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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Leroy Miller, June 8, 1998. Interview K-0174. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Racial component of white-black relationships

Here, Miller explains that while black people for many years were forced to get along with whites, whites were never forced to accommodate to the needs of blacks. White teachers, he recalls, were sometimes uncomfortable in formerly black schools, but one white teacher did teach Miller a lesson about racial difference. In reflecting on racism, Miller remembers chasing down some students who were skipping class at Carmel Junior High School when he suddenly realized the significance of the image of a black man pursuing a white girl. The story is somewhat unclear, but it seems like a white man rammed his car in retaliation.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Leroy Miller, June 8, 1998. Interview K-0174. 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: Violence, yeah. Do you think at that time there were principals who were afraid to discipline in schools? LM: Well, the thing about it, if you’re a black person you had to know how to get along with a white person. Blacks have always had to get along with whites since slavery. But it wasn’t true of whites. The only blacks that some of the white principals had ever associated with were maybe their gardener or cook or somebody like that. They’d never had to associate with any blacks. I can recall when Dr. Garinger was the superintendent. We attempted to integrate the faculties when you had the freedom of choice. When I first came to Charlotte the superintendents used to meet with the blacks on one Saturday morning and the whites on another Saturday morning. Then they started having one meeting, and instead of having a black English group and a white one it was all English teachers and all industrial arts teachers. You’d be surprised. That was something that was hard to come by. PG: The white teachers didn’t want to meet with the black teachers? LM: No. They were resentful. I think it was just both of them. They were just resentful. You had some that didn’t matter. I know the first two white teachers we had at West Charlotte, had one in Social Studies by the name of Ann Fiber and another white teacher in English Anna Wiles, that was the freedom of choice. Ann Fiber she finished the University of Mississippi, and she came to West Charlotte when they said you had to integrate schools and sixty percent of your teachers had to be white and forty percent had to be black. I think it hurt Ann worse than anybody else. It was funny. When she was there by herself she was a little white princess, so to speak. But when other whites came there it sort of stole her thunder. I learned, now this is the God’s truth. One was a blond and the other one was a brunette. I remember I used to hand deliver the checks to the teachers on pay day. I’d go to Ann Fiber and I’d give her Miss Wiles’ check. She said, “Oh, this is Ann Fiber.” Until that time I’d never looked at a white woman, period. I guess about the second or third month Miss Fiber stopped me. She said, “Mr. Miller, if I can take the time to know that there’s a difference between blacks, seemingly you can do likewise. Look, I’m a blond. Anna Wiles is a brunette. Her hair is almost as black as your hair.” I said, “Thank you,” and I moved on out. I started looking at hair then. I said you can tell them by the hair. You can tell them by the eyes, but I’d never paid that much attention to white, period. PG: Really. LM: No. I can recall Miss Ledford, she was my curriculum coordinator. Back when they had the gas shortage we had a curriculum meeting over at Garinger High School. I went out to get in my car and she was out there. I said, “No, you aren’t going to ride with me.” She said, “I don’t have any gas. I don’t have gas enough to get home.” I didn’t want a rider, not in my car. I didn’t want to ride no white. When I was at West Charlotte I used to police the campus, to look, because kids would sneak off from school. The same thing was true when I went to Carmel. I remember that first year down at Carmel I had some girls and boys that had sneaked off the campus. They were going down Carmel Road. I went down there chasing them. These cars that were coming up from South Carolina, I was chasing little white girls running, them cars slowing down. I happened to think, “Man, some of these fools out here there’s no telling what they’d do.” So I came back to the campus and I got Mayor Brown and Sue. I said, “Listen, let’s go get them.” I made sure that I was going to protect myself. I remember Barbara. She said, “Mr. Miller, everybody knows that you’re the principal and I’m the curriculum coordinator. So she got in. I had a little old Mustang. She got in the car and we went over to Garinger High School from East Mecklenburg. On the way back I said, “Miss Ledford, I wish you would sit up straight in your seat.” She was turned sideways, and she was talking. I said, “Just sit straight.” There was one of those BFI trucks behind us. I saw the fellow when he passed us. As he passed us he was white and he decided he was going to slow down and see what that white woman was doing in that car with that black man. So he let us pass him. Then he got right behind us. When we go to Independence and Hawthorne there was an ambulance going down Hawthorne Lane. The red light was on, and I was in front of that BFI truck. I had to stop even though I had the light. It was on green, and when I stopped that BFI truck ran right into the back of me. It knocked me over on the corner. I got on the corner, and the ambulance stopped to see if we were hurt, and then proceeded. The police came. That old fellow that was driving the ambulance told the police, “That nigger had that white woman over there.” I’d gone over on the corner. I heard him. He said, “That nigger over there he had that little white woman over there.” The policeman sat there. He said, “That’s Mr. Miller. He’s principal at East Mecklenburg.” It just so happened that the officers that came out there had been one that worked at some of our games. He came over. I said, “I stopped for the ambulance. He ran into the back of me and knocked me over there.” The driver was over there telling George Powell. George was in charge of PE for the school system. He had been at the same meeting we had been at. He was telling George, “That man over there had that white woman.” George said, “We’ve got to take care of that pink half-wit.” Made a joke out of it. I said to Barbara after, “I told you. My mamma always told me white women were bad luck.” She was the first one that ever rode in a car with me. She was a nice young lady. I knew her mother and her husband, Buster. They were nice. She was just like a daughter of mine. Smart young lady.