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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Martina Dunford, February 18, 1999. Interview K-0142. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Experiences growing up in Norfolk, Virginia

Dunford briefly describes her experiences going to school in Norfolk, Virginia, during the 1960s, citing her preference for her experiences at an all-black school. In addition, she points to some of the types of racial discrimination she experienced while growing up as particularly formative for her views on systematic injustice.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Martina Dunford, February 18, 1999. Interview K-0142. 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

Now you would've been old enough to go through integration in school. What do you remember from that time period?
Always being a doubtful person trying to figure out. I've always been that kind of person—been, ‘What's going on here? What makes sense and what doesn't make sense?’ And integration at the time I thought was an excellent idea, because I felt like this was movement; this was a step up from where we were. You're going to give us the same opportunities. But in essence it was not wanting to be there, but being given equality and quantity. I enjoyed my African American teachers at the community that I lived in. When I went to elementary school all my kids were black and all my teachers were black. And I wouldn't trade them for the world, and I think that was still—I've gotten lots from that.
Because you were in black schools before white schools?
Yes, before the white schools. Because the white teachers don't understand the culture. They don't understand what [unclear] I don't want to be a Ph.D. It's a different way of getting there. And that's what made a difference. Doubtful, scared, not sure, not trusting all those things went through during segregation. Because one, after you grow up in a community for so long where your parents were demeaning or demeaned or taken advantage of or all those negatives. You hear that, you hear it. My mom used to come in—she worked for the Government—and making statements, racial statements about people at work. ‘I just don't understand why John didn't get that job, because they know John is better qualified. But because they were white they gave it to them.’ Or, ‘You wouldn't believe what those devils did today.’ And you hear it as children. So you're like, ‘What is it these people are all about?’ As you grow older and start to interact, you see, I mean there's good and bad in everybody; in all folk. So if you are mature enough to see that you sort of become well rounded where you can accept what you can use and spit out what you don't, and continue to go on and not be so frustrated. Or try not to be. Because it's hard. I've not been a victim per se of racial discrimination to the point where it has altered my life to a real negative side. But I've seen some things happen that I'd be like, ‘Yeah, I would be angry too.’ But then I've also seen some African American people do some things to other cultures where I would be mad at you, too. But because I also feel personally that people cannot judge an entire race of people. Actually judge an entire race of people by my ways and behavior and felt that I didn't want to be judged by what other people were doing, I started to look at the other cultures in a different way. I can't judge you because of what your forefathers have done or people before you have done. I have to take on with whatever you have to offer. And then if I can deal with it fine and if not, I don't have to.