Promise of integration goes unrealized
Hamlin and other black students at West Charlotte were excited about integration because it offered them the possibility of competing, academically and athletically, with other schools. In short, African American students had the chance to demonstrate that they were just as capable of success as white students. Hamlin remembers a basketball game against Myers Park High School, but says that "in other venues" the much-anticipated competition did not take place.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with William Hamlin, May 29, 1998. Interview K-0169. 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
PG: At the point when you were going to Northwest and West Charlotte was then--. That was your earlier experience with intended integration. After that, was that not something you and your parents thought about at all for the rest of your school career?
WH: No. It was something that we didn’t think about anymore. In fact, we sort of--. After the initial students went to West Charlotte, the integration thing sort of slid itself back. I think it sort of slid itself back. There were still issues going. Along where there were other students who went to Myers Park and some of the other schools around. But, I don’t think it was the big issue as it was in 1957, ’58 when the Supreme Court ruled that integration would be the order of the day. So, it sort of slid itself back and then there began to be a lot of other challenges that caused it to be back on the back burner. For me, that really was my, an option that my family or myself was considering from that standpoint from that point on.
PG: Did the students talk among themselves at all about integration or anything like that? Or was that simply not an issue--.?
WH: Yes, we did talk about it. Our dialogue was basically centered around the fact that we were just as good as any other students at Charlotte-Mecklenberg if we were given the opportunity to compete. There was always an itching that we wanted the opportunity to meet our counterparts, whether it be in academics or sports, or whatever, head to head, to sort of see who was best. I guess that was the only way that we thought we could get some parity. You had to have a competitive, an event that would generate an outcome as to who is the best now. So, there was a lot of talk about, “Boy, I sure would like to see us sing at a competition that involved them. I sure would like to see them debate with us. I sure would like to see them compete with us athletically.” That was basically the dialogue we picked up. We just wanted the opportunity to show that we were as good as we knew we were.
PG: Did that opportunity ever come around at all, or the possibility of that, when you were in school?
WH: No, not during the time that I was in school. No, it didn’t. I think the first time that I can remember of a sanctioned athletic event was after I was in college. I think my sister was in high school at the time and West Charlotte played Myers Park. That was one of the first sanctioned competitive events that we had. And that event, I think it took place at Myers Park.
PG: Was that a basketball game?
WH: It was a basketball game.
PG: I spoke to Charles McCullough for that end of the project and I believe he mentioned it was quite a sensation.
WH: Right. It was. I think everybody was anticipating seeing this first time that people would go, the athletes would go head to head. But, in other venues, no we really didn’t. We really didn’t have the opportunity to compete in other avenues. So, consequently, we never really got to know really how well we were. Or how good we really thought we were. We never really got that opportunity. That’s just the sign of what the time was all about during that time. I think it was on both halves. Some people not wanting it to happen and whatever.