Gulf between black students and white teachers
Peerman remembers that she and her peers did not listen to their white teachers, although they did not necessarily believe that all white teachers were out to get them. This excerpt also reveals a bit about desegregation mechanics—black students moved from Frank Porter Graham Elementary School to Lincoln High School for one year, and then to Phillips Junior High before heading to Chapel Hill High School.
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: Can you go back over your school years and where you were? You came here and you were in second grade--.
JP: Yes. I went to the brand new black elementary school, Frank Porter Graham, which was over by Lincoln. Went there from second to fifth grade. And sixth grade, which was around ’66, that’s when integration hit really hard. They put all sixth grade students in the town of Chapel Hill at one school, and that was Lincoln. And I was just elated to be going to Lincoln because that’s what we were all looking forward to anyway—that was the natural progression after elementary school. At Lincoln, I was there for one year. And then seventh through ninth grade, I was at Phillips.
BG: What were those years? It’s tough to go back and remember--.
JP: I think it was ’67 to ’70. ’69-’70, I think, was my ninth grade year. And Dad was there two of those years. My ninth grade year, he was not there. And that’s when they used to call him over because we were having our little sit-ins and they’d call him over to the high school to “calm these black students and get them back to class.”
BG: They didn’t have any white disciplinarians?
JP: We weren’t listening to any white people at that time, unless they had shown some solidarity to our cause. We had one white teacher in particular who taught civics. I cannot remember his name, but he was very liberal, he was great. We really liked him. He had a different teaching style that any of the other teachers we had ever encountered. He was very open. He even kind of had an Afro—he was kind of like the guy who taught the Sweathogs, Mr. Kotter—he had that kind of rapport with us. We got along well. He encouraged us, and probably put some ideas in our minds, as to what we should ask for during our sit-ins. He kind of gave us some focus, “If you’re doing this, what are you asking for?” So he put some ideas in our minds and made us think that we had to be doing it for a reason. Don’t just do it because you see it on the evening news.
BG: So it wasn’t as though you saw all the white teachers as against you, or all whites as against you, at that point?
JP: No, not particularly. But he may have stood out in my mind, and he did for several others, but I can’t say everybody got along with this one particular guy. I know I did because I had him for a class.
BG: His name wasn’t Mr. Vaughn, was it?
JP: It doesn’t ring a bell.
BG: Were all of your teachers white teachers when you went to Phillips?
JP: Um, not all of them. Not all of them. There were a few, but there were not many black teachers. Maybe two out of the six, we had maybe six classes. It just depended what schedule you got.