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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Alice Battle, February 20, 2001. Interview K-0523. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Racial problems return to integrated schools

Battle remembers being ignored by her students outside of school, although she does not say whether or not she thinks race or class played a role. People are no longer trying to improve race relations, she thinks, and the barriers between races have returned following a period of progress. Among the aspects of race relationships that disturb Battle is the tendency of some black students to deride others for "trying to be white," as evidenced by participation in school activities.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Alice Battle, February 20, 2001. Interview K-0523. 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

BG: Are there other memories of either Lincoln or Chapel Hill High that stand out in your mind that I haven’t asked you about? AB: Some of the white students would be so friendly to your at school and sometimes you would see them in town and they would pretend that they didn’t see you. BG: You were invisible. AB: Yes. But I can remember--this is in later years--students would come to my classroom at lunchtime and there was a little Vietnamese girl, there was a black girl, and a white girl and I think a white boy and they would go and have their lunch and then they would come up to my room and talk and discuss television shows and things like that. The thing that most affected me when I retired was having to leave my students. It was a happy time at the school. BG: What year did you resign? AB: In ’91. BG: Did you feel there was significant progress had been made in high school by the time you retired? AB: You know there was a middle part at the beginning. Everybody was trying so hard and like I said, all these meetings and after the riots meetings and trying to do what was right for everybody and then I could see it just slipping away and nobody was trying anymore. BG: The walls were still there. AB: Yes. Redeveloped. I think they had been broken down but they redeveloped. BG: Do you think there was any separation to understand the different cultures, the blacks understanding the whites and the whites understanding the blacks? AB: ( ). BG: There doesn’t sound like there were any models for that by the teachers. AB: No. I can remember one time we had--. It had something to do with an integration issue and there was a workshop during the summer. I know Ms. Clemmons was there and I was there and some more black teachers in Chapel Hill. There may have been one or two white teachers but most of the teachers were from Hillsborough or Pittsboro or somewhere like that. It was a few years after the riot and everybody had met and solved all their problems. Then something happened and they decided they needed the workshop. It was an expensive workshop that was being paid for by the system or the county or something. There were very few Chapel Hill people there. BG: Anything else you want to share with me? AB: I just remember my students so fondly and often see students and they said that I made them do what was right. They talk about my demanding that they present papers to me on nice clean paper a certain way with a heading and written in ink if it was something they did at home--they could take notes in pencil in the classroom--and that I didn’t let them chew chewing gum and I didn’t let them wear hats and that I made them pay attention in class and that kind of thing. They come back and say it was for their good and I appreciate that. One thing that was very disappointing to me was to see black students and many of them I had in my classroom who were outgoing and would participate in various organizations like being on the yearbook staff because they would have to go into the students home where the meetings were held in the white students homes, but my point is that some of those students were ridiculed by their black counterparts for trying to be white and acting like they were white because they were excelling. That was a great disappointment and I hear that this often happens. It happened here in Chapel Hill and it happens throughout the country. We need to do something about that. I don’t know what, but we need to probably make those students who are doing the ridiculing feel important so that they won’t think somebody else is trying to be better than they are. I don’t know what the answer is and maybe somebody does have the answer.