Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Kathryn Cheek, March 27, 2003. Interview K-0203. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Sit-ins cause tension for white students

Cheek remembers sit-ins at Chapel Hill High School and the efforts of the white students to avoid them. Her husband vividly remembers the CHHS riots, she says.

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:
Okay, she was telling me about being in high school, and junior high too, and having sit-is and the black student movement. Did you know anything-
KATHRYN CHEEK:
Yeah, I do vaguely remember. I mean, we avoided it because you know, that was something you didn't want to get involved in. And I remember going fifty ways out of the way to avoid where ever the sit-ins were taking place. It seemed like it became a very common occurrence, especially in high school. I don't remember it as much in junior high. But in high school, Chapel Hill High-I don't know whether you've ever been there before but in the main building there's this huge open area, lobby area, that has stairs that go up to the second floor and it's big and that's where the sit-ins would be and they'd just encompass the whole available area it seemed like. And we just stayed away.
SUSAN UPTON:
How come?
KATHRYN CHEEK:
Just, no use inviting trouble.
SUSAN UPTON:
Yeah, so they did that pretty often?
KATHRYN CHEEK:
Seems I remember they did that pretty often.
SUSAN UPTON:
And do you know why?
KATHRYN CHEEK:
No. I guess it was a method to get attention, I mean to try and get-there was always a list of demands or-you know which was what started the riots. My husband was in high school when the riots came that I was in junior high for. And he has very vivid memories of chairs flying through the air and all that kind of stuff.
SUSAN UPTON:
Oh really? What does he remember?
KATHRYN CHEEK:
He said they got locked in their classrooms by the teachers once it got started. And he said he just remembers mostly chairs and stuff like that being thrown and kids coming through and busting the doors down. I mean, it was not violence as unfortunately we know school violence to be today, but it was pretty intense for the time.
SUSAN UPTON:
I bet. I can see how.
KATHRYN CHEEK:
Uh huh.
SUSAN UPTON:
I guess one of the other things she talked about was trying to get black history and things like that.
KATHRYN CHEEK:
Yeah, and there was-I don't remember there being any such thing until my kids were in school. I mean, I had never heard of black history month or anything. I mean, it just wasn't-
SUSAN UPTON:
So you never-
KATHRYN CHEEK:
And I was oblivious to it because it didn't impact me necessarily so as long as there wasn't something going on, significant going on, then it was like, you know. [sighs]