Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Lusia Harris, March 6, 2021

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries

 

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00:00:04 - Introduction

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Partial Transcript: Okay, so let me get started here.

Segment Synopsis: Lusia "Lucy" Harris is introduced by interviewer Valerie Still.

Keywords: 1973-1977 (Years at Delta State University); Cleveland (Miss.); Systemic racism; Systemic sexism

Subjects: African American basketball players; African American college students--Social conditions; African American college students.; African Americans--Education (Higher); African Americans--Social conditions.; African Americans--Sports; Basketball; Basketball players; Basketball players--Kentucky; Basketball players--Mississippi; Basketball teams; College athletes; College sports--Mississippi; College sports.; College students, Black; Delta State University; Delta State University--Basketball; Discrimination in sports; Race discrimination.; Race relations; Racism; Women basketball players; Women in higher education.; Women--Education (Higher)

GPS: Delta State University
Map Coordinates: 33.742027, -90.726548
00:01:22 - Playing basketball against the University of Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: But since this is the UK Women's Basketball Oral History Project, let's talk about first that experience with UK women's basketball.

Segment Synopsis: Interviewer Still asks Harris about her memories of playing on the Delta State University women's basketball team against the Mississippi University for Women and the University of Kentucky. Harris does not remember much about those games.

Keywords: Blowouts; Christmas tournaments; Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (CIAW); Lillian Nareen White Washington; Margaret Wade; Mississippi University for Women; Nareen White

Subjects: African American basketball players; African American college students.; African Americans--Education (Higher); African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Social conditions.; African Americans--Sports; Basketball; Basketball coaches--Mississippi; Basketball players; Basketball players--Mississippi; Basketball teams; Coaches (Athletics); Coaching (Athletics); College athletes; College choice; College sports--Kentucky; College sports--Mississippi; College sports.; College students, Black; Delta State University; Delta State University--Basketball; Discrimination in sports; Integration; Race discrimination.; Race relations; Racism; University of Kentucky; University of Kentucky--Basketball; Women basketball players; Women in higher education.; Women--Education (Higher)

GPS: Delta State University
Map Coordinates: 33.742027, -90.726548
GPS: University of Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 38.033333, -84.5
00:04:09 - Childhood and family

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Partial Transcript: So with that, I guess we'll move forward with, um, learning a, a little bit more about you.

Segment Synopsis: Harris was born in 1955 and interviewer Still lists some of the historical events that occurred during her childhood. Harris talks about her community of Minter City, Mississippi, her large family, and working as a child to help her family.

Keywords: 1955; Brown v. Board of Education; Civil Rights Movement; Communities; Community; Competitive; Emmett Till; Ethel Harris; Family; Farming; Food; Jim Crow Laws; Large families; Martin Luther King Jr.; Minter City (Miss.); Montgomery Bus Boycott; Parents; Rosa Parks; Siblings; Willie Harris; Work

Subjects: African American families; African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Social conditions.; Childhood; Neighborhoods.

GPS: Minter City (Miss.)
Map Coordinates: 33.750278, -90.294444
00:07:11 - Junior high and high school basketball

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Partial Transcript: Listen, so I, I was thinking in the, in the Deep South--you know, we study about Jim Crow laws that were established...

Segment Synopsis: Still talks about the lack of opportunities for girls in sports during Harris' childhood, although Harris says she had more opportunities than others. She says her junior high and high schools had organized sports for girls. She talks about her experience attending an all-black school, Amanda Elzy High School, and discusses her awareness of segregation and the Civil Rights Movement.

Keywords: All-black schools; Amanda Elzy High School; Athletic directors; Awareness; Championships; Civil rights; Competitive; Conway Stewart; Delta State University; Dr. Amanda Elzy; Equal treatment standards; Equality; Equality of opportunity; Equity in athletics; Focus; Gender; Gender discrimination; Height; High school basketball; Impact; Jim Crow laws; Junior high school basketball; Martin Luther King Jr.; Mississippi High School State Tournament; Opportunities; Points; Sex discrimination; Shielded; Sisters; State tournaments; White teams

Subjects: African American basketball players; African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Social conditions.; African Americans--Sports; Basketball; Basketball players; Basketball players--Mississippi; Basketball teams; Discrimination in sports; Integration; Race discrimination.; Race relations; Racism; Sexism.; Women basketball players

GPS: Amanda Elzy High School
Map Coordinates: 33.500556, -90.168333
00:12:55 - College choice

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Partial Transcript: You were thinking about going to Alcorn State or Mississippi University for Women, from what I read.

Segment Synopsis: Harris talks about being recruited by Delta State University to play basketball, despite them not offering her a scholarship.

Keywords: Alcorn State University; Distance; Equal treatment standards; Equality; Equality of opportunity; Equity in athletics; Gender; Gender discrimination; Pell Grants; Pre-Title IX; Recruiters; Recruitment; Scholarships; Sex discrimination; Siblings; Tuition; Work study

Subjects: African American basketball players; African American college students.; African Americans--Education (Higher); African Americans--Sports; Basketball; Basketball coaches--Mississippi; Basketball players; Basketball players--Mississippi; Basketball teams; College athletes; College athletes--Recruiting; College choice; College sports--Mississippi; College sports.; College students, Black; College students--Conduct of life.; College students.; Delta State University; Delta State University--Basketball; Discrimination in sports; Sexism.; Universities and colleges--Finance; Women basketball players; Women in higher education.; Women--Education (Higher)

GPS: Delta State University
Map Coordinates: 33.742027, -90.726548
00:16:29 - Delta State University women's basketball coach Margaret Wade

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Partial Transcript: Wow, so let's, let's talk a little bit.

Segment Synopsis: Interviewer Still explains that women's basketball was banned at the college level from the 1930s to the 1960s and talks about how that may have influenced Coach Margaret Wade's career. Harris talks about Wade's coaching style and mentions a pin she wore inside her jacket that read, "Give 'em hell."

Keywords: "Give 'em hell"; Amateur Athletic Union (AAU); Assistant coaches; Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW); Awareness; Banned; Coaching styles; Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (CIAW); Equal treatment standards; Equality; Equality of opportunity; Equity in athletics; First African American; Gender; Gender discrimination; High schools; Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs); Margaret Wade; Only African American; Persistent; Personality; Recruitment; Segregated; Sex discrimination; Soft-spoken; Yelling

Subjects: African American basketball players; African American college students--Social conditions; African American college students.; African Americans--Education (Higher); African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Social conditions.; African Americans--Sports; Basketball; Basketball coaches--Mississippi; Basketball players; Basketball players--Mississippi; Basketball teams; Basketball--Coaching; Coaches (Athletics); Coaching (Athletics); College athletes; College athletes--Recruiting; College environment; College sports--Mississippi; College sports.; College students, Black; College students--Attitudes.; College students--Conduct of life.; College students--Social conditions; College students.; Delta State University; Delta State University--Basketball; Discrimination in sports; Integration; Race discrimination.; Race relations; Racism; Sexism.; Women basketball players; Women in higher education.; Women--Education (Higher)

GPS: Delta State University
Map Coordinates: 33.742027, -90.726548
00:20:34 - Arrival at Delta State University

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Partial Transcript: So you come in, you major in health, physical education, and recreation, right? In 1973.

Segment Synopsis: Harris talks about her arrival at Delta State University, and her experience as a woman of color on a predominately-white campus, coming from an all-black high school. She talks about her classes and how she felt supported by the basketball team's fans.

Keywords: 1977; Academics; All-black high schools; Arrival; Cafeterias; Classes; College campuses; College majors; Delta Sigma Theta; Fans; Friends; Husbands; Married; Pickup basketball games; Predominately white; Sororities; Sorority; Staring; Support; Tournaments

Subjects: African American basketball players; African American college students--Social conditions; African American college students.; African Americans--Education (Higher); African Americans--Social conditions.; African Americans--Sports; Basketball; Basketball players; Basketball players--Mississippi; Basketball teams; College athletes; College environment; College sports--Mississippi; College sports.; College students, Black; College students--Attitudes.; College students--Conduct of life.; College students--Social conditions; College students.; Delta State University; Delta State University--Basketball; Integration; Race relations; Women basketball players; Women in higher education.; Women--Education (Higher)

GPS: Delta State University
Map Coordinates: 33.742027, -90.726548
00:24:09 - 1973-1974 season

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Partial Transcript: So tell me a little bit about the team.

Segment Synopsis: Harris talks about her freshman basketball season, including her teammates, practices, Coach Margaret Wade, their record, and their loss in the semi-finals to Mercer University.

Keywords: 1973-1974 (Basketball season); Dormitories; Dorms; Fans; Intense; Losses; Margaret Wade; Mercer University; Practices; Records; Semi-finals; Sundays; Undefeated

Subjects: African American basketball players; African American college students--Social conditions; African American college students.; African Americans--Education (Higher); African Americans--Social conditions.; African Americans--Sports; Basketball; Basketball players; Basketball players--Mississippi; Basketball teams; College athletes; College environment; College sports--Kentucky; College sports--Mississippi; College sports.; College students, Black; College students--Attitudes.; College students--Conduct of life.; College students--Social conditions; College students.; Delta State University; Delta State University--Basketball; Women basketball players; Women in higher education.; Women--Education (Higher)

GPS: Delta State University
Map Coordinates: 33.742027, -90.726548
00:27:27 - 1974-1975 season

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Partial Transcript: So the '74-'75 season, what was the off-season like?

Segment Synopsis: Harris says that the team did not practice much during the summers. She talks about her sophomore year of college, including how often she spoke to her parents, her social life, and her teammates. She describes specific games from the state tournament, which Delta State University won. She talks about the national tournament and Delta State's rivalry with Immaculata College. She talks about how the Delta State women's basketball team had more funding and fan support than most other women's teams did at the time.

Keywords: "Mighty Macs"; 1974-1975 (Basketball season); Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW); Attitudes; Away games; Black public colleges; Budgets; Cathy Rush; Celebrations; Championships; Cleveland (Miss.); Contact; Cornelia Ward; Crowds; Debbie Brock; Equal treatment standards; Equality; Equality of opportunity; Equity in athletics; Fans; Federal City College; Flying; Freshmen; Friends; Fun; Funding; Game film; Gender; Gender discrimination; Hatley (Miss.); Height; High schools; Immaculata University; Marianne Stanley; Matchups; Mothers; Off-season; Olympics; Opponents; Parents; Passing; Playing styles; Points; Practices; Preparation; Ramona Von Boeckman; Rankings; Records; Recruitment; Rivalries; Sex discrimination; Socializing; Sophomores; State tournaments; Summers; Support; Theresa Grentz; Transportation; Traveling (Basketball); Undefeated; Wanda Hairston

Subjects: African American basketball players; African American college students--Social conditions; African American college students.; African Americans--Education (Higher); African Americans--Social conditions.; African Americans--Sports; Basketball; Basketball players; Basketball players--Mississippi; Basketball teams; Basketball--Coaching; Coaches (Athletics); Coaching (Athletics); College athletes; College athletes--Recruiting; College environment; College sports--Mississippi; College sports.; College students, Black; College students--Attitudes.; College students--Conduct of life.; College students--Social conditions; College students.; Delta State University; Delta State University--Basketball; Discrimination in sports; Integration; Race relations; Sexism.; Universities and colleges--Finance; Women basketball players; Women in higher education.; Women--Education (Higher)

GPS: Delta State University
Map Coordinates: 33.742027, -90.726548
00:42:40 - 1975 U.S. National Team

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Partial Transcript: Hey listen, so 1975 you guys win the championship and then you're selected to the United States National Team.

Segment Synopsis: Harris talks about being invited to join the U.S. National Team during the summer of 1975. She talks about what it was like to travel abroad for the first time. She talks about the talent of her teammates. She talks about what it was like to win a gold medal, whether her family was aware of her win, and safety issues during their travels.

Keywords: 1975; Ann Meyers; Awareness; Basketball--Coaching; Coaches (Athletics); Coaching (Athletics); Colombia; Competition; Experience; FIBA Basketball World Cup; Family; Gold medals; High schoolers; International Basketball Federation (FIBA); Machine guns; Mexico; Nancy Lieberman; Overseas; Pan American Games; Pat Head Summitt; People of color; Personality; Safety; Security; Sight-seeing; Talent; Training; Travel; U.S. National Team; Winning; Women of color; Worry; Young

Subjects: African American basketball players; African Americans--Sports; Basketball; Basketball players; Basketball teams; College athletes; Women basketball players

GPS: Colombia
Map Coordinates: 4, -72
GPS: Mexico
Map Coordinates: 23, -102
00:51:24 - College social life and academics

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Partial Transcript: So let's do this. So '75 you come back--that summer is just amazing.

Segment Synopsis: Harris talks about being voted Homecoming Queen at Delta State University in 1975. She talks about her popularity on campus and her attitude towards academics.

Keywords: 1975; Academics; Attitudes; Classes; Classrooms; Grades; Homecoming queens; Honor students; People of color; Popularity; Social life; Socializing; Studying

Subjects: African American basketball players; African American college students--Social conditions; African American college students.; African Americans--Education (Higher); African Americans--Social conditions.; African Americans--Sports; Basketball; Basketball players; Basketball players--Kentucky; Basketball players--Mississippi; Basketball teams; College athletes; College environment; College sports--Mississippi; College sports.; College students, Black; College students--Attitudes.; College students--Conduct of life.; College students--Social conditions; College students.; Delta State University; Delta State University--Basketball; Integration; Race relations; Women basketball players; Women in higher education.; Women--Education (Higher)

GPS: Delta State University
Map Coordinates: 33.742027, -90.726548
00:53:36 - 1975-1976 season

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Partial Transcript: So you come back that '75-'76 season.

Segment Synopsis: Harris talks about her junior year at Delta State University. She talks about specific games from the state and national tournaments, and winning their second consecutive national championship. She talks about her teammates' abilities, their training, and her family's awareness of her career.

Keywords: 1975-1976 (Basketball season); Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW); Brothers; Championships; Consecutive wins; Family; Immaculata University; Losses; Margaret Wade; Most Valuable Player awards; National tournaments; Parents; Pins; Plays; Points; Practices; Records; Regional tournaments; Running; Scoring; Semi-finals; Sisters; Starting five; State tournaments; Talent; Training; Treatment; Undefeated; University of Kentucky; Wayland Baptist University; Weight lifting; Winning

Subjects: African American basketball players; African American college students--Social conditions; African American college students.; African Americans--Education (Higher); African Americans--Social conditions.; African Americans--Sports; Basketball; Basketball coaches--Mississippi; Basketball players; Basketball players--Mississippi; Basketball teams; Basketball--Coaching; Coaches (Athletics); Coaching (Athletics); College athletes; College environment; College sports--Mississippi; College sports.; College students, Black; College students--Attitudes.; College students--Conduct of life.; College students--Social conditions; College students.; Delta State University; Delta State University--Basketball; Integration; Race relations; Women basketball players; Women in higher education.; Women--Education (Higher)

GPS: Delta State University
Map Coordinates: 33.742027, -90.726548
01:01:50 - 1976 Olympics

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Partial Transcript: Wow. And you, and you were going because 1976 after this second championship and you're MVP again, of course the 1976 Olympics.

Segment Synopsis: Harris talks about trying out for the U.S. women's basketball team for the 1976 Olympics. She talks about not being aware of the significance of being part of the first women's basketball team in the Olympics, and about Ann Meyers pointing out to her that she scored the first points in Olympic women's basketball. She talks about the team's training, competition, and a tough opponent: Uljana Semjonova. She talks about her family's awareness of her participation in the Olympics and her experience in the Olympic Village.

Keywords: Ann Meyers; Athletic directors; Awareness; Billie Moore; Childhood; Coaching styles; Competition; Dreams; Equal treatment standards; Equality; Equality of opportunity; Equity in athletics; Feedback; First points; Friends; Gender; Gender discrimination; Height; Historical; History; Knoxville (Tenn.); Lillian Nareen White Washington; Men's teams; Montreal (Canada); Nareen White; Olympic Village; Open tryouts; Parents; Photographs; Practice teams; Scoring; Sex discrimination; Significance; Sisters; Training; Uljana Semjonova; Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR)

Subjects: African American basketball players; African Americans--Social conditions.; African Americans--Sports; Basketball; Basketball players; Basketball teams; Basketball--Coaching; Coaches (Athletics); Coaching (Athletics); Discrimination in sports; Integration; Race relations; Sexism.; Women basketball players

GPS: Knoxville (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.9617, -83.9232
GPS: Montreal (Canada)
Map Coordinates: 45.508889, -73.554167
01:13:45 - 1976-1977 season

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Partial Transcript: So let's get back. So you're back on campus.

Segment Synopsis: Harris talks about some of the team's losses during her senior season, especially the game against Ole Miss. She talks about their winning streak and being undefeated at home during her entire college career. She talks about her teammates' talent. She talks about playing in Madison Square Garden, winning the national tournament for the third consecutive year, and the chemistry of the team. She talks more about her popularity at Delta State University and her lack of awareness of civil rights issues at the time.

Keywords: "Fab Five"; 1976-1977 (Basketball season); All-Americans; Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW); Autographs; Awards; Awareness; Basketball shoes; Championships; Converse Chuck Taylors; Cornelia Ward; Debbie Brock; Derogatory; Dominant players; Equal treatment standards; Equality; Equality of opportunity; Equity in athletics; Fan mail; Fans; Gender; Gender discrimination; History; Home games; Legendary; Losses; Madison Square Garden; Margaret Wade; Most Valuable Player awards; National rankings; Ole Miss (University of Mississippi); Overseas; Points; Popularity; Ramona Von Boeckman; Records; Reunions; Roles; Sex discrimination; Success; Systemic racism; Systemic sexism; Teammates; Teamwork; Travel; Undefeated; Wanda Hairston; Winning streaks

Subjects: African American basketball players; African American college students--Social conditions; African American college students.; African Americans--Education (Higher); African Americans--Social conditions.; African Americans--Sports; Basketball; Basketball coaches--Mississippi; Basketball players; Basketball players--Mississippi; Basketball teams; Basketball--Coaching; Coaches (Athletics); Coaching (Athletics); College athletes; College environment; College sports--Mississippi; College sports.; College students, Black; College students--Attitudes.; College students--Conduct of life.; College students--Social conditions; College students.; Delta State University; Delta State University--Basketball; Discrimination in sports; Integration; Race discrimination.; Race relations; Racism; Sexism.; Women basketball players; Women in higher education.; Women--Education (Higher)

GPS: Delta State University
Map Coordinates: 33.742027, -90.726548
01:27:56 - Lack of opportunities for women athletes

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Partial Transcript: Did, did you ever--once, you know, your career was over here I know there were leagues in Italy and Japan...

Segment Synopsis: Harris talks about choosing to not continue her basketball career overseas due to her marriage. She talks about becoming a high school counselor and basketball coach. She talks about women athletes not being able to make a living playing professional sports, and how the discrepancy between male and female athletes continues today. She talks about being invited to play with the NBA team the New Orleans Jazz. She talks about finishing her master's degree and being given an honorary doctorate. She talks about coaching high school basketball and how much more difficult it was as a woman of color who received no support.

Keywords: Amanda Elzy High School; Assistants; Brown v. Board of Education; Careers; Children; Comparisons; Counselors; Emphasis; Equal treatment standards; Equality; Equality of opportunity; Equity in athletics; Gender; Gender discrimination; Honorary doctorates; Jobs; Leagues; Making a living; Married; Master's degrees; NBA draft; National Basketball Association (NBA); New Orleans Jazz (NBA team); Offers; Recruiters; Recruitment; Salaries; Salary; Sex discrimination; Support; Texas Southern University; Title IX; Women of color; Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA); Women's Professional Basketball League (WBL)

Subjects: African American basketball players; African Americans--Sports; Basketball; Basketball coaches--Mississippi; Basketball players; Basketball players--Mississippi; Basketball teams; Basketball--Coaching; Coaches (Athletics); Coaching (Athletics); College sports--Mississippi; College sports.; Delta State University; Delta State University--Basketball; Discrimination in sports; Sexism.; Women basketball players

GPS: Amanda Elzy High School
Map Coordinates: 33.500556, -90.168333
GPS: Texas Southern University
Map Coordinates: 29.722222, -95.361111
01:36:38 - Changes for women in society

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Partial Transcript: Did you follow, uh--I'm pretty sure you, you follow what's going on in the United States now...

Segment Synopsis: The interviewer, Valerie Still, lists some of the recent accomplishments of women of color at the time of this interview. Harris talks about following the U.S. women's basketball team at the 1996 Olympics. She talks about how female athletes' mentality has changed since her college career and discusses the impact of Title IX.

Keywords: 1996 Olympics; American Basketball League (ABL); Awareness; Budgets; Changes; Dawn Staley; Equal treatment standards; Equality; Equality of opportunity; Equity in athletics; Gender; Gender discrimination; Georgia senators; History; Impact; Kamala Harris; Lisa Leslie; Margaret Wade; Marketing; Modest; National anthems; Overlooked; Protests; Recognition; Sex discrimination; Sheryl Swoopes; South; Southeastern Conference (SEC); Stacey Abrams; Success; Support; Television coverage; Title IX; Undefeated; Underrepresented; Women of color; Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA)

Subjects: African American basketball players; African Americans--Social conditions.; African Americans--Sports; Basketball; Basketball players; Basketball teams; Basketball--Coaching; Coaches (Athletics); Coaching (Athletics); Discrimination in sports; Leadership; Race discrimination.; Race relations; Racism; Sexism.; Women basketball players

01:45:17 - Influences on her life

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Partial Transcript: What does it mean to you to be the first African American female player to win a national tire--title and the first female player to be inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame?

Segment Synopsis: Harris talks about being the first African American woman to win a national title and being the first woman to be inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame. She talks about how playing basketball at Delta State University impacted her life and how her family influenced her.

Keywords: Acceptance; Caring; Equal treatment standards; Equality; Equality of opportunity; Equity in athletics; Family; First African American; First African American woman; First woman; Foundations; Gender; Gender discrimination; Impact; Influences; Men; Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame; National titles; Parents; Pensions; Sex discrimination; Struggles

Subjects: African American basketball players; African American college students--Social conditions; African American college students.; African Americans--Education (Higher); African Americans--Social conditions.; African Americans--Sports; Basketball; Basketball players; Basketball players--Mississippi; Basketball teams; College athletes; College sports--Mississippi; College sports.; College students, Black; College students--Attitudes.; College students--Conduct of life.; College students--Social conditions; College students.; Delta State University; Delta State University--Basketball; Discrimination in sports; Race relations; Sexism.; Women basketball players; Women in higher education.; Women--Education (Higher)

GPS: Delta State University
Map Coordinates: 33.742027, -90.726548
01:49:50 - Changes in the world since her childhood

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Partial Transcript: There're so many things that need to be changed.

Segment Synopsis: Harris talks about how the world has changed since her childhood. She talks about social issues, the Coronavirus pandemic, injustice and racism. She talks more about how she was shielded from racial issues during her youth. She gives advice to young people. The interview is concluded.

Keywords: Advice; Attitudes; Awareness; COVID-19 (Disease); Changes; Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); Coronavirus pandemic; Deaths; Different; Divided; Equal treatment standards; Equality; Equality of opportunity; Expectations; Experience; Focus; Injustices; Jim Crow laws; Masks; Mississippi; Nation; Selfishness; Shielded; Simpler; Social issues; Story; Studying; Treatment

Subjects: African Americans--Social conditions.; Childhood; Race discrimination.; Race relations; Racism; Social change.; Social justice.; Social movements.; Social problems.