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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Rebecca Clark, June 21, 2000. Interview K-0536. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Integration process in Chapel Hill

Although her children graduated from Lincoln High School in the mid-1950s, before Chapel Hill integrated, she remembers the integration process in Chapel Hill and how black parents affirmed their support for it. She remembers the principal of Lincoln, Charles McDougle, losing his position.

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: Tell me about your children’s experience at Lincoln High School. RC: Lincoln High School, that was an all-black school. BG: When did they graduate? RC: Mine graduated ’56 and ’54. BG: And integration occurred ’60, ’61? RC: Was it ’61? Whenever. OK, yes. I’ll never forget, Virginia Nickelson and—I cannot remember this lady’s last name—anyway, there was two ladies saying that they were building Chapel Hill High School. They bough the property from a black family. The whites had already said there would be no school buses for the blacks. The blacks would probably stay in Lincoln High School. They knew the black families didn’t have cars to bring them over there, to the white school. BG: This is after integration? RC: Yes. But anyway, the same group that I started out with working said, “Rebecca, I don’t think it’s fair.” I had a cousin that lived next door that was in school already with some of the white kids that integrated. “This is unfair that we put in that school out there. Lincoln High School is going to be in theory, that means the blacks is not going to get it. So we’re going to do a letter saying all these high school kids want to go to Chapel Hill High School. We’ll see how it’s going to work.” I didn’t have no furniture then; about two or three chairs. We came here. We had every high school graduate name and family name. They had copied it, had letters all ready. We sealed those letters. ( ). And that year, I’ll never forget: when it was time to open school, there was no blacks to go to the school so they had to put them over in the white school. So that’s how they integrated. They figured the blacks would not go ( ). So when parents filled the letters out that said, “We want our children to go the school where they can get the best—they can have a good science room, a larger library, larger this, and all of that.” So this is how it integrated. In the meantime, Mr. McDougle, who was my teacher in 1931 and ’32, was now then the principal of Lincoln High School. So that meant he didn’t have a high school to go to so they made him assistant principal out at Chapel Hill High School. So it was demoting him in one way but I don’t see how it would have, because he was going to a bigger school. He could be over more students than he would have been down here at this school. So they turned this into a middle school and put Mr. James Peace of Northside there. And when they built Frank Porter Graham School, they moved Northside down Lincoln, no, moved Northside to Frank Porter Graham. So that’s how it came about during that time. James Peace would be somebody to talk to as a black male. He’s older than Ed, and Ed is the same age as my older son. BG: What kind of experiences did your boys have at Lincoln High School? I’ll just leave it open like that, How did you feel about their experience there? RC: Well, Lincoln High School, it was an all-black school. So there were still with their black friends. So there was no problem. BG: Were you happy with it? RC: We had to be happy. We had nowhere else to go at that time. They had not integrated. When my kids finished high school, Chapel Hill High School wasn’t completed.