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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Burnis Hackney, February 5, 2001. Interview K-0547. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Ambivalence about integration

Hackney remembers some of his feelings upon entering Chapel Hill High School as a senior. He and others were resigned to the change, although they looked forward to it with some anxiety. When he arrived at CHHS, the classes were more academically demanding, but he does not mention any other specific difficulties he encountered. Integration was part of a larger, nationwide process which Hackney seems to think was painful but necessary.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Burnis Hackney, February 5, 2001. Interview K-0547. 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: What were your feelings when you went to Chapel Hill High School for your senior year? BH: Well, I’ve never been one to really cry over spilled milk but you have your regrets. As I say, we knew what we were losing, but we didn’t know what we would gain so you try to keep hope alive. We went in and even with athletics we were relatively successful. Chapel Hill was more successful than they had been in the past. With the team, I think the team was probably seventy-five to eighty-five percent black that first year. In that situation, I guess they lost a lot that year in terms of participation, that is, the prior members of the previous Chapel Hill team. You go in and once the decision has been made our teachers started trying to prepare us to make the best of the situation. We also were seniors and so we knew that there would be differences. There was a sense that the academics were accelerated and you had a very short period of time to make the adjustment. As a senior, you still wanted to graduate but there was a sense that certain of the classes would be on a higher level than they had been previously. Frankly, I found this to be the case with certain ones, and it’s the same today. Chapel Hill is more of a first year college level in terms of their presentation. There was a lot of apprehension but you also had hope. You could see that. I guess the caveat is that not only was Chapel Hill being integrated but also the entire society was being integrated and so this was just the beginning of what was it, the Great Society. There were changes being made everywhere and there was more access and you had more opportunities and certainly college and so your future education was a concern. BG: What was your feeling about not having your senior year at Lincoln? Were you angry at that or you just accepted is my take on it from what you just said? BH: Well, you can sometimes read the handwriting on the wall and when you have the opportunity of doing that then your best option in my opinion is to make the best of the situation. I wouldn’t say anger although anger was a part of the process that we went through, the emotional pain was there, but my main concern was to get through that senior year and to graduate and to go ahead and proceed with what the future had for me.