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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Edna Y. Hargett, July 19, 1979. Interview H-0163. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Class distinctions and expectations in Charlotte, North Carolina

Here, Hargett explains that it was not until she moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, that she became more aware of class distinctions. Whereas other places her family had lived had been occupied by other mill families, Hargett indicates that there was more interaction with people of different socioeconomic classes in Charlotte. One thing that Hargett argues drew attention to class distinction was the expectation that the children of mill workers would leave school at the age of sixteen so that they could begin to work as well. The excerpt concludes with Hargett explaining that although she had aspired to become a stenographer, she ultimately had no choice but to follow social expectations and become a mill worker out of economic necessity.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Edna Y. Hargett, July 19, 1979. Interview H-0163. 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

Jim Leloudis: Did anybody ever call you a linthead while you were a child?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
No. I never heard that name until I came up here. Jim Leloudis: Until you came to Charlotte.
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Yes. Jim Leloudis: That's interesting, because we noticed that Charlotte really seems to be a place where that was used quite often. When did you first hear it? What happened that. . . .
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
I don't remember any special occasion about when I first heard that. And they called us nappy heads, because we'd come out there and we'd have lint and cotton all in our heads. Jim Leloudis: Did you feel like there was a real difference between people that lived in North Charlotte and people that lived in town? Did you feel like there was any kind of division between them?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Yes, I reckon there was, because, like I said, we worked in the mill, and we didn't have the conveniences the other people had. We were very conscious of that. Jim Leloudis: How did that make you feel?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Kind of an inferiority complex. Jim Leloudis: Did you feel that maybe you somehow weren't as good as those other people?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
No, we felt like we wasn't dressed as nice, because most of our clothes were made out of gingham. When we went to school, most of the children wore clothes that their parents had made for them and all. I don't think there was much of a difference there except that whenever a mill child got sixteen, they had to go in the mill and the others didn't. We knew that was the way of life we was brought up, and that would be the way of life we had to expect. Jim Leloudis: How did you feel about having to expect that?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Like I told you, I wanted to be a stenographer, and when we went to Charleston I thought I'd found time for it then, and I went to that Hughes Business School, but I didn't get to finish the course, and when we went to Burlington then they didn't have a business school there, so I just dropped it altogether. Jim Leloudis: How did it make you and other children feel when somebody would call you a nappy head or a linthead?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
I don't remember ever being called that, but I have heard it, and we knew what it meant. Jim Leloudis: Do you ever remember children getting angry or kind of revolting against that idea that they would have to go in the mill like their parents had?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
No, I can't say that I do, because we always expected a way of life just the way we was reared, and that's the way we expected it to be. Of course, I must have a little bit of a revolting in me, because I wanted to be a stenographer so bad, but I didn't get to go to high school.