AJC Sepia HBCU of the Week: How NCCU's sloping hills and the changing times shaped Junel Dinkins

AJC Sepia HBCU of the Week is an occasional series that looks at Historically Black Colleges and Universities

“The sloping hills, the verdant green…”

Growing up in Wadesboro, N.C., I was so excited about the prospect of finally being a college student.

And one of the wisest decisions I ever made was to attend North Carolina College, which later became North Carolina Central University.

My parents were educators, thus all of my childhood they impressed upon me and my peers the importance of a college education.

Furthermore, my mother, Fonnie Dinkins would often say that one’s college days were one of the best times of your life.

Moreover, for me, it was a milestone that signaled scholarship, self-determination, independence, and participating in the Civil Rights movement.

For during the time of the late 1960’s, the Civil Rights movement was intricately entwined in every aspect of the lives of Afro-Americans.

And, my frame of reference was greatly influenced by my father, Frederick Douglas Dinkins, who was the president of the Wadesboro branch of the NAACP in my hometown.

I remember my first days on campus in the fall of 1964 meeting people who would later become life- long friends. 

We were on this journey together. Similarly, we were committed to do everything we could do to support each other and ensure our college days would be successful.  

One of the first things I did, after registering for classes and getting settled in with my roommates, was to join the College Choir.

I had a background in music, and had always participated in choirs during my childhood.

Members of the choir came from all backgrounds, represented all the Greek organizations, were leaders in the college community and were remarkably disciplined.

The choir was a family and to this day I still have “choir brothers and sisters” with whom I remain close.

Under the direction of Mr. Sam Hill, Dr. Robert John and others, we held Christmas and spring concerts on campus and provided music at the graduation ceremony.

The highlight of each year, however, was our spring tour where we had concerts in eastern cities like Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia.

In those days, we performed at local churches and were often sponsored by local NCCU alumni chapters.

We stayed in the homes of NCCU Alumni.  Their hospitality was heartwarming and they treated us as if we were their own.

In college, I decided to major in psychology and minor in music. Both curriculums were challenging.

I remember the head of the psychology department, Dr. Davis -- who was strongly vested in experimental psychology -- gently nudging us to add a few more rigorous courses to our existing load.

Thus we added an extra statistic course and a German class to our already challenging course of study.

Although demanding, the professors were also supportive.  I will forever remember Dr. George Kyle’s care and concern when my father passed my junior year of college.   

Additionally, during my tenure at NCCU, we students were greatly influenced by the social dynamics of the era.

On campus, more black studies courses were being offered and the curfew for female students was relaxed a bit.

But outside of those walls, the civil rights movement and global social awareness loomed large with the killing of protesting students at South Carolina State College and apartheid in South Africa.

We responded by staging sit-ins and demonstrations on campus.

And we left our comfort zones, even demonstrating for social justice in the city of Durham.

We often combined forces with fellow students at Duke University as we sought equality. 

Sadly, during my senior year of 1968, we witnessed and lived through the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

Students from NCCU and Duke met in the Duke Chapel for a memorial observance of Dr. King.       

But there were also happy times and sorority life added yet another wonderful layer to the college experience.

On April, 29, 1967, I pledged into the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, becoming a member in the Alpha Chi chapter on campus. On that spring day, 21 of us made a pledge to “serve all mankind.”

I continue to benefit from yet another worthwhile lifelong commitment and bond via my college days at NCC.

Just as my mother said it would happen, my college days were indeed some of the best days of my life.

I value the rigor of the course work at NCC, which prepared me to get a master’s degree and complete additional post graduate studies.

And, for a great, rewarding and varied professional career which ended with my retiring from the Atlanta Public School System as a school administrator.  

But most of all, I treasure my experiences at NCC.

The faculty and staff, who buttressed my confidence and self- esteem, supported us as we sought social expression, and most importantly, those deep and binding friendships that we all developed.

I have and shall always support the deserving students at this stellar university - Dear Old NCC!

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