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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Walter Durham, January 19 and 26, 2001. Interview K-0540. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

School integration done at the expense of black school traditions and accomplishments

Durham describes with regret how the closure of Lincoln High and the integration of black students into the new Chapel Hill High in 1966 was a process conducted on terms favorable to whites: black traditions were erased, black educators demoted or let go, and black accomplishments overlooked. This was especially epitomized by the psychological impact on former Lincoln High principal Mr. McDougle, who lost authority and status in his new role at Chapel Hill High.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Walter Durham, January 19 and 26, 2001. Interview K-0540. 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

BOB GILGOR:
Started in '66. And what were the differences that you saw between Lincoln High School and the new Chapel Hill High School that was integrated?
WALTER DURHAM:
Going into an entirely new school system, from one extreme to the other one. It was just something entirely new, entirely different. Never experienced before, never knew it even existed. Different people, different attitudes. People that don't want to be with you and don't want you there. The welcome mat just wasn't rolled out at all. Everything that's come from Chapel Hill High School, that's what they adopt in the new Chapel Hill High School. Nothing from Lincoln High School that they accepted. Even down to our sports record. Everything that came down from Lincoln, you either were assistant or they didn't hire you.
BOB GILGOR:
When you say you were either an assistant or you didn't get hired, do you mean sports?
WALTER DURHAM:
Sports, principal, everything.
BOB GILGOR:
What about the teachers? Were any of the black teachers hired from Lincoln to Chapel Hill High?
WALTER DURHAM:
Very few. Very few. I guess some of the old teachers was hired.
BOB GILGOR:
So you had the feeling that the welcome mat wasn't out?
WALTER DURHAM:
Oh, no. It definitely wasn't out. Even though several of the people I know in my class, even down to Nate Davis, they started going to Chapel Hill High School when it was at the old Chapel Hill High School. So I think people really started going to that school two years earlier that the doors opened. So I think it was more of an experimental thing that they were doing there.
BOB GILGOR:
Were there fights between blacks and whites at the new high school?
WALTER DURHAM:
Constantly. Continuously, over and over.
BOB GILGOR:
What were the things that you would fight over?
WALTER DURHAM:
What would trigger little fights? I guess when hot and cold come together it don't take too much of a thunder to start it. It don't have to be too much to start a fight. Anything would trigger a fight. You'd bump into each other in the hallway. Then you had six or seven white guys walking around and six or seven blacks walking around. Things are pretty much planned before they were even carried out. You would look for trouble before trouble even find out. It didn't take much for a fight to break out. The tension was just there. And I don't think the school system did enough to calm the tension down. I think once they opened the school they could have done a little better in race relationship before they opened the doors.
BOB GILGOR:
How do you mean that, Walter?
WALTER DURHAM:
Well, like I was saying, they dropped everything that come from Chapel Hill High School. The school colors, everything like that.
BOB GILGOR:
So the school colors were Chapel Hill High School colors? And the mascot? But I thought that when they started the school, that the mascot was the Lincoln High mascot?
WALTER DURHAM:
No. They was the Wildcats. About two to three years later they changed.
BOB GILGOR:
And what about the school colors?
WALTER DURHAM:
Chapel Hill High School.
BOB GILGOR:
And they changed that when changed the mascot?
WALTER DURHAM:
Yes.
BOB GILGOR:
What about other things that were at Lincoln that meant a lot to you?
WALTER DURHAM:
They didn't take trophies or nothing out to Chapel Hill High School. As a matter of fact a lot of trophies that was down to Lincoln High School still on display was throwed away. People got information about four, five years ago. Somebody saw them in the trash can and got a lot of them together and started giving them away to people-championship trophies just throwed away. So no trophy case out to Chapel Hill High School baring any trophies or memories from Lincoln High School.
BOB GILGOR:
They obviously meant a lot to the black community, to the black students, who worked to hard to get them.
WALTER DURHAM:
Yes. And that's when I started seeing the change in Mr. McDougle.
BOB GILGOR:
What kind of change did you see in Mr. McDougle?
WALTER DURHAM:
He became a very distant person. He was more or less hurt because of not to really do a job. I think he was hired as a token, and he knew that. So I think they broke his spirit. So I began to feel his pain, and me and him began to communicate. Like I said I didn't like him at Lincoln High School. But I didn't know what he was trying to do. He was trying to mold us instead of being what we thought was a mean man. But I could see it when we went to Chapel Hill High School. So he went from an enemy to being a friend.
BOB GILGOR:
You had mentioned that he greeted you at the doors when school opened. You had mentioned that he would get on the loudspeaker when school was opening and give messages in the morning. Others told me that he would roam the hallways when classes changed to make sure there was discipline. Did he do any of that at the new high school.
WALTER DURHAM:
No. You would see him here and there. But he didn't have the same type of glow that he had at Lincoln High School. I don't think he had the authority at Chapel Hill High School that he had at Lincoln High School.