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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Annie Mack Barbee, May 28, 1979. Interview H-0190. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Barbee highly values education

Because her father feared that she would be sexually assaulted on the walk to and from school, he forced Barbee to quit school before she wanted to do so. She describes how she tried to continue her own education even after she stopped attending classes.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Annie Mack Barbee, May 28, 1979. Interview H-0190. 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

BEVERLY JONES:
Okay, and you went to—in regard to education, what grade did you go to?
ANNIE MACK BARBEE:
Seventh. I hate it, but that's where I stopped at.
BEVERLY JONES:
Okay, so that means on the farm you went to school.
ANNIE MACK BARBEE:
Oh yes. [END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A] [TAPE 1, SIDE B] [START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
ANNIE MACK BARBEE:
It got so dangerous. He would let us stay with his mother in town.
BEVERLY JONES:
What do you mean by dangerous?
ANNIE MACK BARBEE:
Walking on the highway, you know, people picking up girls and things. We had to walk so far.
BEVERLY JONES:
Was there a lot of assaults against women in this time period?
ANNIE MACK BARBEE:
Maybe not. But he didn't trust 'em. Especially on white picks. You know, old white men riding down the highway and stuff.
BEVERLY JONES:
Were they known for stopping women?
ANNIE MACK BARBEE:
Well, he said they was. So he said it was too far for us to walk and he didn't have no way to carry us back and forth every morning and pick us up in the afternoon. He let us stay with his mother any time and go to school, then go home every Friday.
BEVERLY JONES:
So the school was in town.
ANNIE MACK BARBEE:
Yes, lord, right in her back door. Oh let me see, how far was that school from grandmomma and them. About as far as from here to Miss Jones. Go right through their back gate and there's the school.
BEVERLY JONES:
So did you have a black teacher or a white teacher?
ANNIE MACK BARBEE:
Oh yeah.
BEVERLY JONES:
You had a black?
ANNIE MACK BARBEE:
Black, all black.
BEVERLY JONES:
Oh.
ANNIE MACK BARBEE:
Though, I shouldn't say it, but I always—not so much as I did in my early years—I've always regretted that I didn't continue some type of education, you know, after. Even though, although working in the factory—it's no excuse. I could've gone and gone to school at night. I can remember every teacher I had mostly. Miss Reynolds, she was one of 'em. I'm going to tell you something about the school now. I can remember more about after poppa let us go back home to his mother and father. I can remember more of that school period than I did in the beginning, the earlier time when they both were living. This part, after mother died, and we went back to live with his mother and father, now that part …
BEVERLY JONES:
What year was that about?
ANNIE MACK BARBEE:
Oh, she died in twenty-five, twenty-six or something like that I guess. But we did go to school down there. I don't—might two or three years out there. Now I can really remember that part of it. Used to have spelling matches. And I can remember, I'd sit up at night, and fractions—oh. Granddaddy and I—I always betted on him to teach me, not knowing, he didn't know. And I would sit up at night, and I loved arithmetic. I've always loved it, from a child. And I began to get in fractions and I wanted him to help me. And then they were making answers in the back of the book. You know about that don't you? Honey, I'd get that lamp, and grandma would just fuss. He'd say, leave her alone. He believed in education. Of course he didn't sent his children, but he believed in it. And I said, granddaddy. He said, what you on? I said, fractions. I said, I can't get it. He said, keep on working, is there answers in the back of the book. I said yeah. He said, you go to the back of the book and get them answers, compare 'em with yours. Honey I worked with them fractions and worked. Finally one night it dawned on me. I said, this is no good. I was getting answers out of the back of the book. I said, I've got to get it for myself. So I began to work those fractions from memory. Now honey, I worked on them. Miss Reynolds said, Ann. I said, Ann. She said, you got your lesson? I said, yes I have. She said, you got your fractions? I said yes, I got it. And ooh, you should've seen her face. She said, you mean, she said, I didn't tell you to do three pages. I said, I did five. It got good to me. And honey, I mean, fractions, ooh I worked. Lord have mercy. Of course I hated I didn't go on in spelling. I'd get to the head of the line. She says, okay I'm going to start off with you Annie. You lead it off. And honey I'd be standing there spelling and somebody would just pinch me, whisper in my ear. And she said, no you don't, no you don't. "Whisper in my ear, whisper in my ear." "No you don't." They would be telling me to whisper so you know, they would know they was next. She'd say, "No you don't." And they'd spell and sit down, spell and sit down. And honey, those children got angry at me… One boy offered to whip me. I had to go home and get granddaddy. Because they was having tests and I would help her correct the papers when we were having tests. She said, we're going to have a test tomorrow Annie. She said, I know you know yours. She said, I want you to go over these papers and get the tests ready for the girls the next day, girls and boys. And Herbert Gamber knew I was helping her. He told me, he said, if I don't [laughter] , if I don't hand some answers under them school steps, I'm going to whip your ass. Scared me to death. I wouldn't tell the teacher, I told granddaddy. He said, yeah that old Gamber boy, he said, he's dumb and lazy. I said, he told me to put the answers under the steps, 'cause if I didn't he was going to whip me. Honey. And that's okay. So what time the test start. She said the test started about ten o'clock, children come in. Different children in different groups. Here come Herbert. Granddaddy went out there. He said, what you want Herbert. "Nothing, nothing." Grandaddy said, what you want. He said, now you going into school? He said, "yes I am." He said, "Annie's going in there too. And I'm going in there." Scared him to death. He told me, he said if you don't put the answers on the test that she going to have tomorrow, he said, I'm coming here and I'm going to whip your ass. No, no, big strong boy. I knowed he would have torn me up. So she had the test and Herbert didn't get nothing but D, D, D, D. And I was afraid of him, I ain't going to tell you no lie. Now I was actually afraid of him. So granddaddy said, don't be afraid of him. So unbeknownst to me he went and told Miss Reynolds the teacher. She said, okay, I'll fix that. And the teacher said, "Herbert, class is dismissed. You go out there and get in that buggy and go home. Right now." I loved—now that's the part I enjoyed in school I enjoyed those last few years of school after we left. You know, after poppa carried—we had to live with them. That's the last period of my schooling. I really enjoyed it. I was beginning to get the hang of it, you know. And I really, really enjoyed school. I just hated I didn't go on. Now if I had gone, my field would have been mathematics. 'Cause I love it. I'm not bragging Beverly, I'm not bragging at all. Louise never did like arithmetic. And now she says, "Momma." I say, Louise that's wrong. I says, Louise, learn to count money in your head. She says, "Momma, how do you get this to work." I said, no, count it in your head. And it would make her so mad. [laughter] She would get real angry. I said, honey, I'm glad I do know how—I have to handle poppa's money and mine. I said, if I didn't know how to handle it, I'd be burned up. And I said, that's what I want you to learn. To learn how to handle money. I said, learn how to handle money. Sometime you're in a place, you ain't got time to get a pencil and a piece of paper. I said, rattle it off in your head. I said, just memorize it. So I'd give her so and so and so and so and so and so and so and just memorize it. And I said, whenever she don't give you the change don't leave, I said count it right there before her. I had to make her go out there to buy a record one day and I was sitting out there in the shopping center. And she said momma, she said I gave him so and so and so. I said, oh, to that there boy up yonder. She said, yeah. I said, now you go in there. I'm not going to say nothing to him. I said, you go in there. She said, I gave. He said, yeah, here it is. She won't thinking. She threw out a whole dollar. I said, I'm not going to be with you always. I said, you hand the man a ten dollar bill, I said you have in your memory what that thing costs. I said, and tax, I said, girl you better know what tax. I said, four cent on the dollar. Can't you put four cent on ten dollars or whatever it is. It's in your head. You ain't got time to get no pencil. I done breaking it with her about that money. I'd been really working with her about that money. I said learn how to calculate what you're doing in your head. 'Cause I can really do it. I ain't bragging on myself. No, I can do it, I can really do it. I'm getting older now, my memory on that ain't as good as it used to be. But honey, if you cheat me, you're the good one. I ain't lying. But that would have been my field, I'm just telling you. Had I gone to school it would have been mathematics. I love it.