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Title: Oral History Interview with Madge Hopkins, October 17, 2000. Interview K-0481. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Hopkins, Madge, interviewee
Interview conducted by Grundy, Pamela
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Mike Millner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2006
Size of electronic edition: 112 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2006.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2006-00-00, Celine Noel and Wanda Gunther revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2006-07-24, Mike Millner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of sound recording: Oral History Interview with Madge Hopkins, October 17, 2000. Interview K-0481. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series K. Southern Communities. Southern Oral History Program Collection (K-0481)
Author: Pamela Grundy
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Madge Hopkins, October 17, 2000. Interview K-0481. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series K. Southern Communities. Southern Oral History Program Collection (K-0481)
Author: Madge Hopkins
Description: 117 Mb
Description: 28 p.
Note: Interview conducted on October 17, 2000, by Pamela Grundy; recorded in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by Susan Estep.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series K. Southern Communities, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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The text has been encoded using the recommendations for Level 4 of the TEI in Libraries Guidelines.
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Interview with Madge Hopkins, October 17, 2000.
Interview K-0481. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Hopkins, Madge, interviewee


Interview Participants

    MADGE HOPKINS, interviewee
    PAMELA GRUNDY, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
PAMELA GRUNDY:
It is the seventeenth of October, 2000, and I'm here interviewing Ms. Madge Hopkins who is a vice principal here at West Charlotte and we're going to talk about her own experiences over the years here at West Charlotte High School. Now, you say you graduated from West Charlotte in 1961?
MADGE HOPKINS:
Yes, 1961.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
How did you get to West Charlotte High School originally?
MADGE HOPKINS:
I lived in the area. We were assigned schools by areas that you lived in and all schools that were on this side of the square, the west side of the square, the dividing line of the city attended, if they were in Charlotte we attended West Charlotte. On the other side of the square they attended Second Ward. And then those who were on the west side, further out, there was York Road and some other high schools that were in the counties. But I lived in the area for West Charlotte.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Had you always lived in this area when you were growing up?
MADGE HOPKINS:
No, I lived in an area until I was about twelve that is in the rural area of Mecklenburg County and I attended Woodland Elementary School; it's now Paul Tucket School. It was a church and school connection from first through probably I think about sixth or seventh grade it was the Woodland School; a little four room school with four teachers, combination classes—at that time we thought it was a disadvantage but now combination classes I think are good because sometimes children can advance, you have an advantage, it's non-graded more or less. But we were in that building until my last year. The Paul Creek Schools got another building, the white students and the black students moved up to the old building that eventually became Paul Tucket Elementary School and then I left there and we moved and I started attending Northwest Junior High School and I went to Northwest in eighth and ninth grade and

Page 2
then tenth, eleventh and twelfth here at West Charlotte.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Why did your family move into town?
MADGE HOPKINS:
Employment and my sister and I generally stayed with my grandfather and our aunt during the week and with our parents during the weekend because my mother worked and it was easier for us to go to school. Then my grandfather got sick and eventually died so we had to live full time with our parents, my mother and my stepfather. But it was easier for us and for supervision because my mother was late coming home and you know, somebody had to be there when you got home from school. I don't think we did latch key back then. Somebody had to meet you when you got home from school.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
So you went to this rural school when you were staying with your grandparents and then came into town. I see. Was there any sense that there was a difference in quality between the rural schools and the city schools? Did you have any of that?
MADGE HOPKINS:
More resources, certainly, a lot more resources. You're talking about a school that had four rooms and four teachers and eight classes, eight grades, so there were more resources. However, I didn't see a difference in the quality of instruction. I think instruction was probably, in my mind, then I thought was better because there were so few of us you had to be on task, you had to do the work because you know, there was not another grade; everybody in eighth grade worked or seventh grade or sixth grade or first grade, whatever. But Northwest was bigger and had more [unknown] opportunities but the instruction was not as intense. Now, I didn't look at it from that point of view then but looking back I realize now that the quality of instruction was as good if not better.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Was it a big transition for you to come into town and go to Northwest?
MADGE HOPKINS:
No, it was fun. I had been coming here on weekends and I had friends in the

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community; that wasn't a big transition in terms of going to . . . starting junior high school, maybe was a little difficult because adolescence was . . . . What I loved was we had a library on site and I could read all the books I wanted to read. In that little rural school there was a bookmobile that came once every two weeks or once a month and there were no books, there were no libraries, there were no resources in the county.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
What kinds of books did you like to read at that time in your life?
MADGE HOPKINS:
I think I was probably into my horse and adventure stories at that time. Then I went to the adolescent romance stories, the classics, but I loved horse books, adventures, those kinds of things.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Was reading something that was popular in your family? Did your grandparents and parents read a lot?
MADGE HOPKINS:
Well, yes. Particularly my grandfather with whom we spent a lot of time. He read every day and that was something you did. And I remember he listened to the news reports, radio—we didn't have television, this was early '50s, late '50s—but I remember that he listened to Gabriel Heater, names of reporters you just don't hear any more. He listened to the radio and reading was important, it was something you did. So it was an emphasis.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
What did he do for a living?
MADGE HOPKINS:
He was a farmer.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
A farmer.
MADGE HOPKINS:
He was a farmer. The other thing I remember about him and part of my education was that he taught me about nature, about trees, flowers, plants, those kinds of things.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Was he farming still when you lived with him or had he retired from doing that?
MADGE HOPKINS:
Small farming.

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PAMELA GRUNDY:
Did you get out and farm too?
MADGE HOPKINS:
No. I don't recall doing any, no, we really didn't farm. I might have helped pick peas or do something like that, pick beans, but it was not something that I had to do. It was an adventure, again, to go out and help him. I always wanted to help him plow but he never would let us. I wanted to walk behind that plow with him.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Now, was this because you were small or was it because you were a girl?
MADGE HOPKINS:
Probably because I was a girl. If I had been a boy he probably would have let me, don't you think?
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Yeah, I know sometimes that people are very proud about not letting women do that kind of work.
MADGE HOPKINS:
Hm-hm. But I know he wanted me to read, to count, to think; that was the most important thing.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
So you were always encouraged about education.
MADGE HOPKINS:
Hm-hm. The other thing I remember, I tell my children, is that on Sundays everybody gathered—my uncles had all been in World War II and you listened to the stories, the stories of the War, how they met up in certain places in Europe. I listened to my grandfather talking about politics. I remember being, I don't remember what grade I was in, it must have been second—politics and history—second or third grade and he told me that—I knew it was Armistice Day and the teacher said this is a holiday and nobody knew what it was but I knew that it was Armistice Day and I had uncles who had been in the War and that was what it was about. The other thing he talked about was the Cold War and the Reds, the Reds. They talked about the Reds all the time and I thought it was this awful thing that was going to happen, the Reds were going to come and they were going to burn us all up. And he didn't call them Communists, he called them Reds. Talked about that a lot;

Page 5
he talked about Eisenhower. I was aware early of who was a Republican and who was a Democrat and what was going on politically. I heard a lot of history.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
What kind of history did you do?
MADGE HOPKINS:
History of the Wars, what was going on in the Wars, what was going on in the country in terms of civil rights and what was going on in terms of the economics and the struggle for power; the U.S. was developing its power after the War, after the Big War. So I guess I heard a lot of the aftermath of the War. Also, I heard a lot about baseball because they always listened to the World Series and I said to my husband the other night, "Why aren't they playing the World Series?" Because my uncles always came—the ones who lived in New York, there were two of them—they came down to watch the World Series, or listen—eventually it became watch—listen to the World Series with their father.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Really? They would just come down just to do that.
MADGE HOPKINS:
Right, the World Series.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Hm. Very interesting.
MADGE HOPKINS:
Right, that was an event. This was September. You remember events by seasons and I wasn't acutely aware of it, it was just life, it was just the way it was. And as I think back, this is almost November and they're still doing the play offs.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
I know, it's not my favorite either. I liked it better when it was more compressed. Let me ask you one question: I'm fascinated when you were talking about the Reds; did you understand what a Red was?
MADGE HOPKINS:
No, I didn't quite understand, I knew they were bad people, in my grandfather's and my uncles' and my father's eyes, they were bad people. And I had this image of—see the other thing, you always listened to Billy Graham too and I had this image that we were all going to be burned up. I was young enough to believe that in the ground

Page 6
was the Devil; we were Presbyterians but our Presbyterian preacher who was a fine man but (tape gets "fuzzy" momentarily) I still have this image that these Reds would come and burn us all up and the nuclear war, that was going to take place.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Hm-hm. That's very interesting. To move from that just a little bit to West Charlotte: when can you first recall knowing about West Charlotte High School?
MADGE HOPKINS:
Probably, hm, probably as a child (tape becomes "fuzzy" again, voice fades out) on Christmas parade. I always went to the Christmas parade and the bands were in the parade. So you start identifying with the known schools because the school that the young people in that area, the high school students attended in the area I was living as a child would have been Plato Price. My mother, my father, my uncles, everybody had gone to Plato Price High School. But I knew there was a West Charlotte in town and had an aunt who went to West Charlotte in town and who was a majorette for the band and so I knew about West Charlotte.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Did you have a sense that this aunt thought that West Charlotte was the best school? I mean, you've been talking about in terms of this that that was . . . ?
MADGE HOPKINS:
Oh yeah, yeah. I think I probably came more aware of Johnson C. Smith University than West Charlotte because I had an aunt, my mother's twin sister lived on Frazier Avenue and we were living on Mill Road and there was, and everything was walking and walking through that campus I knew that this was where I wanted to go to school. I loved the trees; because my grandfather loved oak trees, water oaks, the big oaks—because that was another thing we would do, my sister and I would gather acorns for him, and he would pay us, that was our little job, gather acorns that he gave to his hogs. And apples and muskegs, and we gathered them and payment was probably about fifty cents, might have been a dime because he used to walk up to the—he smoked a pipe of course—and he'd walk up to the little country store, T.

Page 7
Paul's store and bring us back a peppermint candy and sometimes he might let us walk with him. And he wore bib overalls and he walked with his hands behind his back and you know, you imitate and want to walk like him.
[unclear]
PAMELA GRUNDY:
. . . for just a minute because you made me think of something else. You mentioned that he listened to the news and was very involved in all of that; was he still living, were you still there when the Brown vs. Board of Education decision was made?
MADGE HOPKINS:
Yeah, '54, let's see, I came to Northwest . . . he died in . . . let's see, I came to Northwest in about '56, yes. And you know, I don't remember that discussion; I don't remember and I'm sure that he probably, and when I say he was involved, not in the community. He attended church but he was not an active participant but he was a reader and a listener and he would go the store and that's where the men met. It was still a segregated, of course, very segregated society but he would sit around that little heater or whatever it was there and he might spend an afternoon there just talking with the men in the community about what was going on. And I'm sure he talked about Brown vs. Board of Education but I don't remember.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
So were you not aware of that all when you were coming up?
MADGE HOPKINS:
I became aware of school desegregation and the issue when I was at Northwest and Dorothy Counts began integratng the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and we still talked about it and everybody knew about it.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
When you say you all talked about it, what did you talk about? What did you all say about it?
MADGE HOPKINS:
What was going on and what was happening to her. You overheard teachers talking. I'm sure—Dorothy had been through Northwest and so we were all aware of that.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Because her parents went to Smith, I believe.

Page 8
MADGE HOPKINS:
Hm-hm. Yeah. And at one time, and we probably, yeah, we talked about it at church. Her father at one time had been, I don't think he . . . he had been a supplier. I remember seeing her because her father had been a guest minister or supplied minister at my church. () is a Presbyterian Church, same church I still attend and he was a Presbyterian minister and I remember seeing her and her family so I could identify although she wasn't at Northwest.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
What were you thinking? Did that seem . . . I guess what were your feelings about that and maybe even related to yourself and this situation, changing situation.
MADGE HOPKINS:
I didn't relate to it in terms of myself, in terms of my attending a school other than Northwest because at that time I was at Northwest. I thought she was brave and not something that I wanted to do, didn't have any desire to do that. I had a sense of segregation because you couldn't go in Cresser's and get a hot dog or drink from the fountain, still couldn't do that, and probably for me the most important thing was I could not sit on the front row at the Carousel Parade. There was always some nice white lady who said, "Put the children up front." And I knew I was in the back and that somebody was in a condescending way allowing me to move up front as a child to see what was going on in the parade.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
And you felt that condescension even at that time?
MADGE HOPKINS:
And that entertainment was—pre-Carowinds—was to go to Stoh Park in Bellmont and you could only go on Tuesday nights. That was the night for negroes or black folks.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
What did you think about that when you were young? Is that something that you thought about a lot?
MADGE HOPKINS:
I started to as I [inaudible] well, as I walked, going to that rural elementary school, white buses, we were taunted and children would sometimes throw things or spit out the windows. There were two little boys, two friends we had that lived across the street

Page 9
from us and they were—across the road—and they were white and I remember getting in a fight but I remember my grandfather and my aunt being real cautious, that I couldn't hit them back like I knew anybody else did, you know. Be careful how you hit them back. That was beginning, there was a difference here. You know, we don't go to the same schools, we don't go to the same church; we can play together but I have to handle them with kid gloves? Hm. Something's not right about this, early on. And because when you grow up in a segregated society you're taught your place and you accept but as time, there comes a time when you realize, "I have no place. You can't put me in a place."
PAMELA GRUNDY:
When did that happen for you? When did you begin to notice . . . ?
MADGE HOPKINS:
Probably the time I got in a fight with Freddy and I had to hit him back, you know, was told, "You can't hit him back." No. And that was probably eight or nine years old. And the most, and I think probably at one of those Carousel parades when I was about six or seven. Move to the back. Why can't we stand in the front? Why can't I have, go up to that counter and eat in Cresser's like everybody else does? Why can't I do that?
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Did you ever have a conversation with your grandfather about that explicitly when you're asking these kinds of questions?
MADGE HOPKINS:
I don't recall one and probably I heard conversations, I know I heard conversations, but by the time I was ten or eleven I was questioning why but early on when I was really enmeshed in it, no, I didn't challenge it, I didn't question.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
And then you come to town and you go to Northwest and then you go to West Charlotte, just to move a little bit. Do you remember your first day at West Charlotte? Or do you remember anticipating going to West Charlotte? Was this something that was . . . ?

Page 10
MADGE HOPKINS:
Oh yes, we anticipated. We graduated from Northwest and we moved on up to West Charlotte and it was exciting. And walking up because, you know, we walked. I lived down near Johnson C. Smith and we walked all the way. We didn't catch the bus, we didn't catch the city bus, we walked all the way up to West Charlotte and you started and people, children, students started as far down as Five Points. There were families down there and you just gathered. People would pick up your stuff at someone's house, pick them up, wait for them and there'd just be this parade walking up to school.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
And what was going on as to what was exciting about West Charlotte that was . . . ?
MADGE HOPKINS:
Clubs, events, football, a big library. [Laughter]
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Hm-hm. For you.
MADGE HOPKINS:
Advanced subjects, more independence, just the thought of high school. There's that big step coming from junior high. It's reputation, I knew it was West Charlotte. The best of the best. It wasn't Second Ward, it was West Charlotte. It wasn't [inaudible], it was West Charlotte. Major special. It was just like there was Brooklyn and there was Bittleville and if we could divide the black communities, Bittleville was the upper crust, Second Ward was the working class, not that . . . there were more middle class and the girls from West Charlotte were the most popular. You had arrived if you were at West Charlotte. That's the myth we lived in.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Hm-hm. You had that sense that, I guess, this relationship between Second Ward and West Charlotte is very important it seems.
MADGE HOPKINS:
Yeah, because you had that Queen City classic, that game. And I never got to attend when I was in high school because I was always on punishment. And that is the truth. My mother still tells that story. It seems I had a smart mouth and she said something [and] I said, "Why?" I challenged and I wasn't supposed to challenge, I

Page 11
wasn't supposed to question and I got in trouble. Or I didn't do a chore she told me to do because I was reading a book and I was on punishment always around the Queen City classic time, I never got to attend. That is the truth. [Laughter] I chipped a tooth once; I was reading Little Women and I don't know what Jo was getting ready to do but it was getting really good and I couldn't put that book down—I was supposed to go wash dishes and I did not and I saw my mother coming, my mother used switches, little hickory switches and although I was twelve or thirteen, it must have been twelve or thirteen, she turned the corner, I grabbed the hinge, I fell on the street, I chipped my tooth and I worked that for weeks. Oh, I had to go the dentist, the doctor, I was laid up for . . . I finished the book, I read whatever I wanted to read, I didn't have to worry about it, my sister had to wash dishes so she washed them. [Laughter]
PAMELA GRUNDY:
So what did you hear about the Queen City classic from all your friends? They'd be talking about it, that's how you would get a chance to hear about it?
MADGE HOPKINS:
Hm-hm. But somehow I had gotten out of trouble by the time of the winter sock hops that we had in the same cafeteria that's here. Those were fun.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Tell me about those. What were they like?
MADGE HOPKINS:
Oh, I wasn't a dancer, I've never been a dancer but just being there in the crowd and the boys and girls dancing to the old tunes and doing the slot, whatever the dances were at that time. And then there was always someone who was in the circle who could just really dance and the kids would say, "Now, throw down." And we would watch and everybody would gather around. It was fun, it was a part of the social development. And there was always some boy you had a crush on that you were just praying that he would ask you to dance. It was typical adolescence, no different than today, but a lot . . . and people would pair up and couples would walk home in

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groups of boys and girls. Or I had a best friend whose father always was a chauffeur for us, he'd pick us up and take us.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
What was the music? Who was popular when you were . . . ?
MADGE HOPKINS:
James Brown, the Drifters, who were the '60s? "Sixteen Candles", who was that?
PAMELA GRUNDY:
I know the song but I don't remember who that was.
MADGE HOPKINS:
But James Brown, oh, Jackie Wilson. I remember Jackie Wilson was at the, must have been Park Center, Colosseum, and we went, my friend and I. That was the year—there was a group of us—the year we left tenth grade going to eleventh grade and I got his autograph on a napkin and kept it for years. Jackie Wilson, "Lonely Teardrops". [Laughter]
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Was music a very important part of your life or a high school student's life at that point?
MADGE HOPKINS:
Yeah, yeah. One thing I thought about thinking about "Lonely Teardrops", I was forbidden to read those, you know, those romance books, those, what did you call them?
PAMELA GRUNDY:
The Harlequin Romances?
MADGE HOPKINS:
No, they were the magazines.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Oh, like True Story?
MADGE HOPKINS:
True Story, True Romance. Oh, and I had a girlfriend who would always have them and to read them and hide them, read them and hide them, read them and hide them. Reading was real important. The first modern novel that probably "opened my eyes" about the world was Peyton Place. We read it at Northwest in TV Science class.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
In TV Science class?
MADGE HOPKINS:
Yes. Happening also at this time was Sputnik and space travel was beginning and we were fast forwarding to keep up with the Russians. Those terrible Reds my

Page 13
grandfather had warned me about. Consequently, in Northwest Junior High School we were all put in a room like cattle and we watched this woman from Chapel Hill teach physical science.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Really?
MADGE HOPKINS:
Really. No hands on, too—Lloyd Seglar was I think the science teacher and he's still living—and nobody taught us how to take notes. We just got in this room, and the test came down from Chapel Hill, it was awful. Fast forward, we're going to learn science real quick. Got to West Charlotte, we did our social studies, world history, U.S. history, came out of Chapel Hill via television.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Really?
MADGE HOPKINS:
Really.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
How interesting. I had no idea they would do that.
MADGE HOPKINS:
Oh, it was awful. The social studies was a little better. Chris Collins, he went on to become, and you've probably heard somebody talk about Chris Collins in one of those other interviews—he went on to become a consultant or to work with the state Department of Education. He was a pretty good teacher so he followed up on those TV lessons but world history, U.S. history via television. Awful.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Even back in the '50s, that's very interesting.
MADGE HOPKINS:
Yeah, late '50s. We did it by television. But back to Peyton Place, a friend of mine, her mother was reading Peyton Place, she stole the book, got the book and read it. And there was the juicy part, must have been a kiss or sex on the, something, but everybody had to read that part and it got passed around but eventually I read Peyton Place. I got the whole book to read and then those romance books that you'd hide under the mattress. Your mama couldn't see it, nobody could see it. We couldn't read those books but we wanted to know. It was like, this is a different world.

Page 14
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Hm-hm.
MADGE HOPKINS:
But that was a part of high school at West Charlotte. And there was always the girl who was a little more mature than the rest of us and had a real life that we all wanted to know about but—I think they just took my pencil.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Did you have favorite classes or particular classes that were favorites to you?
MADGE HOPKINS:
Yeah, my favorite probably was geometry, biology, the sciences. It wasn't algebra; I hated algebra, I hated the algebra teacher. He taught the male students and he didn't teach the female. He was an excellent teacher probably but I didn't have the aptitude for the math that he taught. Or how he taught it. He was at the blackboard you know, working the equation. No checking for understanding, no . . . so I never caught on. The other two classes this happened. But one thing he did do for all of us is that he did college prep and he made sure that each one of us got into a college and Vinton Bell, who was principal here will tell you, if it had not been for Julian Pyles we would not have gone to college. He and another one of my classmates, Dr. Bell and another one of my classmates started the Julian Pyles Math Award that was given for the first time this year at West Charlotte. But Julian Pyles taught vocabulary; he taught organizing. Those were the parts of instruction that [inaudible]. He taught us how to [inaudible] and he made sure and he was sending students off and making sure that students at that time were getting into good schools, not just traditional schools in the South but . . . . And at that time I hadn't dreamed, I loved Johnson C. Smith's campus but I thought I could go to Vasser. We had a young lady who was in the class before me, Diane Oliver, who wrote—Mademoiselle magazine used to do a summer issue and they had college interns and she went off and she wrote for them, I mean, that's what I wanted to do, either be a playwright, an actress or I was going to write short stories. I thought Diane [unclear] .

Page 15
Leane Powels, he was instrumental in all of us, and Merdis Rice, I didn't take his Spanish. Barbara Davis, and I came back to do my student teaching at West Charlotte and they were right there, there they were, setting the standard. And Julian Pyles became my friend. He taught me to play bridge.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Did he?
MADGE HOPKINS:
Yeah. I think I was scared of him, I was terrified of him, and that's why I couldn't learn how to play bridge. [Laughter]
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Did you have a sense when you were, you say you really had an expanded world and you were thinking beyond the South and beyond these kinds of things; did you have a sense that these were new opportunities for African-Americans? That this was something that hadn't been able to be done before? Were you thinking in that way at all at that time?
MADGE HOPKINS:
It was instilled in us that anything was possible, that we could do anything we wanted to. Charles Jones was—the civil rights movement was beginning so fresh in our minds, and we had come up from Northwest and Dorothy Counts had tried to desegregated Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools, or Charlotte schools; it had not worked but we had a sense we could do whatever we wanted to do. That we could go beyond what was feared; because, as you know, there were not opportunities for graduate school for our teachers here in the South and that they were going North into larger universities, I think it was, was it Spangler, no it wasn't Spangler, I can't remember his name, the superintendent who was making that possible. It wasn't Spangler, I can't think of his name, making it possible for the teachers and the administration to do that and so we had that sense and that awareness. Same time going on across the street were the Alexanders and the bombings were taking place, we were during those times even though, that's when I think I was, that was

Page 16
occurring when I was doing student teaching and finishing up college. And then we had [John F.] Kennedy . . . I was a student at West Charlotte, Kennedy's inauguration. My godmother had been my mother's teacher in that four room school I talked to you about. And she had worked in Pennsylvania and had moved back to Charlotte and had spent a lot of time, because her house is around the corner, and spent a lot of time with Ms. Cooper and she made sure—and when Kennedy was inaugurated I had to sit and I had to listen. I watch "How to Become a Millionaire" and one trivia question was, "the Frost poem . . . "that was at Kennedy's inauguration and I think they listed, I don't remember the other two but The Gift Outright. You know, you never forget, I will always have in my mind that image of Robert Frost because I was told I had to sit and listen. This you will do, this is important. You will sit and you will listen. And I wanted to do it too but to go through that whole inauguration, that whole day. No, you're not going to go out and . . . I think it was because of snow we were not, that might have been the year we had the Wednesday snows, I don't remember.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
The Wednesday snows?
MADGE HOPKINS:
Hm-hm. I remember that poem, I remember him reading it. So a lot was beginning to happen in the late '50s and '60s. Then as a student teacher in here it was a little different, things were becoming militant.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
When did you come back as a student teacher?
MADGE HOPKINS:
'65.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
When you say militant was this true in Charlotte and at West Charlotte as well?
MADGE HOPKINS:
Well, I saw a different crowd of student. It started to develop when I was a senior and the ninth grade class came up, it was added on for awhile. And out of that class we always described them as, I don't know, they were displaced but they were the

Page 17
most militant of all the students at that time. Some of them became involved in some very volatile and national things I don't want to mention.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
What was your reaction to that? To this sort of new tone that things were taking?
MADGE HOPKINS:
I admired them and wished I had the courage to do what they doing but we were still, we were just at the end of the tradition, traditional people in my class. We were go to college, get your education, get married, get an avocado refrigerator and stove and a shag rug, you know. [Laughter]
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Right, right.
MADGE HOPKINS:
The music, and I'm listening, the music started to change and it became different. You began to see more people experimenting with drugs and I started with college spending my time in New York, seeing a different kind of scene. But I viewed that from the outside and remained traditional, admired those people who could do it but I couldn't. I read their stories but I didn't participate. I saw in Brooklyn the burnings but I didn't participate. I marched on the fringe. Never got arrested, marched on the fringe. We went to Washington and I like my parents and grandparents used to make my children sit there every time it was black history and Martin Luther King's "I had a dream" speech was on, "Sit down." That's me right over there. I'm there.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
So you were there.
MADGE HOPKINS:
Yeah. I'm there. But it was on the fringe. Not really an actor. And maybe that's what I regret. There's probably still that militancy in me that needs to come out and I haven't let it explode yet.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
And you say you had a sense that that was kind of also your generation, that you were very tempted in that regard, that you were all sort of there watching in.
MADGE HOPKINS:
We wore suits, the ones who came after us put on dashikis. I didn't wear an afro, I might put on an afro wig, might wear one for a week. We weren't quite there.

Page 18
PAMELA GRUNDY:
And did you see when you came back the whole school being more and more militant?
MADGE HOPKINS:
Hm-hm.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Then the whooe, it was just everybody in there had been more transformed. That's very interesting.
MADGE HOPKINS:
It was time for it. We were educated and lived in a segregated world and the world was changing for those who were coming a few years after us.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Well, and then, of course, the Judge McMillian and the Swan case, the [Swan] case is filed and goes through the courts and then finally Charlotte schools actually are going to become desegregated.
MADGE HOPKINS:
And I'm teaching then.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
And where were you teaching?
MADGE HOPKINS:
Second Ward.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
You were at Second Ward at that point. Oh, so you were at Second Ward when they closed it.
MADGE HOPKINS:
Hm-hm. Worked the last two years.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
What was it liked to have been a West Charlotte student and go into Second Ward to teach?
MADGE HOPKINS:
Oh, I loved the kids and I worked with a group and it was Ford Foundation and Davidson College sponsored Project Opportunity. It was the forerunner to Love of Learning at Davidson College. Mike Malloy, who was a basketball star at Davidson, was a counselor and Brenda Tabia was a counselor. She was a student at Howard University and very militant and I was working with Alene McCorkel and Mr. Levi. Now, they were older than me of course, and experienced and I was a second year teacher and oh my God, this militant afro-wearing girl from Howard University, she

Page 19
was going to corrupt our kids from Second Ward. I didn't recognize Brenda Tabia when I saw her and I kept thinking Love of Learning reminds me of Project Opportunity, Love of Learning. And one day she was speaking at Piedmont where I worked and I said, "Did you . . . ?" And then we realized this was the same Brenda Tapia, Brenda and I can't remember the name then, who had been the counselor for our students who were Love of Learning, I mean, Project Opportunity.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
I had a student interview her last year actually about her own experiences about going to North Mecklenburg because she went there and that was interesting.
MADGE HOPKINS:
Oh, she was really the militant. Oh my God, we thought, oh no, she was . . . [Laughter] Again, admired that, couldn't do that. Got to be traditional. I guess a pleaser; got to do what was expected of us.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
What did you think when Judge McMillian said desegregation has to happen? When it was ruled that it was going to have to be full desegregation? What was your reaction?
MADGE HOPKINS:
Alleluia, finally. Free at last, free at last. This is what Martin had said. And it was turmoil. We didn't want Second Ward to close. See we had this vision of this new school that was supposed to be called Metropolitan High School, a comprehensive high school and E.E. Wadell would bring out those plans and we would sit there and plan at staff meetings and we were going to have this conference at high school and look forward to being a part of it and then it closed down. And we were sent out with a little bit of, I guess they'd call it sensitivity training, diversity training, whatever, we did over here at West Charlotte. I went to East Mecklenburg and I equate East Mecklenburg, my first experience there, to the ice box. I shared a room, I was a floater. I had been the star new teacher at Second Ward, worked with Project Opportunity and just really involved. I was helped with the annual and then to go

Page 20
and not have a classroom, my goodness. I floated and I was in one room, two rooms, Barbara Ledford, it's so funny how my life connects to Barbara Ledford who was principal here at West Charlotte, I used her room. We didn't have air conditioning at Second Ward but there was air conditioning at East Mecklenburg and that room was icy cold. I was a teacher interacting with students. They sat, I taught, they left. It was cold. I was the only black person in the room. Those were the regular classes. Then when I went to the skills classes, they were all black.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

Page 21
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Okay, so you're saying that you've gone to the skill classes and those, unlike these other classes are all black.
MADGE HOPKINS:
All black. Second year there at East Mecklenburg, and there were the fights, the riots. One I remember this little boy ran into me and he said, "Ms. Hopkins, Ms. Hopkins, this spade hit me." "Spade, what do you mean? Spade is a card. I see what you're talking black, I'm black, I'm not a spade." The first year I hated it, the second year got a little better but I had gotten married and I, like all of my friends, that had worked with and we had been sent to white schools to integrate, we were starting sort of going with let's see how quick you can get pregnant because there was no maternity leave, there was resignation at an early point of your pregnancy. I was so happy to get out of there.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Really? So you got pregnant and that was what . . . .
MADGE HOPKINS:
I got married the first year, the second year I was there it was procreate, let's get out of here. Oh, I never want to teach again, I never want to go in another school that wasn't fun. I couldn't relate to the kids. And you know, I don't remember many of the children, hardly any of the young people I worked with at East Mecklenburg—it was two years—but I can remember kids from Second Ward. I remember kids that I had in my student teaching class but it's like I wiped that out. There's another teacher here at West Charlotte, Bertha Gongay who I drove, she didn't drive, I picked her up. There was another young lady, we were the same size, probably same complexion and about the same age and the principal changed our rooms, did some changing about, but he didn't see us, he didn't know us. And she wore an afro, her hair was styled and he was always getting us confused and that was . . . I said, ‘you don't

Page 22
really see us.’ But anyway, that was not a good experience. There were some good people there I got to know and probably in time, if I had given it a couple of more years I would have settled in and enjoyed the experience and gone through the rough spots, those were the rough years.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Right. Yeah, that's what when I talked to everybody, it seems like those were really hard.
MADGE HOPKINS:
Those were the rough years and you were isolated. There's nothing like being isolated and not being trusted. Especially not to teach English to white children.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Really? They didn't trust you to do that?
MADGE HOPKINS:
They didn't trust me to do that. You take their skills class, you may do one or two regular classes, you never do AP, you're not trusted to do this. And that might not have been what they felt but that's what I felt.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
And you said it sounded like the district really, you said you got this little bit of sensitivity training and that was that and they didn't really make much of an effort to try to . . .
MADGE HOPKINS:
In that process I lost a good friend that I'd worked with at Second Ward who committed suicide and I really believe that was part of it. If we had been with her this would not have happened. In fact, women didn't commit suicide. She put a gun to her head. Those are the years that I just, I don't deal with those. I deal with them, I can't ignore them but they were not good years.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
So then you had children?
MADGE HOPKINS:
And my husband and I went into business and I worked for awhile. The McDonald's cafeteria came out, John McDonald was my uncle and we built the little shopping center here. I spent my summers in New York working for him at Crown Heights in Brooklyn so he built the little shopping center, my husband and I opened a business

Page 23
and worked there for awhile, until 1980. And I said I want to get my teaching certificate really, really bad. I called and went out to UNCC and renewed, well, I didn't renew my certificate, I met the department chair and he said, "Why don't you come, don't go down there, come and get a degree in English." And that's what I did and I stayed and it was a good experience because I found that UNC Charlotte, people who accepted me and I didn't think saw me as inferior. And I felt a part of it. Also, the University was recruiting Afro Americans . . . [Laughter]
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Tried to [inaudible].
MADGE HOPKINS:
Trying to do that and Julian Mason was the department chair and he really was a wonderful person, is a wonderful person. He invited me to teach a class, freshman composition, that one number where everybody goes and I did that and was encouraging me to go on and get another degree and work at the University but I had children who needed me. We went to the community school [inaudible], we did that, that was important to do. So I went to, came back to Shaw-McMurry where I had a schedule and I could not leave my children to go for another degree. So I could probably just work part-time at the university but with the final advanced degree being from here.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Well, it sounds like to me when you left teaching, in a sense did you draw back from dealing with whites at all? I mean, except for working at the cafeteria, it seems like you kind of came back into your own world.
MADGE HOPKINS:
We had our own small business—yeah, I did.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
And that was really . . .
MADGE HOPKINS:
And it was only when I went to UNC Charlotte that I started to deal with whites.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Under these better circumstances.
MADGE HOPKINS:
Hm-hm. Nurturing circumstances, wonderful circumstances. Especially to Julian

Page 24
Mason I give the credit for that. And a lot of the people there. And it was smaller then. It was small —this was 1980—and I went most of my classes, well, I did my classes during the daytime, I was fortunate to be able to go during the day and didn't have to go after work. I had a little study group, Barbara was a writer, I can't remember her last name. Barbara was a northerner, midwest, northerner — I can't remember — white female. Dafney, who was from Greece, Richard—I can remember first names, can't remember last names—Richard who was from the mill hills of Concord and me. We, that was wonderful. And we just sort of gravitated toward one another and we formed our own study group and we'd always share and study together.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
How interesting. That is neat. Well, I want to say it is a little after ten, I don't want to take up more of your time that you have so I just wanted to say that, although I do have more questions.
MADGE HOPKINS:
Well..
PAMELA GRUNDY:
If you have a little more time we can talk.
MADGE HOPKINS:
A few more minutes.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Okay, let's talk, if you wouldn't mind, just a couple more . . . I mean, I'm interested, I'm going to skip and we may need to talk again at some point just because it sounds like you have a lot, this is a on-going project, but when did you come back to West Charlotte?
MADGE HOPKINS:
Last year. I started, and I don't really want to say this but . . .
PAMELA GRUNDY:
[inaudible].
MADGE HOPKINS:
No, no, that's okay. But you're going to synthesize this and go through it anyway.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Well, let me [Recorder is turned off and then back on.] Unpause it.
MADGE HOPKINS:
Okay. I came back to West Charlotte a few years ago, open school of course, has

Page 25
been a part of my educational work and at Piedmont that's what I worked with. My child, my son attended the open program and parents wanted me to come to West Charlotte because we were beginning a lot of the transitions that were going on. This administration has not been able to stabilize the administration at West Charlotte. Somehow they can't find the person that is the right fit. When Barbara Ledford worked and I had worked with Barbara Ledford. Barbara Ledford, as you recall, is a person whose [inaudible] and she was a wonderful person and I loved working with her. I was working at the area office as a curriculum specialist, this was when we were at [the] area office at Savings & Mutual, so I came and I worked a lot with Barbara. We'd drive up with her to basketball games, she and her assistant principals because the guys, the men assistant principals just sort of left her alone, you know, so chauvinistic. But Barbara left and this black male named Will Crawford, Dr. Will Crawford, somehow he didn't fit. I don't know what all the problems were. Ken Simmons came as principal and parents and Ken encouraged me to transfer here and I did. Well, I went to the summer retreat with the administrative team but I realized it didn't fit my style. So I asked to go back to Piedmont and Tom Spivy was very willing for me to come back so I went back. Then when Vinton Bell was appointed principal he called, again, parent encouragement and I transferred here last year. I said to my friends at Piedmont, my family at Piedmont who will always be family, who will always be family, "I'm going to leave but I won't be able to come back ever again. I'll have to retire from West Charlotte." [Laughter] "So don't give me any more gifts, I still have the first ones you gave me." But some days I regret that I did this because it's so much a part of my life. My passion is here and I can't leave and maybe that's what I was afraid of the first time. My passion is here and I cannot leave it and so I've been here a year, less than two years, a year and a half and we've

Page 26
had another transition just now.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Well, I'm curious just from your year and a half here how you see, things that you see at West Charlotte that are similar to things you remember from when you were here and things that you see that are different.
MADGE HOPKINS:
Things that I see that are similar: adolescents are still adolescents, they still act the same way. What I see different is the culture of the school. There has been an erosion of expectations. There is not the pride in terms of living the pride; we talk it. And I have a saying that maybe is not very favorable that these children come here and they see it as one big West Fest; this is not a festival, this is school and we have got to change the culture and how children think about school. It doesn't matter where they come from, it doesn't matter what their experiences are, I have got to believe that it can happen. Separate is not equal and we have become a separate school. We are all, seventy-five percent or more African American. We are a separate school.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Hm-hm. And not equal?
MADGE HOPKINS:
And we are not equal. We were separate and we were not equal when I was here; I didn't know it and I'm glad they didn't tell me that I wasn't as good as anybody. Yes, I'm as good and you're doing just as well and the education you're getting is just as good as those kids at Myers Park. But it wasn't equal. And that's it. It's the same, you're separate and you're not equal. Adolescents are the same. The difference is the culture, the real commitment in believing that you can fly, you can do anything you want to.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
And that's what you are really trying to get back to.
MADGE HOPKINS:
Hm-hm. I've got a saying a day: "To get to class, you gotta hustle, you gotta walk ladies. Come ready to learn, come ready to learn." I've got to say that every day I'm

Page 27
here to those kids. I have got to say, they have got to get ready to learn. They've got to demand: "Teacher, teach me." You've got to go in and demand, not walk out of a class. "Mrs. So-and-so . . . ." You've got to demand: "Teacher, teach me." That's the difference.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Well, let me ask you, actually I have an idea related to this that I want to talk for a minute with you about so I thought we can close the interview for now. I think I would probably like to talk to you again at some point later in the future because it's obvious you have a lot more to say than just this in general.
MADGE HOPKINS:
I just like to talk. [Laughter]
PAMELA GRUNDY:
No, this has really been a wonderful interview. Let me just ask if there's anything in summary right now that you think that's important about your experience at West Charlotte at any point in your life or the schools that we really haven't had a chance to talk about. Is there one particular thing that comes to mind that you wanted to . . .
MADGE HOPKINS:
It's so involving, there's not one particular thing that I can think about that's . . . well, there's one thing that I see that I think is important. When you talk about changing the culture, there was always those teachers, the staff continued to talk to us, there were opportunities for us to gather. The school is too big, those who were seniors taught us how to do: This is the way you do things, and that's what a culture is. We were taught the culture. This is the way you do things. Came back to do student teaching, they looked me up and down, head to toe and decided my dresses were long enough. Or everything. This is the way we do things. I say at Piedmont we were a family. We lost our media specialist a few weeks ago, Janice Tate. I just talked to her the day before. Pam Grant, who was in upstate New York with her husband, he's a Davidson professor, they drove back for the funeral. Everybody was there. We are still, I am a part of the Piedmont family, I will always be. We've got

Page 28
to create a family here and that was here when I was here, there was a family. That's what's missing. I guess that's maybe what I haven't said.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Okay. Well, I'm going to go ahead and turn the recorder off.
END OF INTERVIEW