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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with J. W. Mask, February 15, 1991. Interview M-0013. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Finding a way to equalize unequal, segregated school

Mask made sure that his students learned "Negro history" in his segregated school, and while he was able to offer them less than the principal of the white school, he feels like he provided his students with an education equal to white students. He also recalls the rigid segregationist who ran the all-white school in Hamlet County.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with J. W. Mask, February 15, 1991. Interview M-0013. 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

Tell me about curriculum and instruction.
Well, the curriculum and instruction were somewhat locked in. That is probably not the best way to put it but the curriculum was very much locked in by the state curriculum guide and we tried to offer as much as we could. I think maybe there are two areas that I consider significant as far as the principal is concerned and yet not so much so. When I was a principal we had Negro history--that is what we called it and it was a regular part of the curriculum in addition to a European history, United States history and civics. We always had Negro history as part of the curriculum and the thing where I sort of went a little bit beyond what was provided was to go to Raleigh and pick up some Army surplus typewriters and use them for trade with the supplier to get a dozen typewriters so we could have typing as a part of our curriculum. That is the only thing that I can think of that I did as a principal to expand the curriculum to provide a training area that was not provided by the Board of Education. There was no disposition on the part of the superintendent to do so. But now getting back to the curriculum as I said, you know North Carolina had a curriculum guide and there were the subjects for the various grade levels and I think we offered certainly maybe not all of the subjects that were offered in the white high school but most of them anyway. Now I think the white high school had maybe one or two more vocational courses than we had. We had industrial arts which attempted to provide training in cabinet making mostly but some carpentry and brick masonry.
Were you aware of the curriculum over at the high school or just what you thought? Did you have close contact with any of the white principals?
Well, we knew what was being taught but there was very little communication. As a matter of fact I say this without any trouble at all. The disposition of the principal at the high school was probably distant and he is now deceased (deceased refers to the superintendent, not the principal) and I regret that he didn't live longer to see some of the changes that have taken place because the superintendent whereas he was a good friend of my fathers and was a good man in some respects, he was a rigid segregationist. He did not want any interaction between whites and blacks at any level. The teacher's meetings that we had for the Hamlet School System were always separate during the time that he was superintendent. Now he went out around 1960. He had reached retirement age and was not ready to retire but a new board of education had been elected and they didn't quite agree with some of his philosophy about a lot of things so then he went out around 1960-62, or somewhere around there. The person who succeeded him had quite a different philosophy and attitude and then we began to have first meetings of black and white principals and then all of the teachers coming together for staff meetings.