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WUNC reports from Greensboro about Guilford County and surrounding area.

An Unexpected Trailblazer Who Desegregated A Southern College In 1956

photo of JoAnne Smart Drane and Bettye Ann Davis Tillman

Before the University of North Carolina at Greensboro was a thriving liberal arts school filled with rich and diverse voices, it was Woman’s College. When JoAnne Drane stepped foot on the campus in 1956, the school was one of the largest women’s colleges in the country, but it was far from diverse. In fact, she was one of the first two black students.

Administrators made it clear that the recent Brown v. Board of Education decision permitted Drane and Bettye Tillman to attend the school, but some parents and other students felt otherwise, including those who sent  letters of concern insisting bathrooms remain segregated. This proposition was equally heavy to Drane who had never attended school with white students or had a white teacher.  But not everyone was hostile, nor was it all doom and gloom.

More than 60 years since she made history, JoAnne Drane joins host Frank Stasio to talk about how she navigated college in the midst of the Jim Crow South, and why her time at UNC-Greensboro remains an important part of her legacy. 


Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.
Dana is an award-winning producer who began as a personality at Rock 92. Once she started creating content for morning shows, she developed a love for producing. Dana has written and produced for local and syndicated commercial radio for over a decade. WUNC is her debut into public radio and she’s excited to tell deeper, richer stories.
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