James Hickerson III, Class of 1978 -- Interview for Learning in Black and White
James Hickerson III, interview with Caroline Brunner (HC 2018).
The following transcript is slightly edited for clarity; the original is available at the Hanover College Archives.]
Caroline Brunner: Okay so I am going to start off with asking you about your background, where you are from, where you went to school, where you were younger, and all that stuff.
James Hickerson: Yeah well, I am from Jeffersonville, Indiana. I went to Jeffersonville High School.
Brunner: And what was it like growing up in Jeffersonville?
Hickerson: Well, it was a different time -- it was late 60s, early 70s. The 60s were a tumultuous time in the country, but it wasn't so bad. But there was still racism and segregation and all that. A lot of civil disobedience, marches and things like that.
Brunner: And did you experience a lot of that?
Hickerson: Yeah, some of it. I mean, I never participated in that, but I knew a lot of people who did participate in a lot of political stuff, who went out. It was a very tumultuous civil time.
Brunner: How did you hear about Hanover College?
Hickerson: Through football. I had been recruited -- plus I had knew somebody who had gone to Hanover.
Brunner: And how did they recruit you?
Hickerson: The coach came and talked to me, and I took a tour of the campus.
Brunner: How did the administration seem to behave towards you when you started school?
Hickerson: I liked them. I was treated with respect. It was a much different time then. I don't wanna say it was harder, but there were a lot more restrictions on students. Dress codes, and we couldn't have members of the opposite sex in your room. . . . It was just a different time. It had a very deep tradition, you know. You couldn't just go walking into the administration building like you do now. If you went in there, you had to have a tie on, and all that. You had to go to chapel -- just stuff like that. A lot more regulated. And you have to also remember that we didn't have the internet. So all the studying had to be done in the library. With real books.
Hanover was just a very special place. I felt very much at home here.
Brunner: And you ending up rushing too?
Hickerson: Yes, I rushed Beta Pheta Pi.
Brunner: What was that experience like?
Hickerson: Oh, I had the time of my life. The people who I was Betas with, they were some of my best friends.
Brunner: And I am assuming you were one of the only black students in your fraternity -- what was that experience like?
Hickerson: I was the only black student at the time. There was an Indian there too. I never felt like I didn't belong or anything. I always felt like I was at home, and I was free to be myself.
Brunner: So there were no moments where you felt as a black student that you were unsafe, or that people were un-accommodating to you?
Hickerson: Now see, we didn't think about something being unsafe -- or being triggered. You know, we didn't think about that stuff. We just went along. We never felt like that. I never felt unsafe on this campus. I never felt threatened on this campus, you know. Never really felt out place.
Brunner: Do you think other black students felt unsafe or un-accommodated?
Hickerson: Not that I know of. I don't think students were like that back then. I think there are much higher levels of sensitivity today. We just went along and had fun -- getting in all sorts of trouble that we weren't supposed to, throwing parties, you know. Just college. Back then, you know, political correctness -- that term -- did not even exist. But now you have to kind of watch everything you say. And we won't have or don't have certain speakers on campus.
Brunner: So would you say that discrimination and that sort of thing weren't really a worry on campus?
Hickerson: No, discrimination was still an issue; there was still segregation. It hadn't been that long since the Civil Rights Act. But it was never an issue for me here on this campus. That whole black opposing white was never a big thing for me. And, yeah, I know there was racism, and I experienced it, but I experienced more racism as a Indiana State Police officer. I lived, I experienced it, and I got through it.
Brunner: Was there ever anything like an Afro-Black movement or Black Panther movement on campus?
Hickerson: We had all that around, but mostly when I was home. We didn't have that at the college.
Brunner: I've heard a lot of people, whenever I talk to them, describe Hanover as a bubble - that there was turmoil going on around in the world but Hanover was just untouched.
Hickerson: Yeah. I mean, the whites that went to school here perhaps were not sensitive to black issues. But, I mean, many of them had never seen a black person until they had come to school. And even the administration wasn't very sensitive to black students needs and things like that.
Brunner: Can you elaborate on what you mean by black student's needs?
Hickerson: Just like speakers and things of that sort -- diversifying different parts of the college like speakers or music groups. The things that they focused on bringing was more cultural -- lectures and orchestras and scientific talks and things like that. But it wasn't like there was a social movement for that -- the term social justice didn't even exist. So, I mean, it was just a different time. I mean, I enjoyed -- I loved -- being in football, and being with my brothers. If I didn't enjoy it, I would have never came back.