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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with John Jessup, January 11, 1991. Interview M-0024. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Need for fairness for minorities within the school system

Jessup describes the strong relationships he had with his black teachers and students. He argues that black teachers merely wanted fair treatment, and black students wanted a sense of security within a predominately white school system. Jessup also distinguishes between the concepts of fairness and equality.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with John Jessup, January 11, 1991. Interview M-0024. 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

GOLDIE F. WELLS:
Did you have any problems with the supervision of your Black teachers? Did you find that you had a unique problem with the Black teachers. I had one administrator that brought that out.
JOHN JESSUP:
The amazing thing is that is actual reality in many instances--Black principals having problems with Black teachers. No, I did not. I had no problems with my Black teachers. In fact I felt that some of my Black teachers were some of my strongest supporters. I talked a little bit about that in a seminar back in the fall. I thought I said some good things and now I can't recall what I said. But I said I felt that the key thing was simply the fact that I felt that Black teachers didn't really expect any special attention as such but they expected to be treated like everybody else. They expect involvement, they want respect, they want to feel good about themselves and I think that is the principal's role to help people to feel good about themselves. And they want someone who understands their needs where they are coming from but the main thing is that they want to be involved. They want to be in a position to have some influence and I think as long as we are conscious of those facts I don't see Black administrators having problems with teachers. The point that I made was the fact that that reminds me of Black administrators maybe not getting along with Black students. In some instances Black administrators get a lot cussing. I've gotten my share too but I think it applies you can't get--the main point I made in that meeting is that first of all you have got to have enough sensitivity to realize that when you are in the minority you feel less secure so you must make people feel secure and when you are working in a school--yes, I know I'm an objective administrator I love people I don't care if they're Black or White I want to see them do well. I want to see them do well. Well, I have to realize that my minority kids are not going to feel as secure as my White kids when they are 30% and I have to realize when maybe my staff is 20% that they are not going to feel as secure as the others so two things that I would do, one thing I would make sure minorities were included in everything whether it was one or whether it was more than one. I'de make sure they were included and I'de make sure that I talked to them from time to time as I go down the hall. I'de kid around with them but in the final analysis they were being treated just as others. I 'm not one who would cater to people just because you have more votes. Again it comes back to my philosophy, people need to be treated fairly. If you are going to meet the needs of children, it would be different, if you are going to meet the needs of staff members it would be different.
GOLDIE F. WELLS:
So you are saying that fairness does not always mean equality. So you're saying that Black students need a little more. It's being fair to them to give them a little more.
JOHN JESSUP:
That is exactly right. Fairness isn't just cutting it down the center. Sometimes somebody just might need a little piece of that just to make it fair. But I don't know why and that bothers me. But I hear that and sometimes I hear talk about it but that is a reality. Just point out one thing. The fact that when you see things that you know are unfair, you don't have to make it a Black and White issue. There is a time and place for everything. I can see clubs that are clickish. I can see that but I didn't make it a Black and White issue but I moved on the situation. There was a White student who came to me and told me, Mr. Jessup, I have applied for the Anchor Club for three years. I had all the qualifications that everybody else has had and yet I was not selected because I am not a part of "the click". It was time for me to move. I was not responding to something that was Black and White. I was responding to a need for fairness in the administration of clubs and organizations. And I knew before that came up that Blacks were disadvantaged but the thing is there were other students who were so therefore by using this particular situation it goes back to what I said--there is a time and place to fight a battle. And you have to know when to fight your battles and when not to fight your battles.