MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The year was 1962, and the Civil Rights Movement was gripping the nation’s attention. Fifty-three college students from Tennessee and Minnesota would do their part in the historic struggle.

St. Paul’s Macalester College and Knoxville College in Tennessee embarked on an exchange program that sent students from the mostly-white northern school to the all-black southern college, and vice versa.

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Paula Hirschoff was a Macalester student who spent a semester at Knoxville College in the fall of 1964.

“I was a little nervous, probably,” Hirschoff told WCCO’s John Hines Thursday. “But, I wanted the challenge. I was very exited to be doing a very small thing to take part in the Civil Rights Movement. And that’s really what we felt we were doing.”

The exchange program began in 1962, and would send 28 Macalester students to Knoxville. In turn, 25 Knoxville students were sent to Macalester. M. Frederick Mitchell was one of the Knoxville students who came to St. Paul.

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Mitchell says it was a welcome break.

“Going north would definitely be better than going further south, especially during those years,” Mitchell said. “I was that type of person, I wanted the challenge. I wanted to offer whatever I could to help integrate the society.”

Plans are being made by both colleges to mark the exchange program’s 50th anniversary.

Paula Hirschoff and M. Frederick Mitchell share their stories about the exchange with WCCO’s John Hines.

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NewsRadio 830 WCCO’s John Hines Reports