Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Joanne Peerman, February 24, 2001. Interview K-0557. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Black students work to integrate student activities

In this excerpt, Peerman remembers that she and other black students tried to infiltrate clubs and other student activities at Chapel Hill High School. Their goal was to monitor what white students were doing.

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: What about the activities, the clubs, other sports, student government, the newspaper, things like that? Did the black students have the same representation in those areas that white students had? JP: Not really. I don’t recall a lot about that. I remember the little newspaper and I don’t think there were any black reporters or black articles. If there were, they were just far and in-between or just token or quota-type, “Let’s put one picture or one article or whatever.” Clubs and activities? Not at Phillips, but definitely at the high school. I remember us trying to integrate as many clubs as we could. In fact my mother used to call me and my friend Mary “Inter” and “Gration” because we would infiltrate any club. We didn’t want any all-white clubs. We were like, “They might be in there talking about the Ku Klux Klan. They might be planning something.” So we joined, you know, theater groups—I was in The Mouse that Roared. I didn’t know or care anything about the mouse that roared but I was just going to have a black person there because “we need to be monitoring what these white folks are doing.” We were working in the office, working at the snack shack, working in, you know, we just tried to make sure that there were black people in everything. Even if it was just one or two, we just tried to infiltrate as many clubs as possible. So that was a goal, that was a direction that the black community at large really had. Get involved in something. Always try to be in something. Don’t let there be anything all white because you don’t know what’s going on. If they want integration, they’re going to have integration. That was the feeling. When we found out about things that were predominantly white we tried to join ourselves or get friends or encourage other folks to join. And then just suffer through it whether you were interested in it or not. I mean, there were always other—the chess club, or the golf team—there was always something that people just didn’t have an interest in. There were all-white clubs, but we tried our best to integrate.