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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Diane English, May 19, 2006. Interview U-0183. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Challenges with early public school desegregation

English describes how black students grew frustrated with the bearing the brunt of integration. She dropped out of school because of her aggravation with the apparent racism in her desegregated Charlotte high school.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Diane English, May 19, 2006. Interview U-0183. 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

SARAH THUESEN:
You attended high school at Second Ward, right?
DIANE ENGLISH:
Junior high. By the time I got ready to go into the high school they closed it.
SARAH THUESEN:
It closed in '69.
DIANE ENGLISH:
'68.
SARAH THUESEN:
'68. Do you remember how students felt at the time Second Ward closed?
DIANE ENGLISH:
Yes because it was right—. Let's see. Kennedy was murdered, was assassinated a couple of weeks before they talked about closing Second Ward. It was real rowdy that day. It was real rowdy. The kids, the students was rowdy. Everybody wanted to fight. It was the biggest arguments. They was on the teachers. Everybody was just totally out of it. It was storming that day. I remember it because it was bad storm came up that particular day. When we came home Kennedy died. He passed. It was awful the next day at school. Everybody was fighting. It was just a terrible, terrible sight.
SARAH THUESEN:
Most of the students were opposed to the school closing or—?
DIANE ENGLISH:
The school closing plus, I think dealing with having to be put into—we were being shipped to integrate schools then. We were going to be integrated into the other schools then. Nobody really had knew what to expect. All we knew was what our parents had shown us and what we had seen going through downtown. You'd see you couldn't do this. You can't do this. You couldn't eat here. I think a lot of the students were just frustrated. We couldn't find jobs. It was like, oh well you couldn't get a job unless you're an old person and want to work in somebody's house. We had to actually do whatever.
SARAH THUESEN:
Did you end up attending an integrated high school or did you—?
DIANE ENGLISH:
Yes, I did. Junior high I left—. When I left Grier Heights I went to Randolph Junior High. Then I went from Randolph, because of the age limits and your grades, I left Randolph and I think I went to—I can't remember what the next school was, but I know I went to Randolph. After I left Second Ward I would have been going into the ninth grade or eighth grade. I had to go to Randolph. They sent me to East Meck for the ninth grade but I went there for one day and I didn't like it because it was like the blacks here, the whites there. It wasn't what I wanted to be in. It was like the junior high kids had a hall. Your high school kids had a hall. It was just a whole bunch of blah. Everybody was pushing and shoving the younger people around in the high school. I didn't like it. I didn't like it at all. They took me from there and I went to Randolph for junior high, just junior high kids.
SARAH THUESEN:
What year did you finish school?
DIANE ENGLISH:
'69. The latter part of '69 because I dropped out. I dropped out of school in the ninth grade for the same reason from school to school and frustration. My parents, my mother got sick. She couldn't work anymore. She had cataracts. Basically, I had a sister and a brother and we had to have money. She couldn't draw Social Security. She couldn't get welfare. Basically, we ended up with nothing. I got a job at seventeen.