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Ralph Frasier ’59, one of the first black undergraduates at Carolina, is returning to campus for the first time in 52 years.
Frasier and two other black students challenged North Carolina’s “separate but equal” admissions policy in the 1950s and became instrumental in integrating the University.
The civil rights pioneer and business leader will give a free public talk at 12:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 19, in the Hitchcock Room of UNC’s Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History at 150 South Road.
Shortly after applying for admission to Carolina in 1955, Frasier, his brother, Leroy, and John Lewis Brandon each received letters from the admissions director stating that the University trustees would continue its policy of not admitting blacks because they were eligible to apply to a black college in the state.
The three men decided to challenge the policy and filed suit against UNC’s Board of Trustees in Federal District Court. They argued that the decision was invalid because the policy of separate but equal colleges had been declared unconstitutional by the landmark ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court in the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954.
On Sept. 16, 1955, the District Court declared that the University was prohibited from denying admission to the applicants based solely on their race or color if they were otherwise qualified. The three students enrolled, but none chose to finish his degree at UNC.
Frasier left Carolina in 1958. After two years of military service, he enrolled at N.C. Central University in Durham, where he completed his degree and eventually earned a law degree.
Before the three undergraduates gained admission to UNC, the first four black students ever at the University enrolled in the law school, in 1951 — also after a lawsuit.
Although Frasier was admitted to the bar in the state, the N.C. Bar Association denied him admission because of his race.
He worked in banking for more than 30 years, retiring in 1998 as general counsel for Huntington Bancshares Inc. in Columbus, Ohio. His public service has included service on the board of trustees at NCCU.