Incomplete integration at West Charlotte
Abramson says that she remembers conversations with her father, William Culp, who taught at West Charlotte for a short period of time during the integration process. Despite what she learned about integration, Abramson does not remember feeling that West Charlotte was a particularly integrated place. Some activities, such as sports games and reunions, seemed well-integrated, but Abramson remembers tensions when white and black students worked together on school committees.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Carrie Abramson, February 21, 1999. Interview K-0275. 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
CA: We talked about it in probably a pretty broad context. I mean, we definitely talked about the history of West Charlotte, and how West Charlotte was integrated. And Dad would talk about that experience and what that was like. And we would talk about what it was like at West Charlotte today, in terms of whether it felt integrated, and how it often didn’t to me. I mean I often didn’t feel like it was integrated. Although it was interesting, because at my tenth, my ten-year high school reunion which we had last August, it felt incredibly integrated. And I don’t know, I mean, I felt like I knew all the black people who were there. And it was interesting because I don’t know if just the ones I didn’t know didn’t come, or if I knew more than I thought I did. Which is possible. But we would talk about it in that context as well.
PG: Was there ever a discussion at the school itself, of people attempting to, on a maybe a more institutional level break down some race barriers, or cross some of those lines?
CA: There absolutely were, informally. I can’t remember if there was anything that was formal. But I remember being on the student, the sophomore class council, which was my only elected political position in high school. But, and having discussions around planning events, and planning parties, and things like that for the class, that we wanted to focus on getting people to know each other. And part of it was, was it was our first year in high school. And we were all coming from different backgrounds, so we didn’t all know each other. But, I remember in that context there being a lot of discussions around how can we get people to interact, and how can we sort of break down some of those barriers. Because there was, if I remember correctly, there was equal representation on the class council. And, and that was not always comfortable. It wasn’t always comfortable, for me anyway, to acknowledge the fact that there was tension there in terms of everybody not knowing—admitting that you didn’t all know each other and that there was separation there. So I wasn’t always comfortable with that. But it was a reality. I think it was something people understood was true, and did try very hard to created opportunities for people to get to know each other and to remove some of those barriers. And there were a lot of great activities like that. Like we had a, I can’t remember what it was called, but it was like a big festival, basically, where all the different clubs sponsored booths and everybody would go. I want to call it Spring Fling, but I don’t think that’s right. I think that may have been junior high. But all the clubs sponsored booths. And everybody—it was around homecoming. And everybody would go. And you would buy things. Like some of it was candy related, and some balloons, and like just sort of random things by each club came up with their own thing that they wanted to do. And so it was like a big festival. And everything was designed around everybody being very integrated and not having all of the African-American clubs on one side and the white clubs on the other. But having everybody be very mixed in together, so that you would have more interaction. And I think that’s one of the times where it really did happen. There’s a picture that’s on the front of this book, actually, it was just when I picked this up earlier it reminded me of it. That was taken at that sort of whatever it is, homecoming festival day, or whatever. And it’s a pretty integrated picture. And I think that that, that event was one of the ones that really—and like I said, it was focused around the sporting event, but it really gave people an opportunity to interact, probably more than always, than what happened necessarily otherwise. And, to be honest, there was separation not only racially, but economically. I mean, there were whole groups, there were, you know, whole groups of whites who didn’t interact either. Because they were in different classes, or they were in, had different interests. And so the classes that they took in terms of their electives, and things like that, were more focused on different areas. And so there were people who we never interacted with in that way as well. So. It wasn’t just racial, I guess.