Young protesters seek change in school
Here, Peerman tries to describe the influences and exercise of civil rights protest among African American high schoolers. Junior high students looked to high schoolers and the media to determine which issues to make their own. But Peerman and her peers seemed to feel, regardless of what they saw and heard, that there needed to be more black students represented in school events. She was angry, she confesses.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Joanne Peerman, February 24, 2001. Interview K-0557. 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: If I could go back here—and please validate what I’m saying. My interpretation of what you just said is, you were in junior high school. This is in the later ‘60s, after the new Chapel Hill High School had opened, the integrated, merged, consolidated high school. You’re in junior high school, Phillips Junior High School, your dad is coach there. You’re influenced by what’s going on locally in the high school, and did you say nationally?
JP: Yes. What we see on the evening news—if we see Angela Davis with a big Afro talking about Black Power, we wanted to be like the leaders or whoever we saw on the evening news.
BG: And your demands were similar at the junior high school to what the demands were at the high school. You saw the same thing—I don’t want to put words in your mouth—did you see the same thing in junior high school that was seen by the high school students?
JP: We took most of our desires, our wants, our utopian feelings of how it should be from the high school. And from just knowing that by us being merged, everything still should not be all white. You know, there were talented cheerleaders. There were talented people who needed to be recognized all over. We just felt like we wanted our share. We weren’t requesting that half the squad ought to be black because this was a white school and a black school. We just wanted some representation. When all the girls tried out, and there were people who were equally as good, it showed because they actually went back—it was a compromise more or less, I don’t remember the exact breakdown—maybe they originally had ten cheerleaders and maybe one was black and all the rest were white. What they did to resolve it was to form a squad of fifteen and you know, it turned to be almost five black cheerleaders to the ten whites. So it was a compromise of sorts. What they did was to increase the number rather than kick girls off because that would have been heartbreaking to--.
But what we wanted, we got ideas from, as I say, what they were doing at the high school, whatever we saw on TV, or maybe whatever we heard in our homes. Especially along the lines of more black educators, more black guidance counselors, more black principals. We may have been fighting for something that we didn’t even want at our particular school. We just wanted it in the school system period, we just wanted to see more blacks. It was just a sign of the times, as I say. Sometimes we didn’t even have a purpose. We were just going to sit in, because we were, you know--.
BG: It sounds like you were angry.
JP: Yes. I believe so, thinking back and looking back. I haven’t talked about it this much . . . ever. So, looking back, we probably were angry.