School-centered black community
In this excerpt, Peerman remembers that performance and competition were very important to students in all-black schools. Performance was particularly important to the black community at large because, being excluded from entertainment spots like nightclubs, African Americans looked to black schools as sources of entertainment and venues for social interaction. School and church were equally important for building community solidarity and preparing young people for adulthood.
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: It seems to me that performance—at assembly on Friday, before the PTA, sports performance, the band, operettas—was very important. And competition. Both of those were important in the African-American segregated schools. I wonder if looking back you would agree with that, or whether you think it was really not important. And if it changed when you went to the integrated schools.
JP: I think it [performance] was very important. But as I said earlier, I think it was important because it was a form of entertainment for the black community. Because we were not allowed into restaurants and nightclubs and the like. So anyone who wanted to go to wholesome family activities would go to school activities and sporting events and musical concerts given by the chorus from school. School played a very, very significant role in the black community. It was right next to church—church and school, church and school and work, that was just a vicious cycle. That was just pretty much all we had.
BG: I’ve heard some people say that the school was just as important as the church.
JP: Very much so. We got a lot of our discipline there. As I said, teachers knew parents. They had no problem with capital punishment, with hitting you with a ruler or their hand. They’ll tell you in a minute, “I’ll tell your mother, so don’t you worry. I’ll take you home and tell her I whipped you today.” So most of the teachers had permission from the parents to discipline the kids in any manner they saw fit. Because parents trusted the educators. They knew they were trying to better the kids, to prepare them for the outside world.