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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with E. V. Dacons, March 4, 1991. Interview M-0009. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Gender and racial dynamics of school desegregation

This passage reveals the trends in teacher and staff desegregation, as well as the gender and racial tensions of school desegregation. Because the school board had invested resources in the predominately black Lincoln Heights high school, the school was reconverted into a career center in 1968. Dacons describes his resolve to remain in the black community. While the student population remained largely black, the teacher positions became predominately white. Moreover, few white females attended the school because it departed from traditional gender conventions and racial tensions between white females and black males.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with E. V. Dacons, March 4, 1991. Interview M-0009. 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

How did desegregation of schools affect your role as principal?
I was told that I had three choices. (1) I could, our board--the Wilkes County Board of Education had contacts with Wilkes Community College. I could replace there, (2) well, let me back up, the very first one was this, if we had a school, we would place you but no principal has resigned but my school is going to be closed. So I could go to the community college, I could go to the classroom and I could go with the central staff. And I said to the superintendent, I said, I have worked here for eight years for the Wilkes County Board and I don't know a thing about Wilkes Community College, well, I know something about it because we helped bring it there but I don't know anything about it. You can mark that off. I said my children, my people don't expect to see me in the classroom. I suppose the more Black I would live longer but they don't expect to see me in there. So that brings me to one thing and that is the central staff. Now you call that a supervisor now were you talking about telling these children to get dental work done and to carry them for clothes and shoes. I want to understand what you are talking about. I need to understand that because not that I'm any better than anybody else to do it, somebody has to do it but so that I'll be clear as to what my moves are I want to know what you are talking about. He said we are talking about supervision in your area of certification. I said well friend, we can do business on that. My area is science and mathematics and but then first administrative duties out here are principalship, then I said you know--he said yes, you can have that. And so I got into that for a couple of years but during that first year the superintendent, C. Wayne Bradford, and Wilkes County Board of Education said we have too much money tied up in Lincoln Heights. We can't close that facility. So they had looked at some other areas out here where people had used facilities like that--all kinds of things were being tried across the country--so he decided to get into this business of career education. There wasn't one like that in the state at that time--that was in 1968. He said, he may have to go out of state and look at one and said if you are interested in the Career Center now I was working then as supervisor and then he was talking about the wheels turning to open this center. So I got out and went to South Carolina to the Alexander area of the Vocational Center which is on I-26. I spent a whole day down there and I came back then and we established the Career Center so my second year I was supervisor of science and math with the central staff. My office never did move. I still remained at Lincoln Heights School facility itself. And of course when the Career Center came here and my people really didn't know what he was talking about but they said as long as our facility here can be used for training of some kind--now I make no bones about it, I was really as strong, I was motivated a whole lot in trying to assure that that school area would not be a dumping ground for broken down furniture because a little of that had happened at Rosenthough facility. And I said I will do what I can but in the meantime about the second year, well the first year after we got the Career Center going about three principalships opened up and they said E.V., do you want to do it and so I turned them down. I was involved in this new program and the fact that I could build something here in this Black community plus the fact we are trying something that hadn't been tried in the state. Now Winston-Salem and Greensboro have come up with a Career Center but we had that before and of course the kids came in and some said the White kids won't come in down there to a Black area. But we had news for them. We had a Black principal sitting up here. No problem. And then when we started out we didn't have White girls coming in. As a matter of fact, the first year we didn't have any girls period. So I said this is a make believe. Women have as much need for career skills as the men. We really need occupational home ec, we need health occupations, we need clothing, all of it. I was able to get health occupations then and one principal out there said, well, he didn't think he would be able to send his girls there and I said well that is fine and one other principal told me to tell him that I had enough girls here who want to take this. I was only allotting them three each. I would take East, West, North and Central in the afternoon because it was a larger facility. He said, Mac told me that's good because I've got fifteen here who want to get into that program. Now when it came down to almost time to open I said well we are ready to go and North said, now we don't want to be left out. I said, listen I'm getting ready to open school. You told me that you didn't think your community, your people would support your sending girls here. So I've got a full class. He said, well, now listen, it's not fair--I said, come on now. Let's play ball and we are man to man. I guess I can call east and tell them to just hold but I don't know what he will do because I had told him to send them on. It was a funny thing. You had this fear I guess that we might fight. In Wilkes County you only have about a ratio of 1-14. It's a very small populated county in the first place.
Did you have any different supervision of the Black teachers? What was your competition with Black and White?
Okay, after it grew into about eleven courses, we didn't have-- most of the staff there was White so you had electricians, mechanics, health occupations and we finally ended up with Mrs. O.B. Harris, who has always been in home economics. She and I worked together prior to the integration of Lincoln Heights and she went to central. She and I were able to get back working together when I got funding for clothing and textiles. And she came in and taught a class and so she was the only Black on the staff there and of course, I did have a Cliff Morrison there for a while with a 7th grade exploratory program.