Documenting the American South Logo
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Charles Adams, February 18, 2000. Interview K-0646. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Mother's commitment to social change and her dedication as a teacher

Adams briefly describes his mother's support for his father's advocacy of school desegregation, emphasizing her similar belief in equality and her role of leadership within the community. Adams's mother worked as a teacher in Wake County schools for several decades and her commitment to education extended beyond the classroom was demonstrated by her time spent teaching Henry Adams's adult African American employees to read.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Charles Adams, February 18, 2000. Interview K-0646. 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

And this is another neat story. I can remember some of the people who worked for my Dad and worked for her. Blacks who couldn't read, and she taught them to read.
Just quietly, behind the scenes?
Yes, right out at lunch time. They'd go out and sit on the porch and I used to go through there on my travels, and I'd stop by. And she'd be on the back porch with the maid who happened at Fidelity Bank who worked for her, and they'd go out and have a reading lesson. And this person would be fifty, sixty years old, couldn't read a letter. And my mother taught quite a few of them how to read. And that just, oh that got to me every time I'd go through there and think, somebody can't read. You know, that's incomprehensible to me that you can't read. And I'd sit there and I'd listen just a minute to them struggling. And I could name several people she taught to read who had never been able to read. And she did this after she retired from teaching and after she'd lost most of her eyesight.
Wow, amazing. What was her role in integration?
Supporting him. She had been a teacher. She went to Western Carolina and N.C. State. And then when I was born she stayed out of school until I graduated. And she did all the cooking for my Dad's drug store, you know. She made the potato salad, pimento cheese and chili, and all of that. And she was big into the Women's Club, and Eastern Star and the PTA and things like that. Very, very civically minded. Both of them were. Him was more school, hers was more community. Then when I got out of school she went back to teaching and taught until she was seventy-one years old. And her role during that time was to be the good, supportive wife, but my Mom was very outspoken. Very much independent, very much probably ahead of her time. I remember coming in one day from school and there was a note, "I've gone to Florida for the week. You and your Dad take care of the house." And she was a very well read, very bright, very intelligent lady. Very strict disciplinarian. I still hear stories about kids telling me, but they all loved her. But I think she supported my Dad, but she had her own itinerary. She was not a housewife. She was out there and she was doing things in the Garden Club and doing things in the Women's Club, and Eastern Star and running PTA. She had her own agenda. She was very supportive of what he was doing. Because she also felt the same way he did about equal opportunities.