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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Johnny A. Freeman, December 27, 1990. Interview M-0011. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Good and bad effects of desegregation

Freeman shares his belief that desegregation had both good and bad effects. He has seen the equalization of opportunity, but also the erosion of black institutions. Freeman's thoughts, couched in qualifiers, speak not only to the delicacy of the issue but also the complex response to desegregation of the black community.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Johnny A. Freeman, December 27, 1990. Interview M-0011. 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, how do you think the desegregation schools affected your role as a principal?
I don't think it affected my role any differently as principal. I just looked at it as another opportunity to try to educate boys and girls. But as far as having a direct effect on them, I don't know that it did. I would say that I think that in some situations we have profited tremendously by it and I think in other situations we may have been hurt by desegregation. Let me clarify that. It is disturbing to me to see the powerful band that I had as principal of an all Black high school and ended up with a band now with just a handful of Black students. That disturbs me. And of course, I realize, and I have to be honest and say this, it has to do with the late issue of the person that has done it. And I don't understand that however, I think that the parents are going to have to be concerned to ask the question why rather than wait for somebody to fix it for them because it is not easy to be fixed but I think if parents are inquisitive enough to ask the question why then some of the things can fix themselves. So that is what I mean when I say I think it is a good thing that has happened because there is no question in my mind as to who will suffer but they were not equal. They were separate but they were not equal. I think now that the schools are equal in that sense as far the opportunity being available. They are unequal in the kids being made aware and made to feel, I'll put it that way, that they are an important part of this operation, and I have to clarify this too because that is an exception, because some kids in the community that are for separating and there are others and I think that is where the leadership comes in where we have tried to set the climate for getting the right focus.
So the teachers are still the key. When you are all Black, I have the philosophy that it is so bad because the Black teachers could push the Black children and say things to them and push them along but you just think the good teachers would do that no matter what.
Let's face it, when we were all Black you could call assembly and say to the kids basically what needed to be said to give them a shot of adrenaline but you can't do that now and the only institution that we have left right now and I hate to say this but they have fallen tremendously and that is the Black church. They just are not living up to what I think they ought to be doing. That is the only place that we can speak to the issue.