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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Raney Norwood, January 9, 2001. Interview K-0556. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Poor preparation for integration

In this excerpt, Norwood remembers the months and weeks before integration took place. Norwood felt unprepared to enter an integrated school and no one reached out to help him and others get ready for the adjustment. As a result, Norwood remembers feeling under siege, and he skipped school to avoid uncomfortable and even violent encounters.

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

BG: Did you have any idea--? Let me put it this was: when did you find out that you were not going to go to Lincoln High School and when did your classmates find out that Lincoln was going to be closed and there was going to be this merger and all the black students would go to the new Chapel Hill High? RN: We got the word about one or two months before school closing. Around April-May. The word started passing through the school. But then, it was just someone on the planning board, something that hadn’t been decided but was just being talked about. When we actually found out we were in Upward Bound. It was during the summer. ( ). That was we found out, no more Lincoln. BG: So it was just a short time before school started that you found out you were going to the consolidated school, Chapel Hill High School. RN: Right. My parents, they were absolutely sure. The school was being built. We knew this because we used to hang out there, you know. We heard the dates. We went out there and hung out in the country, as we called it. So we knew the school was being built. But we didn’t know they were taking away the other two schools. But when we got the final word was when we were into Upward Bound. BG: Did you have any preparation from your brothers or sisters, from your parents or the church, or from the school system as to problems that you might face at the new high school and how to deal with them? RN: None whatsoever. I couldn’t get any from my brothers. I got a brother that was older than me but he was always gone. Since I was being the oldest—so my brothers came up first. They didn’t prepare us. Nobody in the community. Nobody reach out to us. People didn’t even have any kind of sympathy for what they was putting us into. All the preparation that we got was when we go to Chapel Hill High School. I’ll be honest with you: the first three months were hell. Our hands were tied. We took all this abuse. You know, on the school bus, when we got to school. For a long time we thought we just had to take it. If we fought, when we got back home—parents, they didn’t see. For my dad and mom, it takes two to tangle. One can’t do it by himself, they always say. So we took this abuse and we saw each other taking this abuse. We would be a small number. In one bus there might be four or five blacks; on the other bus, compared to fifteen or twenty whites. It wasn’t that we were afraid; we were outnumbered. We wasn’t stupid. We got stupid at the end. But then it was, “I don’t care no more. I’m a senior. I’m not going to take this.” ( ). We didn’t have nobody. Even when we turned to someone at the school to talk this thing out—you know, like Mr. Smith—not to be negative, but he would say, “Go back to class and things will get better.” ( ) But they didn’t know that at night they were being ( ) into us, you know. –when you don’t want to go to school. We got to the place where we skipped school and hung out at the pool. But we were falling behind in the classroom.