African Americans see segregation as natural
Clark remembers growing up in segregated Chapel Hill and Greensboro. She says that people did not think too much about the status quo, but tended to accept life for how it was. Part of this had to do with human nature; part of this had to do with the placid character of Chapel Hill.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Rebecca Clark, June 21, 2000. Interview K-0536. 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: Can you tell me what it was like going to school, how far you went to school?
RC: Oh, I only went to—then it was the eleventh grade. I was to go into the eleventh grade but I had to stop [tape stops].
And I didn’t finish high school. I had always wanted to go to Tuskegee, Alabama, and I had saved money to go to Tuskegee, Alabama. And I saved money the year that I was telling you about that I went to live with this family and this lady became ill and I was to stay there with her and her children, go to school, come back and cook and clean up for the teachers. That was going to be my job.
I became ill with what I thought was appendicitis but it wasn’t at that time. And that’s when I had to go to the hospital. I had a bad case of indigestion, didn’t know what it was. That took my money. It was only $107 but I had already written Tuskegee asking them could they use a student to finish high school and work with some of the faculty members in the other college. I don’t know why I wanted to go to Tuskegee, Alabama. I just wanted to go to Tuskegee because that’s where the man did the peanuts. Can’t think of his name, now, I’m forgetting.
Anyway, I didn’t get to college. I don’t regret it. I regret it, but I didn’t, but I always wanted my children to because I worked hard so my children could go to school.
BG: What was it like going to school in this area, or was it Greensboro where you went to school?
RC: I went to Greensboro and here. It became natural to us as it is now. It was segregated. We didn’t know the difference because we were brought up into segregation. Just like, right now, if I wanted to fly to London and stay a week, I couldn’t do it because I wouldn’t have the money. If I could do it, I’d have to borrow the money and I’d have to pay it back. But anyway, we were brought up in a segregated society, knowing no different. Taught to be courteous and kind and get along. And that was part of Chapel Hill, when it was the Southern part of Heaven. There was no fighting and fussing and being ugly to black folks in this neighborhood. We went to work. We knew we had to work. If we held a job, we had to work and be courteous. You never heard of anybody getting rid of anybody because they stole from them. But you can’t say it now. Even now you don’t want folks coming through your home. You have to be real careful.
BG: What kind of facilities did you have at the school? The books and desks and other things?
RC: Everything we had was used, old and used. They were used, books written into and some pages torn out.
BG: Who were they used by?
RC: At the white schools. Passed down from the white schools. I really don’t know, after I left, when they stated buying new books. I think they started buying new books when my children went to school. But then they used old school books.
BG: And were the schools different at that time? Black schools, white schools: did you have an opportunity to look at the white school?
RC: No. I never got into a white school. I was never invited into a white school. Never played basketball with any of the whites. And I did play basketball when I was in high school. I was on the varsity team! Got many knee bruises, many knee bruises.
BG: I understand that some of the black youth on the weekends would compete with the white men, and I wonder if any of that went on with the women?
RC: Well it could have been in the later years, but not early years. Not in my day, to my knowledge. Because there wasn’t that many blacks in Chapel Hill at that time. Probably in the ‘50s it was so, but not in my day.