North Carolina’s institutions of higher education. This web-based collection represents an addition to other library collections of resources about school desegregation and its place within the larger Civil Rights Movement.

From left: McKissick, Lee, Beech, and Lassiter
From left: McKissick, Lee, Beech, and Lassiter. Photo by Alex Rivera, Jr.

About Integration at Carolina Law

In 1951, Harvey Beech, James Lassiter, J. Kenneth Lee, Floyd McKissick, and James Robert Walker enrolled in classes at UNC’s School of Law, becoming the first African Americans to do so in the law school’s history.[1] This event followed decades of concerted legal strategy, culminating in the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in McKissick v. Carmichael, 187 F.2d 949 (1951), which followed the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Sweatt v. Painter, 339 U.S. 629, 70 S.Ct. 848, 94 L.Ed. 1114 (1950). This collection includes information about each of the men who integrated Carolina Law and provides access to additional resources concerning the court decisions leading to the beginning of desegregation at the law school.

Social aspects of the efforts to integrate Carolina Law also form a significant portion of this collection. Selected oral histories detail some of the day-to-day difficulties that faced the law school’s first African American students. Photographs and news accounts add context to this documentary collection.

For additional information regarding the integration of UNC’s School of Law, the law library welcomes you to explore the resources included in this digital collection. We also invite you to read The Integration of UNC-Chapel Hill – Law School First,  97 N.C. L. REV. 1741 (2019).

Beech, Lee and Lassiter in Chancellor House's office.House's office.
Lee, Beech, and Lassiter in Chancellor House’s office. Photo by Alex Rivera, Jr.


[1] Floyd McKissick had by then graduated from North Carolina College’s law school, but he attended UNC for one summer course. Charles E. Daye, African-American and Other Minority Law Students and Alumni, 73 N.C. L. Rev. 675, 681 (1995).