Title: Oral History Interview with Patricia Neal, June 6, 1989. Interview C-0068.
Interviewer: Nasstrom, Kathryn
Interviewee: Neal, Patricia
Subjects: School integration--North Carolina North Carolina--Race relations Women educators--North Carolina--Bynum North Carolina--Biography
Abstract: Patricia Neal moved to Durham, North Carolina, from Connecticut in 1953 to study nursing at Duke University. Shortly thereafter, she married, started a family, and left school to help support her husband while he finished his medical training. Neal and her family settled in Durham, and during the late 1950s and early 1960s she became involved in the Parent-Teacher Association and the League of Women's Voters, and began working as a substitute teacher. In 1964, Neal spent a year monitoring the Durham County Board of Education for the League. Her dissatisfaction with their decisions led her to run for a position on the board as a Republican in 1968. Neal lost the election by a small margin, but was appointed several months later when one of the five seats was vacated. After serving nearly eighteen years on the board, and as the chair for five, Neal was appointed to the North Carolina Board of Directors of the North Carolina Board of Education Association. In this interview, she describes the role of the Durham County Board of Education in the process of integration in Durham schools during the 1960s and 1970s. In so doing, Neal pays particular attention to African American leadership, demographics, and community responses to integration. After briefly discussing the presence of African American students at one Durham school, Hope Valley School, Neal shifts the focus to the impact of Alexander v. Holmes (1969) on Durham schools. As Neal describes it, the board had no resistance to integration but wanted to postpone until the end of the school year so that the students would not be disrupted. Their request was denied, and just before schools broke for the Christmas holiday, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered that they integrate by the first of the year. Neal describes the role of the board in this process and argues that integration occurred smoothly and with only one incident of racial tension at Northern High School, which she and the board helped to mediate. In addition, Neal discusses the decline of Durham city schools as a result of integration; her thoughts on problems facing education following integration, including the issue of busing; and the role of gender in her own career.