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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Charlene Regester, February 23, 2001. Interview K-0216. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Tenuous balance struck by school board with a public resistant to rapid racial change

Regester explains the political conflict Chapel Hill school board officials faced. Because race was so divisive in Chapel Hill in the 1960s, Regester contends that the civil rights boycotts forced blacks and whites to take a stand on integration. While the school board promoted school integration, they had to traverse through the fears of the larger white constituency.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Charlene Regester, February 23, 2001. Interview K-0216. 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:
Did that create problems for you in junior high? How receptive was like the administration and things to that?
CHARLENE REGESTER:
On some level they were actually receptive because they were trying to promote integration and so they wanted to...they knew that in order for integration to work they could not not respond to some of the demands because otherwise then integration wouldn't of been working. So I think on some level they tried to negotiate and to compromise, even though there were moments when they were very resistive, but we also had a group of parents that worked as a committee behind us. So anytime we had problems, we took it to this parental committee, and they would then meet with administrators. And there were local black ministers involved, such as Reverend Manly. He was on the forefront of the movement. There was also Reverend Hoyt. There were other people, Vivian Fushe and Miss Susie Weaver. There were a number of persons from the community, Gloria Williams, who often if we couldn't get administrators to respond to our causes or our issues, they would take them and confront administrators themselves. So we did have the support of out parents and out community.
SUSAN UPTON:
So the group of parents were mostly the black students parents?
CHARLENE REGESTER:
Yes.
SUSAN UPTON:
What year did you graduate from Chapel Hill High School?
CHARLENE REGESTER:
I graduated in 1973.
SUSAN UPTON:
Were you there then for the little bit about the riots they had in 1969?
CHARLENE REGESTER:
Actually that was over with, cause I didn't get there till 1970. At that time it was only tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grades.
SUSAN UPTON:
Did you know anything about he riots when they were going on?
CHARLENE REGESTER:
I just vaguely remember a little bit about it because I remember my sisters being a little involved, but that all I remember.
SUSAN UPTON:
That's fine. So whenever you were in the high school, what were...were the problems different from the ones in junior high you faced?
CHARLENE REGESTER:
I imagine they were probably very similar, some of the same kinds of causes.
SUSAN UPTON:
Do you remember anything particular, offhand?
CHARLENE REGESTER:
No, I don't. Not right off.
SUSAN UPTON:
Whenever you were in high school, did you have more interaction with the white students than maybe before? Or did you think it was more?
CHARLENE REGESTER:
By the high school? Yeah, I think once we went to junior high integration was well on it's way by the time I got to junior high school. Certainly we got accustomed to each other and realized that this is what highschool was going to be like. Many of the friends you met at that level you would maintain at the high school as well.
SUSAN UPTON:
What about in the community once integration happened did things change in the community?
CHARLENE REGESTER:
I will say that the community was still divided on the basis of race to much of the same manner as it still is today in Chapel Hill. But I will tell you what I thought was very interesting, is I do remember that as a result of the sit-ins and boycotts, that there were a number of establishments that prior to the sit-ins and boycotts on some level, they did patronize African-Americans, but because of the sit-ins and boycotts they were then forced to take a position. So it's very possible that a business could have patronized blacks, but then when they were really forced to take on a position, they decided 'well we are against blacks' and then at that point they would refuse to patronize blacks, and then they were boycotted or protested or whatever. So I think that it's very important, and someone else brought this to my attention, in the South there was always a level of tolerance that existed between blacks and whites, where they learned to sort of get along, but then of course when integration came up people had to take sides and even some of the white people were split because some whites were for blacks and some whites were against them. And so I just think that's kind of interesting.