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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Barry Nakell, October 1, 2003. Interview U-0012. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Control over school board controls Native American community

Here, Nakell describes one of the ways double voting prevented Native American advocacy—the most educated and accomplished Native Americans often worked as teachers, and double voting gave whites control over school boards and thus over educated Native Americans' jobs. Community leaders who desired to speak out on behalf of their communities feared losing their jobs.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Barry Nakell, October 1, 2003. Interview U-0012. 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

MM: Okay. But you would say that by the time you became familiar with the struggle here that Indians and blacks were certainly trying to participate and had been doing so running candidates and things like that for a while. BN: Yeah, and let me say that I learned that this struggle over double voting was a struggle that involved more than just the schools. It was really a struggle over political power in the county because there were-- Let’s see, I think when I came down there, there were no Indian lawyers. There was a Lumbee who was a lawyer named Brantley Blue, and he was on the Indian Claims Commission, so he was not available to provide any legal services. I seem to recall, I don’t think there was any Indian doctor. There was an Indian pharmacist, Dr. Brooks. But by and large most of the educated Indians in Robeson County were teachers, predominantly teachers. Many of these worked for the county board of education. Some of them of course worked for some of the city boards of education, and some of them worked outside the county. But a great number of the most educated, best educated Indians in Robeson County worked as teachers for the Robeson County Board of Education. As long as the Robeson County Board of Education was under the control of the people who lived in the cities, that is largely the whites, these people, many of whom were the natural leaders of the Indian population were afraid to express themselves. So there was a lot of fear among teachers, administrators, among the Indian population in the county board of education about speaking out on behalf of the rights of Indians, about running for office, about speaking out in support of Indian candidates et cetera, for fear that they would lose their jobs. I think it was a pretty realistic fear at the time. So that gave the issue even more gravity. I thought it was very serious as an issue of education of Indians, but it also had a major impact on the political situation for the Indians in Robeson County. MM: So the county board at this time was all white. BN: The county board of education was predominantly white. If there was, I’m trying to, I can’t remember if there might have been an Indian on it. But it was definitely predominantly controlled by whites, yes.