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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 >>

Teachers' disinterest in black students

Teachers at the University of North Carolina were a slight improvement over Jeter's teachers at Chapel Hill High School, because they ignored everyone rather than just neglecting black students. Some black teachers at the high school seemed to have internalized the belief that black students were not as capable as white ones. There were some educational leaders who did reach out to Jeter, including a white teacher at nursing school and black members of Upward Bound at UNC.

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

BG: Did you see a difference in the professors who were, teaching the classes at Upward Bound versus the teachers who were at Chapel Hill High School -- GRJ: Well -- BG: -- how they responded to you? GRJ: The teachers at Carolina at the college level who – taught a class of 25 or something, they were distant from everybody. It seemed like to me that they were separate sort of standoffish to everybody from the class. And they didn’t care if you were green or blue, they didn’t appear to be very warm and friendly. The colored, the Upward Bound people knew you and they said to you, you have the potential to do this work and we expect you to do this work. BG: So they really encouraged you, GRJ: Oh yeah. And, and – they didn’t say you can’t do it or you, don’t know how to do it, they said you can do it and, this is how to do it. I remember I took a speed-reading class when I was at Upward Bound, which taught you to read faster and comprehend better. Because they said, oh that will help you with your SAT scores. So. They said to you, you can do this. And you must do this. BG: And did you get any of that from the Chapel Hill High School teachers? GRJ: No. Even the teachers that weren’t overtly racist did not say to you, you must live up to your potential. They said, here is the material. You can get it, you can take it and learn it, or you don’t have to take it and learn it, but, it doesn’t, it’s like they didn’t really care. And I don’t know if the white students had that feeling, but I certainly had that feeling. We had a lady at Chapel Hill High School who was a history teacher and I always liked history. And I didn’t think she was, she was not overtly racist. She was a hard taskmaster, but it was like, “here it is, you can have access to this information. But I don’t particularly care if you, if you have, if you want it it’s there, if you don’t want it, I don’t care.” BG: What about the black teachers at the high school. GRJ: Well the only black teachers that I remember specifically, I remember I took typing from Miss Clemmons, she was a black lady. And they didn’t, um, computers were, becoming important, so we did some sort of computer something. But, she expected you to get your work, and she, you know racism is a funny thing. It affects the minority directly, but, even those of us who are black, we think white people are better than we are. So when the white people do something, she didn’t, come down on them, like she would come down on us. So we are, affected as badly on one end, and white people benefit from racism, they all, I mean not just, the obvious things, but-- BG: So black teachers, in a way -- GRJ: Yeah -- BG: -- were -- GRJ: -- feeding into the racist attitude. BG: Mmhmmm GRJ: And they were reflecting those attitudes back to us. BG: Were there any teachers who said to you, “Gloria, you can do it. Let me help you.” GRJ: (pause) No. There was a teacher, when I went to nursing school there was a lady, a white woman, who said to me, “You can do it, I will help you, and not only you can do it, you must do it.” And it’s not like, she, it wasn’t from a racial point of view, you must do it to prove the, accelerate the race or whatever, you must do it because you have the ability to do it and you cannot shortchange yourself. That was her attitude. I was inducted into the honors society in nursing school and I went to her and I said, “Look. I don’t want to get involved in this bullshit, I don’t need this,” and she said to me, “this is not something that you can turn down. This is something that will go on your resume and will be with you for the rest of your life. Now you get your butt in there, and do whatever you have to do to get inducted into the honors society.” And so I did, but I mean, she was the kind of person that said, to me as an individual. But, I didn’t have that sort of -- BG: -- not as an African American.