Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Elizabeth Brown, June 17, 2005. Interview U-0019. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Black athletes ease desegregation

Desegregation went smoothly at her school, Brown recalls in this excerpt. She thinks that teacher support for the process played a role, as did black athletes, whom white students could support on the field.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Elizabeth Brown, June 17, 2005. Interview U-0019. 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 the students change here after desegregation?
I didn't see that much difference. We had, I don't know if the students that came here were exceptional, but they right away accepted. As I said on the phone [to the interviewer] I'm sure that individually they might have had some incidences that were unpleasant, but they never brought it to us. If they had, they [the teachers] would've dealt very severely with it. Many of the teachers were actually already pro-integration. So they were thrilled. They thought we were criticizing the school when they integrated one year before when the public schools had. I guess if we did have any bigoted teachers, and I suspect we probably did, they kept very quiet about it. They, I think probably would've gone overboard not to show any problems, any-. Like maybe if the student almost made an A that student would get an A or something like that to go to the other extreme of even grading or their conduct or whatever they said they would probably tread very carefully. Not with those first four or five students, but very shortly after that we got some very good athletes. I think that helps when you're cheering for a team and you see one of your best people on the field or on the court is an African American. You're going to relax a little bit towards that. We had a student called Tom Gossam, very quickly he was a very good athlete, and he's known around here fairly well because he's in some of the plays, some of the TV shows and stuff like that. I think he has some kind of an entertainment company, theatre company, or film company. He was laughing. He came back and talked to the PTA. He was laughing at the fact that how he was sort of mischievous with this other kid. There was a white kid. They were regularly on the bench next to the principal's office being seen for what their mischievous thing was. He laughed about his seat on the bench. He was so accepted, and he got to Auburn where he got a football scholarship. He never said this publicly but privately he said how mean the players were to him even though he was playing for Auburn. By the time he was a junior he was a real star, and he played professional football, and they stopped being mean to him then. But he said, he talked about how he was accepted at [John] Carroll, and all of a sudden, he was expecting the same thing at Auburn since they recruited him and he got a football scholarship and how different it was. He said, oh, this is a different scene. He is, he, I think to his day he has a lot of affection for John Carroll.