Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Ruth Vick, 1973. Interview B-0057. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Growing up in segregated Georgia

Vick recalls attending an all-black high school in Cedartown, Georgia, in the early 1930s. The school did not offer a twelfth grade, so if a black student wanted a high school diploma, he or she had to go elsewhere. Despite this sign of disinterest or hostility, Cedartown desegregated without trouble, black and white families lived together without incident, and Vick does not remember any outright enmity.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Ruth Vick, 1973. Interview B-0057. 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

RUTH VICK:
Right. They didn't have but eleven grades. Everybody had to go away to finish that last year [laughter] , except the …
JACQUELYN HALL:
Both the white kids and the black kids?
RUTH VICK:
No. They had separate schools. They had a school for white and a school for negro.
BOB HALL:
Separate and unequal.
RUTH VICK:
Right. The whites could finish high school there. But the last year all of us had to go away to finish high school.
JACQUELYN HALL:
To a boarding school?
RUTH VICK:
My last year I spent with one of my older sisters in Bainbridge, Georgia. Her husband was the assistant principal of the high school there. The youngest sister, who's right under me, was the only one able to finish high school there; they had added that twelfth grade, so of course she went. But all the others had to go away. Now our two older sisters did board in to finish high school right here in Atlanta.
JACQUELYN HALL:
A lot of kids must have been hindered from ever finishing school by that.
RUTH VICK:
They were, because a lot of them never finished.
BOB HALL:
Was that one of the reasons why they didn't put in a twelfth grade?
RUTH VICK:
I don't know why they didn't.
BOB HALL:
So that black people wouldn't have a high school education.
JACQUELYN HALL:
[Laughter]
RUTH VICK:
That's a reason but you see, we were too stupid at that point to realize that this was something they were doing to us. Oddly enough, they integrated the schools there without any suit, without anybody saying anything. They took the elementary white school and made it a junior high for all the kids. They took the negro school and made an elementary school for all the kids. They built a brand new high school for all the kids. And they're being bussed all sorts of ways, because the people are living here, there, everywhere. It's just not the negroes living off in one section; it isn't like that. We visited there last year. My sister from Virginia was down and hadn't been there for years, and they just wanted to run on down one day. So we rode down there and saw . But it was written up in the paper.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When did they do that?
RUTH VICK:
About four years ago. They just decided They got together and did it, and they didn't have any problem at all. They never had a fight or anything.
BOB HALL:
Is that Adamson family?
RUTH VICK:
No, he's long been left there and dead. His wife died even before we left there. And some other guy came in; I'm sure he's dead now. He would have been on the way to a hundred years old. I'm sure he's not still alive. I think they've even closed up the hotel; I don't think they have a hotel there anymore.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was there just a small black community there?
RUTH VICK:
There weren't as many negroes as whites, by any means, but I don't know the ratio. The population was about ten or eleven thousand when we were there. I don't think it's grown that much, but they have done a little bit about building up around the area. And we didn't even think to ask about any industry or what had happened. But we noted that there were quite a few blacks as well as whites building real beautiful homes. They were expanding the areas around, and they were building, and it was quite pretty. But they haven't done anything to the downtown area.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was it unusual for a black family to live in the middle of a white neighborhood?
RUTH VICK:
Sort of, I think. Not too much, because my mother said before my father moved there and all of us were born there, right at that particular place, they had lived on another street where there were about eight or ten white families, and nobody ever said anything. And we did own our home. And of course I think all the other people in the area owned their homes, maybe except one person. But I don't think it was [unusual].
JACQUELYN HALL:
But you pretty much just grew up not having any real …
RUTH VICK:
No, we didn't know anything about it. We thought it was sort of odd when we got ready to go to school, but we never paid any attention to it, not at all.