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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with W. Horace Carter, January 17, 1976. Interview B-0035. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Reaction to integration and opposition to school busing

Carter offers his thoughts on the impact of integration at the time of the interview in 1976. While he stresses his general opposition to segregation and support for racial equality, Carter expresses his view that integration of public schools had reduced the quality of education. Moreover, he stresses his opposition to school busing, arguing that busing would not help engender equality.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with W. Horace Carter, January 17, 1976. Interview B-0035. 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

Well, do you think integration has worked in some ways, or has it failed, do you think, to produce racial harmony in the schools—or racial balance in the schools, at least?
I almost hate to comment on this, because it will make me more of a reactionary than some people think I am already, perhaps. But I don't think there is any doubt (and I have to speak in terms of local situations here, because I'm not aware of what's going on in South Boston other than what we get in the newspapers) whatsoever in my mind, or many other people's minds, that the quality of the schools, the public schools in our community, has been reduced significantly since segregation ended. Now hopefully somewhere along the line it has helped some of the blacks, but it has hurt the whites insofar as the quality of education is concerned. This has gotten to be a political phrase, "quality of education." There is no quality education in Columbus County at the moment; it is much, much worse education than it was ten years ago. And I hate this is true; I wish it were the other way around. And I don't say that putting the blacks in the schools is the sole reason it happened, although I'm not qualified to say why it happened. But I can look at the high school graduates now, or I can talk with one, or I can have one fill out an employment application and compare it with applications of a decade ago, and you can tell from the phrasology, the spelling and everything else that there's something lacking that we had some time ago.
Well, Mr. Carter, could you speculate on perhaps what would be a better plan for integration? Or should we go back to segregation? Do you have any ideas of your own that might be helpful?
We should never go back to the segregation again, although I'm one of those anti-bussing people. I think this is the wrong thing. I don't know that I have any solution to it, but I know that that's just not the American way. And every time we get to the bussing thing I have to also make this statement: in my childhood, when I was going to school, in the county I was raised in, we were bussing children like twenty-five or thirty miles to get them to an all-black school. And now we're bussing them both directions to get them all in the same school. Now, it's just as un-democratic to have bussed them to the all-black schools then as it is un-democratic and un-American to bus them to white and black schools now. Neither one of them are right; it wasn't right then and it's not right now. But somewhere there's got to be a system that's better, and I don't know that I'm qualified to say what kind of system—although if it's truly carried out to the truest meaning of the word, the best system in the world was the freedom of choice. If they had left freedom of choice alone, and if school boards had accepted this and carried it out, then I think you would have had a system in which no animosity was created because it was forced integration. There would have been some integration, and it would have eventually been total integration; it wouldn't have been as fast, and it wouldn't have created some of the confusion that we have now. Of course, some of us in our country are responsible for freedom of choice not working, because some of the choices weren't honored; I mean, they'd try to go to this school or that school and the school boards turned it down. Sometimes they had economical, practical reasons for turning them down. But if we could have kept freedom of choice a reality right on to the n-th degree, we would have had a much better system than we do on the forced integration system that we have now. But let me be fast to point out that we have had no racial problem in Tabor City with the integration. As a matter of fact, insofar as violence or vandalism or some of the things that have occurred in a lot of other schools, we have been blessed with having prac- tically none of that. The only thing that we've got is that apparently we have a situation in which children are not learning as much, and I think we might truthfully say that this is because the class has to keep up with the slower ones. And they aren't all black, but some of the slower ones are black—-you can't eliminate that possibility. And as such we have a situation in which our school system is not teaching people what it did a few years ago.