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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Charles Johnson, December 29, 1990. Interview M-0025. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Negative effects of desegregation

Johnson describes some of the negative effects of desegregation: the difficulty of asserting authority over white teachers, the decline of courtesy and discipline. He seeks to restore a degree of discipline by enforcing dress codes and projecting professionalism.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Charles Johnson, December 29, 1990. Interview M-0025. 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:
How did the desegregation of schools affect your role as a principal?
CHARLES JOHNSON:
In many instances I find that it was very difficult for some of the Whites to accept a Black person, to accept a Black coming into the building and saying this is the way I want things done. I'm not saying that I would go back to the old school but I think that we have gotten so far away from the--we no longer teach morals. That is something that is not happening. I don't see it anymore because when I was in school, I had all Black teachers and we were taught to respect. We were taught not only to respect ourselves but to respect others--to be very courteous and kind. We were taught to come to school looking decent and dressing as professionals. If you're going to consider yourself as a professional, act like a professional. Conduct yourself as a professional should. Put yourself three of four steps beyond the students. When I come into a classroom I want to be able to distinguish the difference between the teacher and the student. That, I am not seeing and I think from top down they're afraid to establish a dress code for the faculty members. I have no problem saying to a teacher you are a professional and at this school I do expect you to be dressed that way. I have no problem with that and that they cannot accept. They cannot accept that at all. I've had students to come with their knees out and I'm saying no, no, no. Where are you going? I say, we don't have a strong dress policy but you know exactly what I expect. Your body will be covered. Well, my mom--I say, well maybe I can talk to your mother about this. This is not the way you're to come to school. They go from first period to sixth period and no teacher said anything at all about these holes here. Tank tops I don't allow in school--no hats at all. So they have just forgotten about what we are all about. We not only have to teach a curriculum but we have to go back to morals, and values and what life is all about you see. I don't see it happening. Sometimes we hurt ourselves more than anyone else because we do more damage to the profession than anyone else does because a lot of people don't even think that we are professionals.
GOLDIE F. WELLS:
No, they don't. They sure can't tell it by our dress.
CHARLES JOHNSON:
No, and I think if you--and I don't mean that you have to go to the classroom everyday in a necktie. I would like to see it but just clean, not sandals, nice shoes with socks. These are the kinds of things I think the students are sitting back looking at. If they don't grasp anything about your lecture, they're going to learn something from you--well, he is professionally dressed or she is professionally dressed. That is gong to stick with them. But I think that some faculty members, White specifically, have difficulties handling Black authority figures. I do expect certain things to be done this way. I expect your lessons to be planned well. I went in there and I said, I need to see your lesson plan. You should have them a week in advance. Put them in your mailbox so that I may check them. I shouldn't have to do that because that is part of your job. I don't even know where you are going. I've gotten that straightened out because they know where they are going now.