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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Marguerite Tolbert, June 14, 1974. Interview G-0062. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Learning new ways to interact with black colleagues

The president of Winthrop College asked Tolbert to lead teaching demonstrations for all the white and black teachers in Charleston, South Carolina. The work load was heavy but satisfying. Tolbert interacted with black colleagues for the first time and had to adjust to calling black teachers by respectful titles.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Marguerite Tolbert, June 14, 1974. Interview G-0062. 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

MARGUERITE TOLBERT:
I was invited to Charleston for a week. They wrote Dr. D. B. Johnson, President of Winthrop, to send them somebody who could help evaluate their school program, discuss their testing program, who would step on the stage before all the teachers of the county for demonstrations, and who would also work miracles with the Negroes. That was a big assignment for one week.
CONSTANCE MYERS:
Yes, what year was that?
MARGUERITE TOLBERT:
Oh . . .
CONSTANCE MYERS:
What decade?
MARGUERITE TOLBERT:
I'll tell you. That was when I was first at Winthrop and I would say it was in the early 1920's. Dr. Johnson chose me. I had never seen Charleston, even though I was teaching at the training school. Think of that! My own state. I made the trip to Charleston enthusiastically. Washington Green Pringle met me. They treated me like a king. I worked as hard as I ever worked in my life and I gave demonstrations on the stage with thirty children. I cut it to thirty because you couldn't have more than thirty chairs on the stage. And they say, We want a demonstration in math. We want a demonstration in the social sciences. We want at least one lesson in spelling. How do you do that up at the training school at Winthrop? And I never gave so abundantly or so enthusiastically or stayed up as late at night. When it was over, they gave me a big party and a ticket to the Gardens! That was one of the highlights. I had never seen Middleton and Magnolia Gardens, but I did for the first time. They also gave me a sampling of some delectable low country food. Then they put me on the train, Sunday night after a week, and gave me a giant pecan log. I'd never heard of a pecan log, famous Charleston candy. I came on to Columbia, spent the night in the station and got into Rock Hill the next day about ten-thirty. But that experience was something to write home about. But my experience with the Charleston Negroes was exciting. I'd never worked with the Negroes, and before I left Dr. Johnson asked: Can you call them 'mister' and 'misses.' I said, I never have. He said, Well, call 'em 'professor' if you can, because you must be professional. And when the Negroes gave me a piece of chalk, they'd put a piece on a little scrap of paper on their hand and the chalk was on it and presented it to me while I was demonstrating the class to the teachers. Those were days, very different.