Title: Oral History Interview with Sam Holton, March 28, 2001. Interview K-0206.
Interviewer: Matthews, Jenny
Interviewee: Holton, Sam
Subjects: School integration--North Carolina--Chapel Hill African Americans--North Carolina--Chapel Hill Chapel Hill (N.C.)--Race relations--20th century Chapel Hill-Carrboro Board of Education Chapel Hill High School--Riot, 1969 Holton, Sam Segregation in education--North Carolina--Durham Chapel Hill High School
Abstract: Sam Holton discusses the Chapel Hill school board's efforts to desegregate its public schools. In 1968, after serving as PTA president, he was elected to the school board. There he was immediately faced with escalating racial tensions following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.—tensions that were also felt in the newly constructed and integrated Chapel Hill High School. The school failed to incorporate the traditions of the former all-black Lincoln High School, which increased blacks' feelings of marginality. The inclusion of blacks into the Chapel Hill High student culture and the high numbers of disciplinary infractions for black students eventually fueled altercations between whites and blacks, say Holton. He explains how school board members sought ways to accommodate low-income students and blacks, including curricular and extracurricular offerings. A professor of education at the University of North Carolina, Holton also provides a socioeconomic analysis of achievement gaps. He contends that students' low test achievement scores can be directly correlated to the educational level and economic class of their parents. Although a large divide exists between upper-class and low-income Chapel Hill residents, Holton is careful to argue that Chapel Hill is not racist. He insists that the local school board remains committed to the education of all students. He stresses that racial and economic balance in Chapel Hill schools is necessary to prevent middle-class whites from abandoning public schools. Without middle-class white support, Holton implies, a quality education for blacks would not exist.