Title: Oral History Interview with Charlene Regester, February 23, 2001. Interview K-0216.
Interviewer: Upton, Susan
Interviewee: Regester, Charlene
Subjects: School integration--North Carolina--Chapel Hill African Americans--North Carolina--Chapel Hill Chapel Hill (N.C.)--Race relations--20th century Regester, Charlene, 1956-
Abstract: Charlene Regester recounts her educational experience in Chapel Hill public schools during the early integration efforts. Her parents ardently advocated for integrated schools as a means to improve blacks' access to resources. They petitioned to transfer Regester into all-white Estes Hills Elementary School; she remained in integrated schools throughout her secondary school career. Though they did endorse school integration, Regester's parents still attempted to protect her from the dangers of white racism by encouraging her not to patronize racist white businesses. Regester continued to heed their warnings even after the demise of Jim Crow facilities. Regester contends that integration cost blacks their identities and burdened them with a sense of inferiority. Her frustration with integration at her school led her to take part in the black student movement. She argues that most white students and teachers ostracized black students solely because of race, and she blames white teachers for establishing low standards for black students, which she says they then internalized. Regester also points to a racial and class divide within the Chapel Hill community: while the children of University of North Carolina professors had vast resources, poor whites and blacks had to compensate for their limited resources in other ways. Regester ends the interview with an evaluation of school integration. She contends that because of the psychological toll on blacks and the loss of black cultural institutions, integration did more harm than good.