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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Kathryn Cheek, March 27, 2003. Interview K-0203. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Tensions at Chapel Hill High School

Cheek remembers a "huge riot" at Chapel Hill High School, big enough for parents of junior high school students to retrieve their children from school. Cheek remembers "this whole list of demands" black students at CHHS presented, but says that children back then—the late 1960s—did not know much about current events.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Kathryn Cheek, March 27, 2003. Interview K-0203. 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

SUSAN UPTON:
Throughout your elementary school, were there many other black students in your school?
KATHRYN CHEEK:
I remember some, but probably not many. I don't think it got significant until I got to junior high and high school.
SUSAN UPTON:
Did that change-do you remember any conflicts that arose in-
KATHRYN CHEEK:
Ohhh, junior high and high school, yes.
SUSAN UPTON:
really?
KATHRYN CHEEK:
Oh yes, oh yeah. When I was in junior high, well when I was still at Phillips. It was in the fall so it was before we had moved to Culbreth. And there was a huge riot at Chapel Hill High. This must have been 1968 or '69, I can't remember which, but it was significant enough that our mothers came to school and picked us up. The principal at the junior high hid in his office.
SUSAN UPTON:
Well, what was it about?
KATHRYN CHEEK:
Some-the black students at Chapel Hill High had presented a list of demands to the principal there that they wanted to change the mascot of the school from something to tigers or-some of it's vague. They wanted to change the school colors to black and gold instead of blue and gold. I mean, just this whole list of demands and they weren't being acted on very quickly so it just escalated into a full scale riot. They closed the high school for a few days. But I wasn't in high school yet, I was still in middle school-or junior high- but I remember-
SUSAN UPTON:
And your parents still came and got you-
KATHRYN CHEEK:
Yes.
SUSAN UPTON:
Did they do anything, like afterwards?
KATHRYN CHEEK:
The parents, I remember, had meetings. Back then children weren't supposed to know anything that was going on, it was the adults. And I don't know the specifics, but I know there were parents meetings in the evenings and that sort of stuff. Seems like the high school was closed for awhile and they brought in deputies for awhile and then most of the demands were met so I think it calmed down a little bit.