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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Madge Hopkins, October 17, 2000. Interview K-0481. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Growing up in segregated Charlotte

Hopkins recalls growing up in segregated Charlotte, North Carolina, and the restrictions law and custom placed on her. As with many children in segregated areas, her developing mind eventually realized that this system was unjust. By the age of eight or nine, she was asking questions.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Madge Hopkins, October 17, 2000. Interview K-0481. 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

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 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 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?