Change slowly comes to integrated school
Norwood remembers Chapel Hill High School's graduation. Despite having a few drinks before the ceremony, he and his friends were sober enough to notice that their graduation gowns looked like Ku Klux Klan robes. But Norwood recalls that by the end of his senior year, tensions were lessening.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Raney Norwood, January 9, 2001. Interview K-0556. 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
( ) Graduation night was black and white. We drunk wine together, we drunk beer together. Just before we hit the stage to get our diplomas and stuff, there was this black and white thing. Other thing that tee’d us off that night, we had to wear white gowns and cap. It made us look like blacks had joined the Klan, you know. We’re Klan members. That irritated us. I remember that day my mom ( ) when I met with ( ) and other classmates and stuff, we said, “Wait a minute, man. We’re not going up there.” We wasted beer and wine. Some of us refused to wear the cap. We let it be known after we received our diplomas that, you know, we feel like a bunch of fools, a bunch of Klan, walking up here in this all-white thing. They changed the gown color the next year.
But at the end of our senior year, things started becoming smoother. More people started interacting. There were still a lot of race issues and stuff. But out of the school color. Now we’re graduated. Now we’re getting into heavier things. We started hanging on campus more, started protest down there more.
BG: But you felt you were at least getting people to listen to you a little bit?
RN: We felt that. We knew that. Changes were coming.
I think the black teachers were beginning to open up a little bit more. I had a white teacher, she was my math teacher, Miss Caroline ( ). She was with us, and I mean she was another person that was deep with us. And as of today, some thirty years later, me and her still got contact. She volunteers at the shelter for the homeless where I work. There were some good times at Chapel Hill High, there were some hurting times at Chapel Hill High. There was a lot of pain at Chapel Hill High. There were a lot of students that were afraid to come to school. Especially those that were forced to go to Chapel Hill High School before Lincoln merged. Some of the stories I heard from them. In a way, I’m glad we wasn’t there. The girls were being picked on, spit on, kicked, hit. When I say us I’m talking about the five that hung together. We’d either be dead or in jail. We refused to let that happened.