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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Louise Young, February 14, 1972. Interview G-0066. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Interacting with the African American community in Augusta, Georgia

Young describes what it was like to live in Augusta, Georgia, as a white woman during the years that she taught at Paine College. Young recalls that her interaction with other members of the community was very limited, although she very much enjoyed teaching. Because Augusta had a predominately African American population, Young explains how Paine College also doubled as a high school for teenagers in the community. Overall, her perception of race relations was quite favorable within the school setting; however, she distinguishes her interaction with these "privileged Negroes" from the kinds of African Americans she encountered elsewhere in the area.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Louise Young, February 14, 1972. Interview G-0066. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

ROBERT HALL:
Did you live in a home in a white community?
LOUISE YOUNG:
I lived in a white home. That was my salvation. But aside from that I was literally living in a Negro world. And my realization of it was that when I was on the street, I caught myself in this, I would just realize that there were white people passing. But if it was a Negro I would look at him because I might know him. So I was living that much in a Negro world.
ROBERT HALL:
How did you feel about that?
LOUISE YOUNG:
I just had a wonderful time, because I enjoyed my teaching and several of my colleagues were very congenial. Of course there was . . . in the social life . . . it was spelled with a capital "s", there was none. But . . .
ROBERT HALL:
I guess the black teachers were very isolated themselves in the sense that they were isolated from the rest of the county, from probably black people who lived in the town.
LOUISE YOUNG:
Well I imagine . . . there were a fair number of them, you see, much more than there was white people, but I think that they had status and probably had contacts with folks there in the town of their status as they saw it, and also they weren't far away from home most of them I imagine. I imagine there were . . . they were around there. It was quite a status for the Negroes and the, just a mark of the town, the city itself had no high school for Negroes. So though it was called Paine College, it was mostly high school.
ROBERT HALL:
How old would the students be?
LOUISE YOUNG:
Well they would just be average age. I think we didn't have any elementary classes, but the high school classes were just like any high school and we had college. And I . . . my teaching, I taught English and philosophy in the college. But our principal you would be interested to know was a black man, with a Master's Degree from Clark University and just out of the Army. This was 1919. And he later became Assistant Superintendent of Schools in Washington, D. C. The ranking Negro you see. He was very able and was conducting various psychological tests at the time and liked to test me because he was trying to test white against black. And so we had a great deal in common and he felt that the whole school needed re-organizing. And I'm sure he was right. He was Academic Dean and Dean of Men and I was Dean of Women and also teaching a full schedule. So whenever there was a teacher out and they needed a substitute, either he or I taught all the high school classes, to take a look at them. And so in that way I did quite a little high school teaching. And talk about having a good time, to teach Shakespeare to high school Negroes who can declaim so - they just loved it. And it was just brand new to them. So that their response to my classes in Shakespeare were just enough to thrill any teacher, and to hear them read it. So I had an awfully good time really. And then I had my summer vacations. And friends would come down for Christmas. We didn't have any holiday to speak of at Christmastime, but friends, I had a Minnesota friend who came down. She had never been South to Chicago. She got as far South as Augusta, Georgia and she was all excited just as though she was travelling in Zanzibar. So she and I over the long New Years weekend took a trip to Charleston. I remember the thrill of that. She . . . her first look at the South was of interest to me. And a Saturday afternoon I recall as the train was pulling through these little towns on the way to Charleston, Negroes would be at the station. And they really would frighten even me because I had known Negroes all my life but not deep South plantation Negroes, sort of undisciplined and unorganized, you see, hanging around the railroad station Saturday afternoon. And they were just as different from our Paine College students who were neat and courteous, ambitious, well disciplined. In other words just the way you might feel if you had always been with respectable white people, to find yourself in the midst of a . . . just a terrible gang sort of crowd. So that my early experiences, most of my experience with the Negroes has been rather idyllic I know. I've known very priviledged Negroes.