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Interview with Cynthia Roddey

Interviewee: 
Roddey, Cynthia
Interviewer: 
Murphy, Hope
Date of Interview: 
2004-5-17
Identifier: 
BBRO0009
Subjects: 
Rock Hill South Carolina; West End Elementary; Johnson C. Smith (also referred to as Smith); Rosenwald School; Private Schools; Girl Scouts; Classrooms; Teaching methods; Discipline; College Academia; Segregation; Winthrop University; Community; Protesting; sit-ins; Civil Rights Movement; integration; Teacher Qualifications/National Teacher Exam; Double Oaks Kindergarten; outhouses; state/competency tests; Friendship College; cultural exposure; boarding school; Lutheran schools; combination classes; World Book Encyclopedias; barber socks; peer teachers; lard cans; seminary; National Merit Scholarship; "Eyes on the Prize"; Ku Klux Klan (KKK); Brown v. Board of Education; equal opportunity; non-violence practices; Korean War
Abstract: 
Dr. Cynthia Roddey describes her academic experiences in Rock Hill, South Carolina and the surrounding areas both as a student and as a teacher. She attended segregated schools, including Biddleville Elementary, Emmanuel (Private School) and Johnson C. Smith. She was the first African-American to attend Winthrop University and describes the effects from that. Also discussed are sit-ins and some firsthand experiences with the Civil Rights Movement. She also describes her experiences teaching at desegregated schools. Also discussed are the advantages/disadvantages of desegregation. She goes on to describe the methodology of teaching and the ways in which the roles of both teacher and student has changed over time.
Collection: 
Before Brown Collection
Interview Audio: 
Transcript:
HM (Hope Murphy): OK. Mrs. Roddey if you could just tell me a little bit about your childhood growing up and your family and kinda what they did for a living and--
CR (Cynthia Roddey): I was born here in Rock Hill on West Main Street. My grandparents were-- well at least my grandfather was just first generation from slavery.--
HM: OK
CR: He was born he said right at emancipation time.
HM: Oh OK.
CR: He was a carpenter, an artist, a musician. He had been married a widow and he married a young girl who was 15 years old. He was riding down the road saw her on a horse asked her if she'd liked to go home with him and she went.
HM: [gasps]
CR: So [laughs] he was a grown man-- had his own business and he married this young girl. And they had two children and my father was the youngest son-- the older one died in infancy.
HM: OK.
CR: So he was an only child. He went to Friendship--went to the Episcopal Parochial Schools and then to Friendship--that's a Baptist school that was in the city at the time. And finished there and went to Biddle Institute--
HM: Oh wow.
CR: --which is now a part of Johnson C. Smith and then onto South Carolina State. He met my mother in Charlotte. She lived not too far from the campus. And she didn't want him to know that part of her job was bringing the cows home. So there were trolleys on Beattie's Ford Road and she'd drop the cow chain you know and let the cow kinda wander off [laughter].
HM: [laughter]
CR: And so that's how he met her and they got married. And she was also a teacher. Both of them taught in Rosenwald schools.--
HM: Oh OK.
CR: My father was a principal of a Rosenwald school in Catawba, South Carolina where I now live. And my mother worked at Fairfield Rosenwald School, which they have renovated and it's going to be like a learning center for students for the Rock Hill public schools.
HM: Right. OK.
CR: I grew up--I'm the middle child. I have an older brother and a younger brother. All of my aunts were teachers so I have been surrounded about education all of my life. I went to school at five. I had started reading about age three. One grandfather was a sign painter so I had learned how to read from reading the signs. My parents and grandparents read the newspaper everyday, they read the bible everyday. So at about three, I was able to pick out some words.
HM: Wow.
CR: And my aunt who taught third grade had started testing me even before going to school because she just wanted to see how I would do compared to the kids that she was teaching. So at five my mother thought--now I was overgrown always, you know, real tall.
HM: OK.
CR: She didn't want to think people, think I was kinda retarded.
HM: [laughter]
CR: So she sent me on to school at age five. [laughter] And I went to Biddleville and this a picture of my first grade class--
HM: [Aww]
CR: This is Mrs. Grisby,--
HM: [Aww} OK.
CR: my first grade teacher. And I--this is Sadie McClain she is a nurse in Charlotte now, married. And we've been lifelong friends.
HM: Oh that's wonderful.
CR: And so--and this is Minnie. I don't remember everybody in my class but those I guess because I saw them--they lived in the community--
HM: OK.
CR: And I just kinda grew up with them. But as you can see from this classroom it was ahead of it's time I guess because there were learning centers.
HM: Right. Yeah. Piano--
CR: Yeah and we had music appreciation. There's also black history here on the wall.
HM: Wow.
CR: Mrs. Grisby was a caring, compassion teacher; one that I even saw as I grew up-- practically until her death that I still kept in contact with--you know you had lifelong friends they were not just your instructors.
HM: Right.
CR: They were--they kind of became part of your family. So this Mrs. Starletta--trying to think of--Sasso was the principal.
HM: OK.
CR: Very, very stern disciplinarian so the school building was very clean. I had two cousins who taught in this school and they would always treat me to ice cream.
HM: [laughter]
CR: that's my first grade picture--[coughs]
HM: Oh that is just so--
CR: [clears throat] And, I'm mad because I had a piece of gum and I wanted to put the gum in and they wouldn't let me put the gum in. [laughter] So I don't have a--
HM: [laughter] That is just beautiful, its absolutely beautiful.
CR: My mother taught at Double Oaks kindergarten. I didn't go to kindergarten.
HM: OK.
CR: My brother, younger brother did but I didn't go. And we moved back--she moved back to Rock Hill and I went to West End. And we had to walk to school. West End was a white school--the traditional white school building.
HM: OK.
CR: There were outhouses. The outhouses were a good ways from the campus.
HM: OK. [pause] Yeah I could meet you wherever you need to--OK, thanks for going on. I'm sorry. So you were saying that--we're talking about your first grade that your mother taught--
CR: At Double Oaks--
HM: OK.
CR: Yeah, kindergarten.
HM: OK.
CR: And we came back to Rock Hill. And I was telling you about West End Elementary School.
HM: OK.
CR: The bathrooms were up the hill from the school.
HM: [laughter]
CR: We didn't have a lunchroom.
HM: OK.
CR: But the teachers were very, very well prepared.
HM: OK.
CR: Had gone to private schools themselves--
HM: OK.
CR: --because they were in that era. We got a lot of enrichment. I remember all those endearing young charms being taught to me by Mrs. Lindsay-can't remember her married name. Whose husband had been an ambassador to Liberia. And of course she came and gave the music lessons. And I remember that song.
HM: Oh my goodness.
CR: Doing Shakespeare. Mrs. Fedora Hall Clark teaching us Shakespeare.
HM: And this was in elementary school?
CR: This was in elementary school, in about eighth grade.
HM: OK.
CR: And I'm doing math beyond what was required for students at that time. And my class--that would have been the class of 1954.
HM: OK.
CR: That eighth grade year. The class scored so high, they thought that the teachers had corrected the score sheets and they tested about five or six of us over because our test scores were so high.
HM: And these were like state wide tests--
CR: These are, yeah the state test that you take now.
HM: OK.
CR: You have a competency test that you take.
HM: OK.
CR: And I think we were testing at like eleventh and twelfth grade. But it was because of the exposure.
HM: OK.
CR: The first opera I saw was at Johnson C. Smith when I was about five years old was "Porky and Bess".
HM: Wow.
CR: And so they had "Let's Pretend" at Johnson C. Smith which was a radio program. And the kids in the community went every Saturday morning. And so we had all this exposure to art, to literature, things that a lot of kids were not exposed to. And so our, our tests weren't suspect. I never got a lot of toys; my mother always gave me books.
HM: OK.
CR: Little Women, you know for Christmas presents, birthday presents. I always got a lot of books, history-black history books. And so we were well-versed in areas that a lot of kids, even white kids in our community were not. And we, Brooklyn was a community that had a lot of ministers. It had Friendship College where we went in the summertime for enrichment.
HM: OK.
CR: So we just had a lot of cultural exposure. I knew what an escalator was even though Rock Hill did not have an escalator.
HM: Oh funny.
CR: And see if that was on a test--when we talk about biased testing. So if you don't have students who know what an escalator is, never seen an escalator--
HM: Right.
CR: --it means that they aren't any less intelligent; they just have not had the exposure.
HM: Right. That's interesting.
CR: Yeah.
HM: So your family moved back here to Rock Hill?
CR: Yeah.
HM: Why, just to be closer to the--?
CR: My grandparents were here. My father--this was my father's home--
HM: OK.
CR: --and he ran a business.
HM: OK.
CR: He had a grocery store. And so I got exposure to business quite early, working in that store. And I also vowed that I would never own a store.
: [laughter]
CR: So that's about all I got out of it. I went off to boarding school because my mother went back into teaching and of course back then you did not leave young ladies or young girls at home without supervision.
HM: OK.
CR: So I went off to Immanuel in Greensboro. We had an aunt who lived down the street from Bennett. Immanuel was an ultra conservative Lutheran school. Emphasis on academics; there was no free time.
HM: [laughter]
CR: Your every minute from the time you woke up in the morning to you went to bed at night was scheduled.
HM: OK.
CR: With prayer, with study. We had sports. We had exposure to--Sedalia, Charlotte Hawkins Brown.
HM: OK. Right.
CR: That kind of--
HM: Right. OK.
CR: Again I got lots and lots of enrichment and exposure. Came to Johnson C. Smith, 17 years old, right at the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement.
HM: OK.
CR: And I'm not a peaceful protestor.
HM: [laughter]
CR: So I did not do a lot of marching out there. I'm not--I would not have been a good peaceful protestor. But Smith began by being a church school. Stressed the academics; I graduated in three years.
HM: Wow.
CR: Worked at Smith as an assistant in the library, with Mr. Gun who had been a family friend, who by the way put me out of the library my freshman year for talking too much.
HM: [laughter]
CR: But anyway, I loved the library, and got a degree in religion.
HM: OK.
CR: And wanted to do religious social work. Got a job in the Y in Danville, Virginia worked one week because I was engaged and my fiance refused to move. So I came home and started teaching.
HM: Oh funny. Can you--I'm sorry--
CR: Taught almost for 40-some--
HM: OK, wow.
CR: --years now. I was the first Afro-American enrollee and the first African American graduate of Winthrop College.
HM: Really?
CR: When I went to Winthrop, you know, being the only, being the, being it--
HM: What year, what year did you go to Winthrop?
CR: I went to Winthrop in 1964.
HM: OK.
CR: Graduated in '67. And when you talk about that experience, if you compare my experience to the ones who were on the campus--I was married had two small children. I had lots of family support, lots of neighborhood support.
HM: OK.
CR: It was voluntary integration by the college so I didn't have all of the violence. I just recently went to a workshop where they showed James Meredith and his life being threatened and having to live with a state trooper, you know, how traumatic that was.
HM: Right.
CR: I didn't have that trauma it was the stress of having two babies in diapers and commuting to Charlotte and doing grad work.
HM: Oh my goodness.
CR: I found out that I was much better prepared than some of my peers.
HM: OK.
CR: For me to get an A in John Milton, having come from all historically black schools to me-- that's the shining--
HM: Right.
CR: When I got that A--
HM: [laughter]
CR: That's it. OK. You have arrived.
HM: Right.
CR: You know there's nothing wrong with your educational system--with the blacks segregated education system.
HM: Right, right.
CR: We got much more than what we got with desegregation. I've worked in Charlotte for 30 something years. I've worked from kindergarten through college level. And retired and, in June and started working here I think the next year in August.
HM: Wow OK.
CR: I've been here--I came to help them out for a few days.
HM: [laughter]
CR: And I'm still helping them out.
HM: OK wow. That's amazing. Can I just back you up a little--
CR: Uh-huh.
HM: Let's talk about your, I guess elementary school. Can you tell me a little bit--you told me there were outhouses in the back.
CR: Yeah.
HM: Can you tell me a little bit about the school building and inside of it?
CR: The inside of it--OK I guess I can start with my second grade classroom because most it--well that classroom was a little bit different because it had a partition--
HM: OK.
CR: --so that when we had programs they could open it up and the whole student body could get in the second grade and whoever's room was next to it.
HM: OK.
CR: This was where--
HM: so there was no auditorium--
CR: There was no auditorium and there was a platform for saying your speeches in there.
HM: OK.
CR: And a typical day when you got there Miss Lizzy White--I think it was Beatrice White--would greet you in the morning and everybody came in. And we had inspection--your hands had to be clean, your hair had to combed, your clothes had to be clean. And any child for whatever reason was not, the teacher saw to it that they were.
HM: Funny.
CR: You know, they cared about the whole child.
HM: OK.
CR: If you had not been fed they fed you.
HM: Wow.
CR: They clothed you. They saw to all of your needs. We had devotion every morning which included the pledge to the flag. We had to know bible verses and we sang a Christian song. I'm trying to think if it was a hymn. Well it will come to me in a minute--my age it goes and comes but it will come to me. And then after that--then some of the classes were combination classes. You might have a first grade and a second grade or a second/third grade. Especially during the 1940s when I went, it was during war time. And we--it was two sessions. I went in the morning and my brother went in the afternoon because the school was overcrowded.
HM: Wow.
CR: So we had double sessions.
HM: Oh my goodness.
CR: There were no buses; I walked to school.
HM: How--do you remember how far that walk was?
CR: I know that had to be at least-[phone rings] two or three miles. [whispers] I'm just gonna let it ring.
HM: OK.
CR: Two or three miles one way.
HM: Wow.
CR: I'm really sure it was.
HM: OK.
CR: Snow whatever. You know sometimes your parents might take you if it really was bad. But most of the kids walked.
HM: OK.
CR: I did not pass--even though there were white schools in the neighborhood--I didn't pass the school on my way to school.
HM: OK.
CR: Like some kids would go past--
HM: Right.
CR: --but I didn't. But we went through a white neighborhood and those kids did not go to the black school. They came out of that neighborhood and, and--
HM: OK.
CR: And came through our neighborhood to go to--
HM: OK
CR: --a white school.
HM: Were there any problems or did you have any--
CR: No, we don't--
HM: --white friends or--?
CR: --we made friends with those kids especially there was an Indian family--
HM: OK.
CR: --that lived there and so we made friends with those kids--
HM: OK.
CR: --and even now as adults I see them, we still speak.
HM: Oh really?
CR: Yeah.
HM: Interesting.
CR: And they grew up, grew up as teenagers and worked in what was called a Crown Creamery and so we were going in there. So we, they--we still know each other it wasn't--
HM: OK.
CR: Didn't have any racial incidents.
HM: OK.
CR: We had more incidents between neighborhoods because Brooklyn was going over here in Boydhood--Boyd Hill's territory. That kind of thing, you know.
HM: [laughter] OK interesting.
CR: Yeah. Also there was no central heating. There was a potbellied stove and the students would have to go--the coal was kept under the building like they would go down and come up and make the fires.
HM: OK wow.
CR: Yeah. The library was one set of World Book Encyclopedias kept in the principal's office. And you'd go down and get one volume at a time.
HM: Isn't that funny? How funny.
CR: But when I think about that, those students have gone on to be doctors and ministers and lawyers and professors with nothing.
HM: OK right.
CR: No resources.
HM: Right.
CR: And then I think about the kids that I taught at Charlotte-Mecklenburg who had everything--
HM: Right.
CR: A surplus.
HM: Right.
CR: And then still didn't learn.
HM: How about your textbooks? Did you have--
CR: The textbooks were usually handed down from the white schools.
HM: OK.
CR: When I got--like I--in my eighth grade year I think was probably my best year because we used things other than the textbook. There was lots of emphasis on public speaking.
HM: OK.
CR: Mr--I always remember Mr. Boulware reminding us to wash the bottom of the pots when you're cleaning up.
HM: [laughter]
CR: You know like I said it-- they taught-
HM: OK
CR: the whole life skills.
HM: OK.
CR: Writing letters--letter writing. Etiquette. Mrs. Clark did not allow us to wear our barber socks up; you had to fold them down around your ankles. You had to sit a certain way. And this also folded over into the community. There was a lady named Mrs. Lizzie Skeet and Ms. Reid and on Sunday afternoons, they would take all the little girls in the community and we went to different churches and they dressed us up and they had little tea parties for us so we would know how to use the correct fork and how to use the utensils and how to eat correctly and how to sit and how to talk and how to be ladies.
HM: OK.
CR: And so that went on because Mrs. Clark was a part of the community--you had to carry that same behavior to school.
HM: OK.
CR: I brought my report card [shuffling of papers] because I wanted to show you--
HM: OK.
CR: --there was a lot of parental involvement. My daddy had to sign my report card. But this was '51/'52 and if you look at my deportment-I got A's and then it says my deportment should be better.
HM: [laughter]
CR: So that was--
HM: Better than an A.
CR: They demanded excellence.
HM: That's wild.
CR: As a matter of fact on one of these I do have some E's. And this is Mrs. Clark and she didn't finish out the year because she got pregnant and back then you know the pregnant teachers couldn't stay in school. And so Mrs. Gardner was there. [shuffling of papers] And of course spelling was my weakest subject--
HM: [laughter]
CR: And I don't--oh I guess I cut that part off because I was trying to--see I have all A's and B's but spelling [rustling] was my weakest subject. And I mean they demanded excellence.
HM: Now how about discipline in the classroom did they--as if?
CR: There weren't any discipline problems. I mean, [laughter] I mean it just wasn't.
HM: How did they if someone did need punishment how did they--
CR: Well now, Miss White--
HM: Sorry.
Cr: --would line everybody up at the end of the day, everybody she thought had been bad and pop them; she had a switch. When she would get to me I would scream and holler so loud people would come out of their rooms because they thought she was murdering me. And she didn't touch me.
HM: Oh funny. So she had a switch though--
CR: [laughter] She had--yeah, she just had a switch. You know and that--but there was not a lot of discipline problems.
HM: OK.
CR: I don't remember that.
HM: OK.
CR: I don't remember anybody being--we didn't have any special education classes.
HM: OK.
CR: Everybody could learn--every child was expected to learn. I do remember we had a classmate who repeated and we were very upset about that because we had done her work all year. [laughter] But oddly they knew we had done her work. But we--I mean kids helped each other you know, we taught each other; we were peer teachers.
HM: OK.
CR: But obviously Mary's problem was a little bit more than we could handle. And I think we were very disappointed--
HM: OK.
CR: that she wasn't promoted. But there weren't any--I don't remember kids talking back. I mean when someone said "Have a seat"--I mean we came in and had a seat; nobody had to tell us to sit down. Nobody had to tell us to open your book.
HM: OK.
CR: You know, "where's your paper, where's your pencils." I mean that was just not a problem.
HM: OK. Did you have, you had individual desks?
CR: Yeah we had individual desks.
HM: OK
CR: Yeah.
HM: What was my next question--
CR: Lunch.
HM: OK.
CR: I can't remember the name of the company but most all the kids in my neighborhood, there were lard cans. Lard came in green and white cans with little handles on 'em and those were our lunch buckets. And so we all took sandwiches and fruit--
HM: OK.
CR: --and right across there was a little store that you could go over and get moon pies were a nickel and sodas probably were a nickel and we were allowed to go right across the street at lunchtime--
HM: OK. Was it a black owned business?
CR: Yeah it was a black owned business.
HM: OK.
CR: And I don't--I think after I left they got a cafeteria.
HM: OK.
CR: But not--the whole time I was there, there was not a cafeteria.
HM: OK. And did your, did your teachers ever--you said you would see them in the community.
CR: Yeah.
HM: Did they ever visit your home?
CR: One of the things back then--that was a requirement each teacher visited every home at least once a year.
HM: Wow.
CR: And because like Mrs. Clark lived around the corner from me. Miss White lived around the other corner. We visited their homes. They were part of the community we went to church with them, you know.
HM: OK.
CR: I remember that Miss White was a very stern teacher--that was my second grade teacher.
HM: OK
CR: And she taught my brother and she came and told my mother my brother couldn't read. And she said "Oh I know he can read" you know, "He reads at home". And I remember her holding my brother on her lap; my brother was terrified of Miss White.
HM: [laughter]
CR: [laughter] He couldn't read because he was scared of her. You know she was a stern disciplinary. And you know most of them were they did not play.
HM: [laughter] Right OK.
CR: You know I don't, I don't remember any teacher being, you know like teachers are now--friend--your pal.
HM: Right.
CR: OK. They were not your--that was not what they were for.
HM: OK.
CR: But, and I remember my teachers. There was Mrs. Gaither who has the sweetest voice and who taught me fractions. And I remember fractions because the back of my hand, when you didn't get it right she'd pop you on the back of the hand.
HM: [laughter]
CR: So I know fractions. I'll always know fractions. Miss Isom was the Girl Scout leader too. And we had Girl Scouts was one of the activities that we had.
HM: At school?
CR: At school.
HM: How interesting.
CR: You know the troop was actually at school. We also had a band.
HM: OK.
CR: Yeah we had a band.
HM: And were there sports or--?
CR: Not any organized sports. There was PE.
HM: OK.
CR: But we and we played softball. Both of my thumbs are messed up--
HM: [laughter]
CR: from catching the ball wrong I guess. But we did play softball, jump rope, all the other things. There were spelling bees, there were contests; there were exercises at Christmas time. And at the closing of school, you know, you had like a little commencement.
HM: OK.
CR: Graduation kind of thing.
HM: OK.
CR: The whole community was involved in the school. And I think that's something that we kinda lost you know. Its not having the schools where parents could, can walk in. Probably my community was the community that was farthest away. The school was right in a black neighborhood--
HM: OK were there--I'm sorry.
CR: And that's called Boyd Hill so most of the kids--and not only that kids would bus from Catawba where I now live because the elementary school out there, I don't know--well when they finally closed that Rosenwald school, they bused those kids--my sister-in-law came I would say 20 miles.
HM: So that was the only black elementary school--
CR: Yeah.
HM: in the region?
CR: Yeah, in the district. Yeah.
HM: Wow. OK.
CR: And there was one black high school which is right up the street now. And that's closed and it's a community center.
HM: Oh OK.
CR: Yeah.
HM: So when you graduated eighth grade, do you remember any discussion about, you know, going to--this decision to go to private school or did you just kinda find yourself there one August?
CR: No it was discussed--
HM: OK.
CR: because like I said my mother had gone back--she had taught then they had a business and she worked in the business--
HM: OK.
CR: and since she realized that I would be going off to college and that it was expensive--
HM: OK.
CR: she decided to go back into the schools. And I was grown. My brother and I were 12, 13 years old.
HM: OK.
CR: So she felt like she didn't have to be at home with us. But in my neighborhood, every day there was probably five girls after school. We kinda had our own after school program because we went from house to house--one day we would at or leave and there was always a mama there. There was always somebody there to give us a snack after school. Everybody sat down and did their homework and then you could go play.
HM: OK.
CR: Nobody went out to play until everybody's--and we did it in a group which made it was easier.
HM: Right OK.
CR: You know somebody was good in math, somebody was good in English, so we got our homework done pretty quickly and we were out the door.
HM: OK. [laughter] That's funny.
CR: Yeah.
HM: So you went--do you remember were you frightened going away did you--?
CR: No because I had been away from home ever--since I was a baby.
HM: OK.
CR: My younger brother is just eleven months or twelve months younger than I am--
HM: OK.
CR: So I went away as an infant to this aunt's house and this grandmomma's house.
HM: OK.
CR: So I was used to moving around. And used to traveling. And used to being in church and going to a church school. This was no different from home.
HM: OK.
CR: All of the prayers--we had a prayer before we ate, a prayer after we ate, a prayer when you got up in the morning, a prayer when you went to vespers every night--
HM: OK.
CR: prayer, you know. So it wasn't any different from home.
HM: OK. Tell me about the school how it looked and your dormitories--
CR: The dorm, the dormitory? The dormitory was a two story brick building.
HM: OK.
CR: The rooms were--I guess our bedrooms were probably about this size and there were four girls in each room.
HM: OK.
CR: And in between the rooms were the bathrooms and the lockers with your clothes in there. The--it was a college--a high school and a college. And the high school girls stayed on the second floor and the college students stayed on the third floor.
HM: OK.
CR: The boy's dormitory was a stone building. And the classrooms were downstairs--some classrooms and the business office. The boys stayed on the top floor. And it also had a seminary.
HM: OK.
CR: And then underneath was the canteen. Then there was a classroom building. And then we had a--it had barracks like, because this was war time in the '50s--the Korean War.
HM: OK.
CR: There would have been some barracks on campus so that served as the gym. And then we had a dining hall which had also been a barrack.
HM: OK.
CR: Before I left they built a new boy's dormitory and a new gym.
HM: OK
CR: Which is now a part of A and T's campus--A and T bought the campus when the school closed.
HM: Oh, OK. OK.
CR: It was integrated faculty.
HM: Oh.
CR: The president was white; the vice president was white; the dean was a black man--Dean Lindsay. The matrons were black. The faculty was probably even.
HM: OK.
CR: About 50/50 black and white.
HM: How interesting.
CR: Yeah.
HM: About how many children were--
CR: My graduating class had 19 in it.
HM: OK.
CR: I would think probably like Clinton. It's probably about the size of--
HM: OK.
CR: Clinton at the time. We probably didn't have--and maybe 150 because we had day students, where students who lived off campus--
HM: Oh OK. OK.
CR: And came. But I had a class of 19. We had a reunion and we managed to find 17 out of the 19.
HM: Oh wow. OK.
CR: The school is now closed but we hold a grand reunion every year.
HM: Oh wow.
CR: Like I'll go in October and we're going to have a grand reunion.
HM: OK.
CR: In Greensboro.
HM: Oh neat.
CR: And these will be people who will come back from 1920s, 1940s on up to the--
HM: Wow.
CR: I'm in like almost next to the last class.
HM: OK wow.
CR: Yeah.
HM: Was the ratio of men to women about the same or were there?
CR: More, more guys than--
HM: Oh really?
CR: Girls, because it was a seminary, too.
HM: OK.
CR: And I think that's one reason it was a Lutheran seminary. So we had more fellows. We had students from the islands; the Bahamas.
HM: OK.
CR: When I was there. And I think the year after I left we got our first white student so the school was integrated. When they decided to integrate, Lutheran, the student body. They chose to move the campus to Selma, Alabama, which set it up for defeat. Because in the 1950s you can imagine going to Alabama and having an integrated school was not going to--
HM: No.
CR: to work. Had they left it in Greensboro I think it probably would still be open today.
HM: How interesting.
CR: Yeah.
HM: Wow. And what kind of subjects did you study there?
CR: The basic high school curriculum. We had an excellent music director. We did some drama but physics, chemistry, advanced math classes--
HM: OK.
CR: French, geometry. You had to have four years of English. You had to have four years of religion. [laughter]
HM: [laughter]
CR: Which and I think is probably one of the reasons why I majored in religion--
HM: OK.
CR: at Johnson C. Smith. Having had that background I mean it was--
HM: Right.
CR: And I got all A's in it so. [laughter] It was, it was a good major. Good choice--
HM: OK.
CR: for a major. Psychology. And I guess I had a good psychology teacher because I got a minor in psychology--
HM: OK.
CR: when I went to Smith. And I had a good English teacher. I majored in English which was, you know. I just think academically I was prepared to go anywhere.
HM: So when you got to Smith then, did you, did you find that students that had gone to other black, maybe, you know, day schools or public schools weren't as well prepared or--
CR: No they, Johnson C. Smith--because these other students were coming from historically black high schools, too. And when we were in line, I had that little National Merit Scholarship.
HM: Uh-huh.
CR: Everybody in line with me had a National Merit Scholarship. [laughter]
HM: Really?
CR: You know most of them were honor students.
HM: OK.
CR: So, very brilliant people.
HM: OK.
CR: We, they were well prepared.
HM: OK.
CR: That, that wasn't a problem. Johnson C. Smith again had a strenuous academic program.
HM: OK.
CR: You had to take--I had one teacher who did not allow us to type our papers. She said you weren't gonna type on the blackboard. So they taught handwriting.
HM: Really?
CR: You had a liberal arts education that meant you also had music appreciation. You had art as well as your academic, you know, the academic subjects. We had a lot of enrichment, too. We were required to take the National Teacher's Exam prior to graduation. You had to take a math competency test. You had to take a written essay test.
HM: OK.
CR: You had to be able to write. You had to have writing competencies. When I was really surprised when I got to Charlotte-Mecklenburg and all these people were coming from Appalachian who had not taken the National Teacher's Test but had been hired. You know, but at Smith that was a requirement for graduation.
HM: OK. How interesting.
CR: That you could pass those competencies.
HM: OK.
CR: Prior to getting your diploma.
HM: OK. So let me back you up again, let me ask--in high school when you're getting ready to graduate was there any question, I mean, did the teachers put the expectation in your, that you were going to college?
CR: Oh, there was no question.
HM: OK. And that probably came from your family background too then.
CR: Yeah and also they expected their students to go on. And a lot of students who finished high school there went right on to, to the college. See it was a two year college.
HM: OK. OK.
CR: So they went right on. So there was--I'm trying to think my--if I remember correctly the person, the valedictorian of our class probably had almost a 100 average. Because I think mine was like 97 point something and I was tied for third in my class.
HM: OK.
CR: So there were two other people ahead of me. That--I mean they just stressed; I don't remember anybody failing--
HM: OK.
CR: at Immanuel. They just--it just didn't happen.
HM: OK.
CR: You know people dropped out for various reasons.
HM: OK do you know, do you remember how many?
CR: People who dropped out?
HM: dropped out, yeah.
CR: I'm trying to think in my class who started out with me. [pause] I think everybody finished in that class. I remember people--because it was war time kids--guys going into service.
HM: OK.
CR: We had people who were married. Non-traditional students.
HM: OK.
CR: So they may have dropped out to go to work or take care of their families.
HM: OK.
CR: But not an awful--
HM: OK
CR: lot of them stopping.
HM: There were--I think it was yesterday in the paper there was an editorial in the Observer. The Charlotte Observer about I think Arthur Griffin--
CR: Uh-huh.
HM: Wrote it and he said he thought in his classes up to 50% of kids dropped out. And that just sounded high to me and I was just wondering--
CR: Well in public school like I think in Chester County--
HM: OK.
CR: has one of the highest drop-out rates in the state.
HM: OK.
CR: And I think with these kids now it's pregnancy, teenage pregnancy for girls. Jail. When I worked at Olympic, you know we had a lot of kids who didn't come back. Too, I think its family, not like a family support.
HM: OK.
CR: I had a student who was my library assistant who took a tape recorder home every weekend. And I finally asked her, "Why are you taking this tape recorder home?" And she says "I have nobody to talk to." So this tape recorder was her companion--
HM: Oh goodness.
CR: over the weekend.
HM: Oh my goodness.
CR: So we're looking at a lot of situations that I did not have. I came from--I guess I said rose-colored, you know I see the world through rose-colored glasses because I had the family support.
HM: OK.
CR: I had the neighborhood support. When I was at Winthrop my neighbors came and said "Now look don't worry about your security." They sat up at night with the shotguns and guarded my house. "You go to school, you study, you don't have to worry about this."
HM: Now what were they, what were you worried about?
CR: Because of the Klan. And because if you go back and look at the "Eyes on the Prize bombing people's houses--Martin Luther King's house was bombed.
HM: Right.
CR: This was during the early '60s right in the Civil Rights Movement.
HM: OK so talk to me about that. So, you, you decided to go to Winthrop--
CR: I just--
HM: Did you--
CR: I had become pregnant for the second time in a year. [laughter] Had two babies who, who have the same birthdays in the same month.
HM: [laughter]
CR: And so I they didn't have maternity policy in the school systems then you know.
HM: OK.
CR: So while I was out keeping this second baby--I stayed out a year, I decided to go back to school.
HM: OK.
CR: And I thought that I would like to become a librarian because when I worked in--I had enjoyed that. And decided that's what I wanted to do. And I was talking to a friend, I said "Well now the closest school for me to get certified (I had six hours from Johnson C. Smith) would be to go to Benedict." And for me to go down there, and that's commuting seventy-some miles with two little babies; that was not going to work. And my coworker said "Well why don't you apply to Winthrop?" She said "Some of us are applying to Winthrop. Harvey Gantt integrated the state schools, you can go." So I said "OK" filled out an application and sent it in. I know that there were approximately ten people. And I've often wondered this: why was my application chosen to be the one? And I mentioned it to my sister-in-law one time and there was an attorney John T. Roddey who was a trustee at Winthrop. And she said that he called her because in the south you know that there are black families and white families from the plantation that have the same grandfathers and that kind of thing. So John T. Roddey always called my husband's family cousins. Because they are cousins.
HM: How funny.
CR: And so this cousin called up my sister-in-law and wanted to know who was this Roddey that was trying to go to Winthrop. And she said "Well that's my sister-in-law." And so I think that had a lot to do with it.
HM: OK. And how did they know each other? Just through the--
CR: Because the family knows--
HM: OK.
CR: Yeah the family knows each other.
HM: OK.
CR: And they use--he was an attorney and they used him as the family attorney.
HM: OK.
CR: So it was a close family relationship.
HM: OK.
CR: Also I learned that the governor who was Governor Hollings. Senator Hollings.
HM: OK.
CR: He was governor then. Also saw my transcript. And I thought that's illegal. But they sent my and I guess they looked at all of these transcripts--
HM: Oh, isn't that interesting!
CR: And decided well OK we're going to take a chance with this one.
HM: So they sent your transcript to the governor to get his approval--
CR: Yeah.
HM: And I'm assuming they didn't do that with the white students. [laughter]
CR: Also I went up to Winthrop last month when they were doing the Brown vs. Board. And they had an exhibit and to read those letters you know; I know that there were people saying "Please don't let this black girl go" [thumping] You know I'm 24 years old, I'm still a girl. Teacher, married, whatever. You know "Don't let her integrate the schools; be the ruin of Winthrop if you do this." And some of the language and some of the letters that the president got because he allowed this and because they had teachers who were pro-desegregation. They wanted them fired because they were saying "Yes we need to open our doors to all students." You know so--
HM: So you were here on campus by yourself?
CR: Yes.
HM: For how--
CR: I well I lived in walking distance of the campus.
HM: OK.
CR: So when I got accepted they didn't get the name right. My maiden name was Plair. They knew it was a school teacher. And they knew it was a Plair. They thought it was my mother. So my mother let them think it was her. Because we said, with all of this stuff going on you know. Right up until the day that I went a lot of people did not know who was coming.
HM: OK.
CR: And I had gotten called--I had two black policemen came to my house. And this was the weekend before I went that Monday morning. We decided to go to the country and stay for the safety of the children, stay with my in-laws. They followed us out there and said--
HM: Who's they?
CR: The policemen.
HM: OK.
CR: And they said "We will be with you. We don't--pretend like we aren't there."
HM: OK.
CR: "that we're going to be there for your protection."
HM: And these were Rock Hill City police?
CR: policemen, uh-huh.
HM: OK.
CR: So that Monday morning, I guess it was on a Monday--I don't remember which day it was. But anyway, I drove to the campus, parked, went inside. And I got to be early because I got to know where the bathroom is. [laughter] So I went early to check the place out and I was sitting there and the security--the campus security was waiting downstairs for me to come. And I was already upstairs and they came upstairs huffing and puffing. "Can't you tell time?" [laughter] "You weren't supposed to be here until a certain time." But anyway I went ahead and registered without any problem.
HM: OK.
CR: The policemen who told me to ignore them were busy waving. [laughter] And they followed me after class. I had to go back downtown to pick up a few things and I went home. And they did that for about a week.
HM: OK.
CR: They kept any people off who had no business on the campus.
HM: OK.
CR: I was pretty safe--
HM: OK.
CR: you know. Didn't have a lot of problems. And I want to at some point in time, do a study of people who have been first and the only one. Like with Dorothy Counts in Charlotte. Because the psychological affect. I was ignored.
HM: OK.
CR: Nobody had me in their study group in any of my classes. I never went to lunch with anybody. I don't know anybody who's in my class, in the class of 1967 from Winthrop; can't call one name.
HM: But you remember your first grade--
CR: Yes.
HM: Children from your first grade.
CR: Yeah remember from my first grade class. It was the isolation. And I think it does have--and I didn't start thinking about this until recently and going back looking at Brown vs. the Board of Education and seeing what happened to other people. Probably had not even thought about it and did not realize. And I did not go back to Winthrop for a long time after then. And there was only when they started getting large numbers of students; when I became an advisor for a Delta group on campus; when they got the black advisory committee and I served on that; and they started having black weekends.
HM: And what years--
CR: And this would have been like in the '80s.
HM: Oh [laughter]. Recently.
CR: Yeah so yeah. Yeah. So about twenty and they had an anniversary--the twenty-fifth anniversary of the integration of Winthrop. And I went and I met for the first time the other four ladies young girls--
HM: OK.
CR: Who went in the fall. I went in the summer and they came in the fall.
HM: OK so that summer there you were there by yourself.
CR: Yeah I was there by myself.
HM: OK.
CR: And I think they thought I was the maid. People did not recognize me. They didn't know who I was. Because the people I knew were the maids. People I had been in school with. I had gone to grammar school with. And so I saw them on campus and that's who I spent my time with.
HM: Interesting.
CR: So I don't think they even recognized me. They didn't pay me any attention.
HM: OK. So did you eat in the cafeteria at all or no did you--
CR: No because most of the time I just, I just went home for lunch.
HM: OK.
CR: You know didn't really--and I look back on that and say gosh I missed out on being in the honor societies that they had. And part of it I say is a two way street because for some reason it didn't dawn on me that I should've said "Hey. I've got the average; why am I not in this."
HM: OK.
CR: So it's a two way street too, you know.
HM: Right.
CR: And the friends that I made were the teachers. Dr. Harrar who was the director of the library.
HM: OK.
CR: There's another man who was in public relations or something. And we did lots of things because I was an adult and he was an Elk. And I was an Eastern Star. So you know I saw them socially for other things you know.
HM: OK.
CR: But it wasn't like a student-teacher relationship.
HM: OK.
CR: It was really--the day that I had to take my oral exams. I just mentioned to somebody I said "Well I'll see you tomorrow." And this was on a Friday. And he said "Why". And I said "Well I'll take my orals tomorrow." And he said "No we don't do orals on Saturdays" I said "What?" and he said "No your orals are at one o'clock today." So here I am in this little bug driving down the road trying to read my notes. Running home changing my clothes to get back at one o'clock. And when I walked in that room, everybody on my committee--nobody was there that I knew. Only one person was in that room that I knew.
HM: Did they tell you the wrong date or--?
CR: I don't know. I just somehow got it in my head.
HM: OK.
CR: And that's possible with left-handed people you know we think backwards.
HM: [laughter]
CR: And so [laughter]. Dates wrong whatever showing up at the wrong time. But anyway I went in there and the first question that they asked me my mind went totally blank.
HM: Oh no.
CR: It was something about John Milton. [END OF TAPE 1 SIDE A] [START OF TAPE 1 SIDE B]
CR: Just blanked out. And they said--they went on to the next question. Because at that time I kinda had a photographic memory. I could--I said, I could see the "S" on the page but I can't read it.
HM: OK.
CR: You know. And then the next question they asked me, the page got a little clearer. [laughter] I could read it you know. And I, you know, they said well don't worry about it. But I think that was the only question that I missed.
HM: OK.
CR: Because I just went totally blank. But I had a good experience in Winthrop because it reaffirmed what I believed about my own self and my own heritage. You know that we are valuable. We are of worth. Felt like I was bringing something to the table.
HM: Right OK.
CR: Yeah. And that there was nothing wrong with the schools that I went to.
HM: OK.
CR: You know. And what somehow or another we didn't get the message over is what we wanted was equal opportunity. That's what we wanted. Equal access. Because what I'm finding is that we just didn't have the exposure--
HM: OK.
CR: That they had.
HM: OK we were talking about your, your experiences--
CR: Yeah.
HM: at Winthrop. Do you think the schools that you went to, the elementary and high schools, instilled that--do you remember either consciously or subconsciously being taught that race pride, that you were just as good as white folk and--
CR: Well you know I don't think we ever discussed that. And too when I look at my family background, with having white relatives that I know even, like in my husband's family. His grandfather was the son of a plantation owner. So he grew up knowing his, knowing his--and my husband has great pride in both sides of their family.
HM: OK.
CR: Because they've done things. Having my grandmother always talking about her English grandmother, you know. And just not having that being built in the, the impiety in between white and black.
HM: OK. So you never--
CR: Never really, you know, never--and then Indian. I have a lot of Indian blood. So race--it's hard to hate part of yourself--
HM: Right, right.
CR: you know. I think my teachers were so--the kind of people you wanted to emulate. I can still see Ms. Clark the way she dressed and that she demanded that we dress like ladies and that we conduct ourself. Mr. Lindsay always in a suit and a tie. He was the principal; he was an Indian ancestry. Mrs. Murdy. Very fine lady having gone to Sedalia and always talked softly and just so genteel, just the southern--what we would've thought would've been white characteristics when you talk about southern white women. I was around black women who were genteel.
HM: OK.
CR: And who were kosher. My grandfathers, both of them playing the violin, I mean you know classical music. My grandfather being an artist and putting an eagle on my brother's bed, etching it in the glass in his room.
HM: Oh wow.
CR: You know, just never thinking that I'm any less, not that I'm any more than anybody.
HM: OK.
CR: But never having to think about being any less.
HM: OK.
CR: And also instilling in my children that there's no question about whether or not you're going to school. It's either school or a job. And they chose school. [laughter] I have one that's still in school now.
HM: [laughter]
CR: They're professional scholars, you know. Never thought about that question.
HM: OK.
CR: You know.
HM: So you don't remember growing up like thinking "oh the white kids have better schools" or--
CR: No because at that time it was kinda like, you know when you go downtown to the water park fountain the black fountain and the white fountain. I don't think it made, why was there a difference. I don't think that was ever discussed. And I think part of it too was because my family was self-sufficient and didn't have to depend--
HM: OK.
CR: On white people for their living. They had their own store. My grandfather owned houses. We had cars, you know, televisions. You know, so I don't--I think that made a difference. But also in that neighborhood where I lived the people--even though one man was a ditch digger--I'm trying to think--but Mr. Brown had his own business--they had their own businesses.
HM: OK.
CR: So I think that made a difference. Mrs. Clark's husband had the grocery store; there were beauty parlors; barber shops. So I think that made the difference. We were not made to feel like, made to feel inferior.
HM: OK so separate was never unequal.
CR: No and having the college there and having the Baptist church there.
HM: OK.
CR: The Methodist, you know, being a part of these churches. I guess I was just brought up in an era where we knew our history, we knew who we were, and we knew what we were worth.
HM: OK.
CR: My uncle was the secretary for the North Carolina NAACP for years. And carried me around to these state meetings. And I guess even as a child you don't know that you're learning these things.
HM: Right.
CR: That you're seeing Thurgood Marshall. That you're meeting Charlotte Hawkins Brown who was in school with Mary McLeod Bethune and my grandmother went to school with Mary McLeod Bethune.
HM: Wow.
CR: And so having her to talk about Mary McLeod Bethune--
HM: Right.
CR: you know. Growing--it's just a part of you, you know. Which is something that our children miss and they don't hear now. When you're watching TV--this is with my kids if--Joe Louis came on, you know. Jersey Joe Walcott, you know. I remember I had an aunt--a bet with one of my younger aunts about who was going to win that fight and I won and she was mad.
HM: [laughter]
CR: You know it was just--black history was just everywhere around you all the time.
HM: OK. Sorry I forgot my next question. So when you were at Johnson C. Smith then and you were, you know, I guess your family was involved in NAACP and this came after Brown. Do you remember any political kind of rumblings at Johnson C. Smith around this decision or around kind of changing--
CR: At Johnson C. Smith was Charles Jones.
HM: OK.
CR: Bermitt DeLaine. Edith DeLaine. My freshman year they were and as a matter of fact, I graduated in class with Bermitt and Edith.
HM: OK.
CR: And Charles.
HM: OK. He's a peaceful man.
CR: Davidson College and Johnson C. Smith had dialogues--
HM: OK.
CR: about integration. We went to their campus; they came to our campus. Edith talks about going out in the midwest somewhere where they were taught the strategies of non-violence and coming back to Charlotte. And it was a planned activity if you listened to anything that Charles Jones has said. And I do remember the day that they went down and integrated Ivis.
HM: You do. OK.
CR: Yeah. And you've heard that story.
HM: Right.
CR: So I do remember going down that day.
HM: OK.
CR: But as a rule, and I was at A and T too when they had the sit-in movement.
HM: Oh wow, OK.
CR: Now my whole school protested. We--they were showing the life of Martin Luther King--Martin Luther. So they excused the whole student body to go down and see the movie. Well black students--
HM: I'm sorry, this is when you were at?
CR: At Lutheran.
HM: OK.
CR: And they had to sit up in the balcony. So we protested by not sitting in the balcony, boycotting the movie. Of course the president, who was white, punished the student body [laughter] because he said we lied. We didn't lie; we were going there. At first to see the movie but once--
HM: OK.
CR: we decided we weren't going to take this discrimination anymore. But he didn't do anything but ground everybody for a day or two or--
HM: OK.
CR: something like that. But the school itself, even though it was integrated, the faculty, it was more parentalism.
HM: OK.
CR: You know and I think probably the guys who had been off in service and came back and had traveled and had been around the world knew something wasn't quite--
HM: OK.
CR: kosher there.
HM: OK. So sorry. Tell me more about that day--that's very interesting. You went--that you went to watch the movie.
CR: Yeah and we decided not to. We decided to protest because they were also protesting down with the sit-in with the lunch counters. So here we have the Lutheran student body--
HM: OK
CR: demonstrating against the movie theaters.
HM: So you demonstrated, I mean, you stood outside the movie theater?
CR: Yeah, yeah and refused to go in and said we refused to sit in the balcony. Yeah.
HM: That's interesting.
CR: Yeah.
HM: OK.
CR: And that theater is still there and matter of fact I think that's where they have a museum. Or right in that same block.
HM: OK.
CR: Part of another story I want to tell and I've got to get that done is the fact that here in Clinton College. The Clinton College students also had the sit-in with the Friendship Nine. But Clinton College story has not been told.
HM: OK.
CR: We hear a lot about the Friendship Nine--
HM: Right.
CR: But almost nothing about the students here at Clinton.
HM: So they participated also.
CR: They participated also, yeah.
HM: Interesting.
CR: And also--after I got married, my husband and our family. We were among the first families to integrate the recreation facilities at the Celanese Corporation. Just came to mind talking about that. Being at Lutheran there were two other young men from Concord. We integrated Luther Ridge, which is a Lutheran camp for students.
HM: OK.
CR: So I've done a lot of firsts in terms of desegregation.
HM: OK.
CR: you know.
HM: Wow.
CR: Been real lucky, no violence.
HM: OK.
CR: Yeah kind of thing.
HM: So when you graduated you worked for a bit between Johnson C. Smith and Winthrop.
CR: Yeah. I worked about three years.
HM: So you taught, you taught in segregated schools.
CR: Taught, taught in a segregated school. I was there--
HM: OK. Tell me about that experience.
CR: At the time that I taught black principals had a lot of power. Black principals hired and fired. Unfortunately my first experience was with a principal who didn't want to hire me in the first place but my mother had taught in this system, used her influence--
HM: And this is Rock Hill?
CR: This is Rock Hill.
HM: OK.
CR: And got me the job.
HM: OK.
CR: I didn't even interview for the job. She went down and talked to the superintendent. [laughter] The superintendent gave me a job; I just showed up at the school.
HM: OK.
CR: And of course from the beginning the principal didn't like this. Kind of principal that would if we got paid on Friday--
HM: Uh-huh.
CR: would go cash his check and then give us our check and call a faculty meeting so that, you know, we couldn't get to the bank until Monday. Just a lot of, of power play.
HM: What grade level was this?
CR: This was ninth through twelve.
HM: And then I'm gonna--the tape is about to run out.
CR: Yeah.
HM: So I'm sorry I don't it to get in the middle of it-- [Brief Pause]
HM: So we were talking about your teaching experiences--
CR: Yeah.
HM: In an elementary?
CR: This is a high school.
HM: High school sorry.
CR: And really that--I had a very negative experience there, I really did. That school--the principal, you know back then the principals got principalship for lifetime, you know, kind of thing. The principal who had been there, had been there before him, Mr. Bigurk, they named the auditorium after him. You know he was a different kind of principal and then this principal comes along, who for whatever reason, his philosophy is totally different. So I did not have a good experience and when I became pregnant that second time they would hang your contracts out in the meeting in front of everybody. They'd pass out the contracts. Three of us this year did not get contracts. One was the driver's education teacher; one was the biology teacher; and myself. And the principal said "I've got to go to a funeral and I will see you all later." And this was like at the end of the weekend and the next week I didn't see him and he didn't say anything about my contract. And the other people didn't say anything about their contracts. And the young man decided that he was going to dental school so he did not come back the next year. The driver's ed teacher finally got his. In the meantime I discovered that I was pregnant so when the principal came to give me mine in the office in front of everybody I told him where to put it.
HM: [laughter] And this is a school in--
CR: In the district.
HM: Right OK.
CR: And so what I did was--and then at commencement time the superintendent came to me because he knew that I didn't take that contract and asked me what was I going to do. And I said "Well I think I'm going to go back to school." Because this was right at the integration right, right at the beginning of the integrating the schools. And we knew that those teachers who were--didn't have their masters were going to be weeded out. They were going to use all kind of things to weed us out.
HM: OK.
CR: And I said I was going back to school. And Mr. White said "You don't need to do that."
HM: And he was white.
CR: He was white. "You don't need anymore education." I said "Thank you for the advice."
HM: [laughter]
CR: And I knew that if there was anything he said that I didn't need, I had better hurry up and go get it.
HM: OK.
CR: You know so that was when I decided that I would go back to school.
HM: OK.
CR: And go back and get my master's.
HM: OK.
CR: One of the questions that I was often asked was is the NAACP supporting you. Is it giving you money. No I borrowed this money from my mother.
HM: To go to go to--
CR: To go to go to graduate-
HM: Graduate school.
CR: Summer school.
HM: OK.
CR: Yeah she paid my tuition. That was because they felt like it was some kind of conspiracy.
HM: OK.
CR: I read in a book that somebody has written, he was a Winthrop professor, and he had a line in there. Something about these students being threatening, that somehow or another we threatened them. You know and I just couldn't imagine a 24 year old black woman with two little kids--
HM: Two children right.
CR: Commuting thirty miles or more. You know back and forth. How was I a threat?
HM: Right.
CR: You know but I guess it was a threat to their society.
HM: To the whole structure.
CR: Yeah, yeah. It was a threat--
HM: Right.
CR: you know. And the fact that I could come in and I could compete. And I had people dropping out of the library science program who would stay at home with their mothers. One was a man. And he couldn't keep up with the class work.
HM: And here you were with a family.
CR: Yeah. So I guess we were a threat in a way.
HM: It just smashes the whole--
CR: Yeah.
HM: The whole--
CR: You know.
HM: base of everything.
CR: And my grandfather had--he told me about sleeping in Tillman Hall when they were building it so that he could get the right paint color. They would test the paint and they would have to stay overnight while it dried to make sure that it had the right color. And helping build Tillman Hall. My grandfather helped build Winthrop. You know and I think--just like Shannon Faulkner who went to the Citadel and didn't put her sex. Had they not seen my race and just gotten my application there wouldn't have been any question about it.
HM: Right.
CR: I had the grades. I had the, all of the--I met all of the academic requirements. And that's all they ever should have been looking at--
HM: Right.
CR: for any student.
HM: Right.
CR: I think there've been other black students there before me; they just didn't know they were black.
HM: OK. Probably right.
CR: I always say that I was the first known [laughter] American of African descent. And I heard this recently that you know white South Africans can come to America and say they are African Americans. And we don't think about that. So I started using I'm an American of African descent.
HM: More specific right. [aughter]
CR: Yeah there's a little bit more there. Yeah.
HM: You crack me up. So,so do you--OK looking back on because you've had this amazing experience. You've gone to segregated schools and taught in segregated schools and then taught in desegregated schools. What do you think the--I guess, like the kinda, the legacy of all this. Do you think that as a people we're better off. And what did we lose and what did we gain?
CR: I think what we gained was some access to-for instance Rock Hill has its first African American superintendent of schools.
HM: OK.
CR: So there was some mobility. But at the same time we lost a lot of principals, were demoted. They were made assistance principals when they went to the white high schools.
HM: OK.
CR: A lot of teachers quit rather than integrate. Especially the older experienced teachers because they were unsure; they were uncertain. They didn't want the hassle of doing this. And they were near retirement so they just quit.
HM: OK. CR: So we lost some experienced teachers. I think we lost a lot of our heritage; a lot of our enrichment; a lot of historical sights; these schools that had been torn down.
HM: Did they mostly close [phone rings]-- CR: Oh yeah, they closed them.
HM: OK. CR: For instance Emmett Scott was closed for years and then they reopened it as a community center.
HM: OK. CR: The school up in Catawba. It was a brand new school had only been open a couple of years. When they integrated the schools they closed it down and fumigated it and then reopened it a couple years later, as an integrated school. But you know the white population could not, just like we could be sent, they didn't. We didn't have the reciprocity there across the board. I think we lost the human touch--the hands on. Black teachers hugged their students. I wondered how my mother and my aunt ever taught anybody anything. Because they loved the children. And they petted them. They brought them home. They clothed them; they fed them. I have a student now, a young man who is coming at one o'clock who I became his surrogate mother at Olympic. He calls me mother to this day. You know because if we saw a child had a need. We loved them for who they were.
HM: Right. CR: Not because their mother was a doctor or something. But because we saw that they were valuable as a person and that they could make a contribution. Every child can learn at his own pace or whatever. And our students now. if there are three John Browns in the class they're given numbers. So the children become numbers.
HM: OK. CR: We've lost our identity.
HM: OK. CR; Some teachers and administrators bend over backwards to keep from being called racist and prejudiced and didn't discipline our children.
HM: OK. CR: And so we lost that discipline. We lost the authority figures. So now our children aren't afraid of the police. They're not afraid of the principal, you know. They're not afraid of guns. They're not afraid of anything.
HM: Right. CR: They don't have any respect for authority.
HM: Right. CR: They don't have any lines drawn. We knew at school-we, we were mischievous. But we knew how far to go. There was a line drawn in the sand. At Johnson C. Smith Mama Byron, who taught psychology, if she was going home she didn't drive. Papa Byron had her in that car. She would make him stop that car and she would come over there to that flag pole, if you were sitting up on that flag pole, and you had to get down.
HM: [laughter] CR: Because ladies did not sit up on the flag pole. You know, the matron coming to my grandmother's house; I stayed off campus.
HM: OK. CR: During the Easter break to see what kind of house I lived in. Because they expected the rules in the home where you stayed be comparable to what was on campus. That you were not out at all times of night.
HM: Interesting. CR: You know, that they--the expectation was across the board, the whole community.
HM: OK. CR: You were expected to go to church in college. I mean this was just--I mean there was no question about it. Now these kids come here and I say "We're going to have baccalaureate." And they say "What is baccalaureate." They have not been exposed.
HM: Right. CR: They are first generation college students and their families have not been exposed.
HM: OK. CR: So we have to keep teaching. I said we are going to keep doing it regardless. Other schools may not be doing it but we're going to have ( baccalord ) you know. We just lost so much that we had. Talent shows, you know, in the black schools. Kids who could speak; kids who could draw. They were just--it was there. And when we got into integrated situations, those kids who maybe didn't do well academically and if they were nice and quiet and they didn't bother anybody they just let them sit there. They don't try to look at that child and say "Well he's not participating why is he not participating." One thing the classrooms are too large. If you have 35 little kindergarten children what are you going to do but wipe their noses and take them to the bathroom and tie their shoes all day long, you know.
HM: Right. CR: It's just--and having come from, you know, having seen all--and not, and not all of it's bad. I think teachers now are just so overwhelmed regardless of whether you are black or white. They are just overwhelmed with the paperwork and all of these other things of trying to be a professional. It's just overwhelming. And that's why young people aren't going into teaching. I don't remember, you know, how many people from Winthrop graduated in elementary education the past couple years that I've gone to graduation. Very few. When there other opportunities--when the pay--
HM: Right. CR: that's another thing. And see that was another thing too. In the black school my mother, they paid you on a certificate. My mother had a B certificate and had been teaching for years. I came out--
HM: So what does it mean-- CR: with an A certificate--
HM: What's the difference between--? CR: The pay scale.
HM: OK. CR: So if you had an A certificate you got one salary. If you got a B certificate and I had a girlfriend who had a C or D certificate. Almost paid, got paid less than the janitor.
HM: So how did they decide who got-- CR: By the test.
HM: Oh. CR: You took the test. The National Teacher's Exam.
HM: Oh there's an A test and-- CR: And whatever your score was, they said--
HM: Wow. CR: you know, this was an A score; this was a B score, C score, D score.
HM: Oh I see. CR: So I made more money than my mother with less experience because I had an A certificate.
HM: So when you, you were making, when your mother, you and your mother were both in the school system at the same time. CR: Yeah.
HM: And you were making more than her. CR: Yeah.
HM: Interesting. Do you remember how much you were-- CR: OK. The first, my check was about three hundred and something dollars a month I think.
HM: OK. And this is back in-- CR: In the 1960s. I came to work in I think 1961 or 62 in the Rock Hill schools--
HM: OK. CR: And had that first baby and went to--I guess I'd had baby number two, and went to York School district. And when they gave me my check the first time I sent it back because I thought they had made an error because I had two years of teaching experience. But the districts paid different. Rock Hill paid more than York.
HM: OK. CR: And Fort Mill I think paid more because Springs Industry--
HM: OK. CR: gave money to the school so they had more. So I really thought York had made a mistake I said I've got experience and I got this check. And my poor girlfriend was at the bottom of the totem pole--
HM: [laughter] CR: And commuting, left and went to Richmond, Virginia where they did not require the tests and made much more money than I did.
HM: Oh. CR: And there were several people who did that.
HM: Interesting. CR: Who went to either Georgia or Princess Anne County in Virginia and made--
HM: OK. CR: more money in Richmond. Yeah.
HM: Interesting. CR: So they have lots of ways of controlling us economically.
HM: OK. CR: You know and teach--bout all you could do was be a teacher or a preacher. And a few people got into nursing, you know and now and then there'd be a black doctor. But now, our children have so many opportunities and it's disconcerting that they don't take advantage of it. And that's the part that's, and maybe they will--they are slow learners. Students now, they are about 30 years old I've decided before they reach the end of adolescence. When I was coming along at fourteen and fifteen I knew what I was going to do.
HM: OK. CR: And I knew where I was going to go to school. There was--I didn't, well I didn't have a choice my mother told me "You are going to Johnson C. Smith." [laughter] OK. I wanted to go to Petu and my aunt said that was too far away if I got sick.
HM: [laughter] CR: I said they have a school of medicine.
HM: [laughter] CR: But anyway.
HM: That's funny. Oh my goodness. CR: And I think we're laughing and I think you have to be able to laugh at it; otherwise you would be crying.
HM: Oh yeah, absolutely. CR: When I look back, and I must tell you this. When I went to Charlotte Mecklenburg, I went to Alexander Street, which is a school and matter of fact I thought I had was a black plague because every school I went to for the first few years they closed it. Bethune, Isabella Wyche, Matthews, Questalia you know and they were talking about closing West Charlotte when I finally went out to Olympic. But at Alexander Street the principal there, at the first meeting he said "These are the school policies, the school system policies. These are my policies for this school." One, if you're going to be late you need to call. If you are going to be out and you're not coming back the next day you need to call and let me know because when you get to the classroom there was a sub in your class if you didn't call. He had one faculty meeting at the beginning of the year.
HM: OK. CR: And he gave out everything. After then you got a memo in your box each Monday morning or Friday afternoon so you'd know what's going on. If there was a problem that teacher was called in.
HM: OK. CR: There was no gossiping in this school. Everybody was on time. Everybody did a good job. It was one of the--if I had had worked in that school the first year that I worked I would've not had a bad taste in my mouth.
HM: OK. CR: About teaching.
HM: And what year, what year-- CR: This would've been in--I went there in 1964, 1965 I think. Yeah, I think--this was after I had gone to Winthrop.
HM: OK. CR: Because I had been applying for a job in Charlotte and couldn't even get an interview. And my advisor at Winthrop calls up the director Dr. Horra calls up Gertrude Coward who is the Director of Libraries in Charlotte and said "I have a student who needs a job". And I went to work at Charlotte-Mecklenburg. That's one advantage. That's one advantage of going into a desegregated situation is it opened doors.
HM: Right. CR: Even though I had graduated from Johnson C Smith, couldn't get an interview even. [phone ringing]
HM: Interesting. CR: But I--
HM: So it was integrated but they-- CR: Well it's who you know.
HM: Right. CR: It's pretty much like how it is now.
HM: And that's what access-- CR: Yeah its access.
HM: It's all about access. CR: It's about access yeah. It's about access.
HM: Interesting. CR: And that's all we wanted was access.
HM: Right, right. CR: And I think--somebody I heard, listening to talk radio, was saying that the schools never should have been given the responsibility of desegregating the society.
HM: Oh I heard that too. CR: Yeah.
HM: I get to have a-- CR: Yeah because when we're doing--with the desegregation of the schools came the desegregation of the housing. And all of these other things followed the Brown. But schools were not prepared to do it totally.
HM: Right. CR: And to have all of these problems.
HM: Right. CR: And they still aren't. If I were a power that could be, I would change the teacher education program. Because I said we don't let people practice--doctors, brain surgeons, practice on your brains without some practice--we don't give him the scalpel the first day. And here these teachers, young teachers are coming out and they're messing with these children's minds. And they can turn them on or turn them off.
HM: Right. CR: OK so we need a whole year. When you go out to do your student teaching they give you the best teacher they have. The best disciplinarian. So you don't have a problem. So when you walk into your classroom the first day and you see these 35 people sitting up here expecting you to be wonder-woman and entertain them all day long. And you've got all these different physical problems, all of these different mental problems, all of these social problems. You know it's a miracle that anybody stays past the first week.
HM: Right. CR: I have been in a school where the person went home the first day. [laughter] You know because it's just too much. And we're not, we're not training the people to--they have the academics but they don't know how to relate. And even when I look back on mine you know, I had no idea that sixth grade kids, that there would be kids reading on the first grade level, the second grade. I thought everybody read on the same level. I mean, what did I know. And I made them all read on the same level too. [laughter] Because I had a parent just like my brother, was terrified of his teacher, I had a parent tell me too that this little girl in my class--she never caused any trouble and she said "Mrs. Roddey, she is scared to death of you." And I said "What? [laughter] She's a beautiful child she never causes any trouble." That's why.
HM: Because she's scared. CR: Because she's scared.
HM: Oh my goodness. CR: You know and I just said well go to page so and so and everybody was learning on that page. Because and high expectations.
HM: Right. CR: I expected them to learn. Now they don't expect the children to learn.
HM: And do you think you got that in segregated schools? CR: Yeah I think I got that. That I mean this--you aren't going to make any less than A. You know and as far as I can remember most of the kids in my class had A's and B's. You know now and then a C but most of us had A's and B's. I don't remember anybody failing. You know and at Lutheran the biggest fight I ever had was with my roommate while I was there because I was always on the dean's list and I said "Well if you would stay in your room and do your lessons you could be too". [laughter] And that thing about we got this attitude it wasn't cool to be academic.
HM: Right. CR: You know we have kids who have that now. When back then it wasn't cool to be an athlete.
HM: Interesting, ok. CR: You know it played a part but it was not the focus you know. This young man that's coming to see me, brilliant athlete. He was recruited in junior high school. He went on to play for the Jets and the Cowboys.
HM: Oh wow. CR: You know but he could have excelled. He had a learning problem, but because he was a jock on the campus, they didn't put him in the special ed classes.
HM: OK. They just kind of pushed them through. CR: Yeah kind of pushed him through. Except with me.
HM: OK. CR: You know I've always, you can learn it you are going to get this algebra. I had to teach him algebra during lunchtime because you know he was full of himself. And once he said he can't come to my classroom but so I took my lunchtime to teach him math. But we don't have teachers now who are willing to take that extra time to give up their lunch time. They beat the kids to the cars. [laughter] Kids better watch out; they'll get run over.
HM: [laughter] CR: You know. Even here and the kids fuss about it because almost every year I have a child, "That's right; you don't have time for us, you're with Shirley." Well Shirley needs extra help.
HM: OK. CR: Even on the college level now. You know if you go to a state school, who's going to take time with you.
HM: Right. CR: And I have a kid "Dr. Roddey I need your email address" he's going to email his papers back to me to correct. [laughter]
HM: Right. CR: And I guess that's good. I guess it's a compliment.
HM: It is. CR: It's a compliment and I enjoy it. I never wanted to teach but I think and lately I'm probably born a teacher.
HM: OK. CR: You know, and I do enjoy it and I fuss about it and go on but. You know graduation and seeing those kids' faces on Saturday. Kids who came here who thought "I ain't doing nothing; I ain't going no where." Four year scholarship to Johnson C. Smith University. You know he's going to Johnson C. Smith; he's going to some school down in Georgia. This child's going to Hunter College, coming from Clinton you know.
HM: Wow. CR: And will do well. George Babble is a graduate. You know George Babbel--Bishop Babbel.
HM: Oh yeah OK. CR: He was on the school board he's a graduate of Clinton.
HM: How funny. CR: Yeah.
HM: Wow. Wow, that's impressive. CR: Yeah.
HM: Neat. Alright, well I guess we should on that note end. And I want to thank Dr. Roddey for her wonderful interview.
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