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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Gloria Register Jeter, December 23, 2000. Interview K-0549. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Black students protest in school

In this excerpt, Jeter describes the integration of Lincoln and Chapel Hill High Schools as a mess, rather than a merger. She thinks so because the new school, in addition to being named Chapel Hill High School, used the mascot and school colors of the all-white school. Few black teachers made the move, and Jeter and others felt that Lincoln's traditions had been abandoned. She and other African American students sought to reverse this problem by joining clubs and teams, and Jeter tried out for cheerleading despite her lack of coordination. More direct protest ended in violence when a delegation of students asking the principal for changes were denied.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Gloria Register Jeter, December 23, 2000. Interview K-0549. 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

GRJ: Their theory was, or the B.S. they fed us was that they were going to merge the two schools. Well in my mind, when you merge two things you bring something from both and put them together. Well they forgot to do that. They brought the mascot, the colors, everything from Chapel Hill High School, nothing from Lincoln. BG: School song? GRJ: I don't remember the school song, but— BG: Trophies? GRJ: I don’t remember, I know they didn't bring the trophies from Lincoln because I had been through Lincoln and the trophies were still there. BG: So you didn’t view it as a merger? GRJ: It was not a merger. It was, I don't know, it was a mess. BG: Please explain how it was mess. GRJ: Well, they had, they did have a few black teachers. They had Miss Clemens, who was the typing teacher, they had Miss Edwards, I think, who was the counselor, I think she was Edwards, and Miss Marshall was the principal, she was white, and was probably the principal at Chapel Hill High School. But we had a bus, so we caught the bus, we no longer had to take the taxi, and the driver of our bus was one of us, a student, and a black student, which they no longer do, they hire someone to do it, but then they hired, it was a part time job for a student. BG: Do you remember the bus driver's name? GRJ: I believe it was Jessie Chavis. So we now at least could catch the bus and go to school. I don't remember, I can't separate the years 10th, 11th, 12th, I remember distinctly some things from the 12th grade, but I do remember that when I got to the 11th grade, I remember this, I ran for a class office, I don't know if it was Secretary or what, and I don't remember if it was a school-wide office or just a classroom office, I can't make that distinction. Whatever it was, I won the election and the principal said to me, we're not going to make you the winner, we're going to make Seddle Wobbelds the winner. How she explained it to me, I do not remember, but I distinctly remember, whatever office it was, I didn't get it, I won it but I did not get it. Um, I also remember, this I think is humorous, I must have been in the 11th grade, there were no black cheerleaders, and we thought there were ought to be some black cheerleaders, there were lots of black guys out playing sports, so several of us decided to go out, to go and try out for the job. Um, of course, I'm not very coordinated, I don't dance, well, I don't have much rhythm, I am black, but I thought "oh well, I'll go out and add to the number so they'll have to pick three of us." And they picked one girl who was an excellent cheerleader, very coordinated, but she didn't have good grades, so she couldn't be a cheerleader and they picked, for crazy some reason, they picked me to be a cheerleader. I must have been the worst cheerleader they ever had. But I didn't care [laughs] because my job was to be a black body out there, that's what I wanted to do. I think Paulette Minors was a cheerleader and Yolanda Hargroves was a cheerleader, so there was three of us probably on a squad of about 15. So at least we could do that, we could try to, I think we made a more concerted effort to be a part of the school, as opposed to Guy B. Phillips where we stayed separate. It may be that at Guy B. Phillips as a junior high school you don't think much about it, you know, you're just going to school. But when you go to High School you've got these friends and peer groups and you really want to be a part, you know as a teenager you really want to be a part of the culture. That's why we strove to become a part of the school. And I remember the uprising, or the riot or whatever, I remember that we would meet occasionally as a group, I mean we, the black students, we socialized together, so if somebody had a party at their house we all went to the party at their house. We were not, outside of school, very integrated yet. In 12th grade, we were much more integrated, if we had a party at the church downtown, the black people would go and there would be white people, so we were much more integrated then, but in the 11th grade we were not yet at that point. And we would get together and we would complain about the fact that the two schools, Lincoln and Chapel Hill High, had merged and there was nothing from Lincoln. So a group of us talked to the principal, it seems like to me we even talked to the school board people at one point, but anyway one morning we went to the principal as a group, probably 5 or 6 of us, to say "this is not right. You said you were going to merge the two schools and you did not. WE would like to see some changes." So we went in to talk to the principal Miss Marshall. BG: Miss Marshbanks? GRJ: Marshbanks, that was her name. Whatever she said really pissed us off. I remember palpable anger, you know you feel that this is you know people are pissed, they're not just this is not right and I'm going to say it's not right, they were angry and they were angry. And when we left the principal's office apparently a gathering, 5 or 6 of went into the principal’s office, and a group was waiting outside to hear the verdict, what she planned to do or whatever, and she didn't plan to do anything and we all got angry. And it was almost like a wildfire. There was a rush through the school of this group of angry young black people. And they turned over chairs, threw books around, I don't know if there any windows broken, but it was like, we were all so angry. I of course, I am not I have never been much of a violent person, and I hid in the bathroom, can you believe that, I think that's embarrassing. Now for all of my talk in the 60s, and I can talk a good game [laughs] I can talk a good game, but for all my radical talk, oh I think we should be Black Panthers and we should march with our guns and wear our leather jackets and stuff, when the shit hit the fan I was not into the violence I was in the bathroom hiding, afraid. And that's, I probably should hang my head in shame, but that's just the way I am.