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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Gwendolyn Matthews, December 9, 1999. Interview K-0654. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Benefits and consequences of integration

Matthews ruminates about both the positive and negative consequences of integration. According to Matthews, integration was generally beneficial for African Americans in that it opened up new opportunities in education and employment, while simultaneously raising standards of living. At the same time, however, she laments what she sees as a loss of sense of community among African Americans, particularly within the context of extended family.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Gwendolyn Matthews, December 9, 1999. Interview K-0654. 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

PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
What kind of doors do you think integration opened up for you and your generation, in terms of college or career or opportunities?
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
I think having had the experiences that I've had, including the schools that I have graduated from, have opened many doors. When I worked, I worked a summer when the school system was county and public and it was over on Devroe Street. I don't remember whether that was a city public school system or Wake county, I don't remember which one. But anyway, I worked there one summer and I worked for a man named Mr. Grayson who was really, really nice and we had a great time. It was like a little summer job. When I graduated from Meredith and applied for a job and I went back down there to look for some interview, the man said to me, because of my experiences, he really didn't so much care about the grades, although they were important to him, but the fact that I had gone through this and the fact that I had graduated from the schools I had graduated, he was going to be sure I got a job teaching in some school in the city, and he did. So for me personally, it has been very good, it really has and I cannot deny that. For my generation, those African Americans who took part in that, I think it has been good also. Because what it has allowed is a standard of living and a knowledge about people and world that we may not have had any other way. And so I think it has been good for us generationally also. So there are things that we have gone through though that I think we are able to share with those who come behind us for them to have a better understanding of some of the things that are taking place now that they may not have understood or would be able to understand if we had not gone through them ourselves. So I think on two fronts it has been good for us individually, and certainly as a race, but I also think it has been good for us as a race for those who have come behind us to be able to share what the '60's were like and what the '70's were like and what it was like under segregation and what it was like under integration. And hear the new kinds of things we've learned about people and about ourselves and about the world in general. So I think it's been, in that regard, good. And as I said, our standard of living that we may have had to work much, much harder for and much longer for had integration not taken place. So I think it has been good. I think if there is a downside, to be honest with you, I think African Americans have lost the sense of family, extended family that we used to have. I don't see in generations behind us the kind of extended families that I was talking about in that little community where we all knew each other. Even if you were not part of the family but you needed some food we all gave you food. Grandmothers feeding children in the community without there being any questions, any expectation for anything. Keeping children. Watching out for each other. That sense. And part of it doesn't necessarily happen necessarily to do with integration but what happened when integration came was we were able to then go into so many different communities and that we don't have that same sense of community with grandmothers and aunts and uncles and cousins right there together, we're all doing the same thing as we did before integration. So I think that sense of family has also, for us as a people, has been lost. And getting it back could probably be a little difficult. And I don't that we can. I don't know that we ought to, I don't know one way or the other. But I do think that's one of the downsides, I think, for Blacks that I find has been interesting as I look at what's happened and where we are and where we've gone.