Black community traditions and interdependence
In this excerpt, Couch describes the ways in which black Chapel Hillians spent time together in a strictly segregated community. Banned from public parks, boys played football in the street; although most people lived modestly at best, people with a bit more than others shared food with their needy neighbors. Integration, Couch believes, was a strategy to destroy the black community.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Thurman Couch, February 12, 2001. Interview K-0537. 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
RG: Now were you a 2A school?
TC: Yeah, I think we were. 3A. We were a 3A school.
RG: And were you playing 3A and 4A schools?
TC: Only 3A. 3A schools. Only one thing I want to say is that Mrs. Gwen Lindoff is the woman that I was speaking of. And me, Hank Anderson, Toro, Nate Davis, in that order, um, but before she came along we would go down to—me, Henry Campbell and other guys would go down and set up little goals, me and Hank in the different communities, so that the kids in the projects in our own Chapel Hill, great town, could have a place to play. There was no playgrounds or anything available for us, you know. And we thank God for Roberson Street and we thank God for Mrs. Gwen Lindoff and Hank Anderson, who has moved on as well. But what we started over there at the Hargraves Center, ‘cause that’s where Harold could come and speak, and over there was a meeting place where brothers could learn from other brothers, and that was very strong. And I wanted to live and carry on that tradition. Every summer I worked over there, helping Monk, helping all kinds of people, you know. We helped each other. Somebody didn’t have something, we tried to make sure they had something. We spent our summers being strong from one part of the community to the other. Always.
RG: Did you feel obliged to give something back to your community?
TC: Absolutely. If it weren’t for no, I would have worked for no pay.
RG: Who gave you that?
TC: When you say, who gave me that—
RG: I mean, where did you get it?
TC: We, from school. We got it from everywhere. It’s all around you. It’s all around you. Starts first at home. You see your mom, starts with my grandmother. Starts with my grandmother, who, no matter how hard she works, she’s gonna take something over to her neighbor’s house who we gotta walk for another half, quarter mile a way or something, she doesn’t cook and carry because she’s sick. Or we gonna split a piece of ham, or we gonna kill hogs and share with our other people who we know don’t have enough. From the beginning. Hog-killing time for the blacks, only time you got some meat was when they killed the hogs. You understand. I ain’t talking about when the Colonial store came, and we was able to go buy two pounds of hamburger. And we eatin’ chicken necks. And rice. Come on now. So you learn to help. This whole thing’s been about helping. And today as I speak to you, we’re talking right now about taking 15 boys, right here in the Durham schools, 15 of them, 10 boys and three girls, and let’s do something for them, let’s take them for a year. Let’s go into the worst situation, let’s get the worst situation over here at the school and let’s try and help. ‘Cause nobody’s doing nothing, man. We took care of each other. And when they put the schools on us and split us up, they cut our, it was another form of slavery as far as I’m concerned. And they ain’t stopped yet.