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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Steve Cherry, February 19, 1999. Interview K-0430. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Violence on the court during an integrated basketball game

Cherry remembers one of his basketball players who was driven to tears by the verbal abuse of a white opponent. He begged Cherry for permission to hit the white player. Cherry denied permission.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Steve Cherry, February 19, 1999. Interview K-0430. 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

MARK JONES:
And how about when you went into other towns where integration hadn't come as quickly or completely? Was there more of a
STEVE CHERRY:
I had players when I was still coaching that the opposing teams tried to get thrown out of the game. They called them everything but holy and pinched them and pulled their jerseys…
MARK JONES:
Black players?
STEVE CHERRY:
Yeah. I had a black center one time that came to the bench crying, begging me to let him hit their center. Said, ‘He's called me everything, he's talked about my mama, he's done everything in this world to me.’ and said, ‘I know I can't swing and hit him because you'll kill me. Just please let me hit him one time.’ Cried tears runnin' down out of his eyes. And I just patted him on the back and said, ‘No, Joe, you don't need to do that.’ I said, ‘We need you in this ballgame and we need you against him.’ I said, ‘He's not going to hurt you with words. You just keep playing. The best way you can hurt him is to get 35 and every ball that goes on the boards is yours.’ And he played his heart out.
MARK JONES:
And that was at East Lincoln?
STEVE CHERRY:
That was at East Lincoln.
MARK JONES:
Do you remember what year that was?
STEVE CHERRY:
That was… toward the end of my coaching career. That was probably about '70.
MARK JONES:
Do you know what school you were playing?
STEVE CHERRY:
No, I don't remember. I don't remember which school but I… Yeah I do, too. It was High School. I just remembered. And they were all white. They didn't have a black on the squad.