Whites burn down black school
Robinson recalls that when schools integrated in Maxton, North Carolina, in 1970, some white people burned down the black school. Disagreements about building a new school followed, and it is somewhat difficult to untangle the details of the post-integration story. It appears that the town officials consented for Maxton's students to attend a large high school with kids from other local areas, and by doing so Maxton lost its chance at its own school. This excerpt offers a look at some of the difficulties, both violent and bureaucratic, that attended integration.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Willa V. Robinson, January 14, 2004. Interview U-0014. 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
MM: Nineteen forty-seven. Okay. So then you got involved in the school system in the 1950s then, pretty early. Tell us then some of the early things you remember about working with your children in the schools.
WR: Well, both of my kids graduated from a segregated school. They had not integrated the schools yet, because my son had graduated in sixty-seven, and my daughter she graduated in sixty-nine. As a matter of fact my daughter’s class was the last all black class from—and they had changed their name from Robeson County Training School to R. B. Dean, because I didn’t tell you that part. When they integrated the schools the white people in Maxton burned down the black school, and they had to rebuild another school. After that last class, as I say, of blacks went out in sixty-nine, then that’s when they changed it to an elementary school, and they built Townsend Middle School.
WR: For, I guess around four years, blacks and whites went to the all-white high school
MM: Which is Maxton High School.
WR: Yeah, Maxton High School. They all went to that school.
MM: Do you remember what year that was when they started going there?
WR: They integrated in, I believe it was 1970. I think it was until seventy-five they all went to this Maxton High School. Then they claimed that this high school was too old, and it was too dilapidated. You know what I’m saying. They were saying that it was outdated, and that’s when they all come together with this business about putting the school out here in the middle of nowhere, Purnell Swett.
MM: Purnell Swett.
MM: It was West Robeson at that time.
WR: Yeah, um-hum, I wasn’t able to understand that, because it was the first time in my life that I’d heard of a school they’d named after a person, and they’re still living. I thought you did it after death, but I got a wake up call.
MM: Not in Robeson County.
WR: Anyway, there was a big discrepancy on that because from the beginning—Maxton held out for quite a while. They wanted their school on [Highway] 130 like going towards Rowland. There was a big area out there owned by Buddy Dunn that he had said he would donate for a high school. But our officials, I don’t know what happened, but they gave in because they was asking all the different towns to come together for this big school. Just my opinion—it was the worst mistake they ever made because Lumberton held out. Red Springs held out, so they got their own high school, but the other towns that didn’t go to Purnell Swett is going to South Robeson, as you know. And it’s just too many kids in one place.