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Author: Griffin, Arthur, interviewee
Interview conducted by Grundy, Pamela
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Mike Millner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2006
Size of electronic edition: 148 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2006.
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The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2006-00-00, Celine Noel and Wanda Gunther revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2006-04-06, Mike Millner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of sound recording: Oral History Interview with Arthur Griffin, May 7, 1999. Interview K-0168. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series K. Southern Communities. Southern Oral History Program Collection (K-0168)
Author: Pamela Grundy
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Arthur Griffin, May 7, 1999. Interview K-0168. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series K. Southern Communities. Southern Oral History Program Collection (K-0168)
Author: Arthur Griffin
Description: 170 Mb
Description: 41 p.
Note: Interview conducted on May 7, 1999, by Pamela Grundy; recorded in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by Unknown.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series K. Southern Communities, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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Interview with Arthur Griffin, May 7, 1999.
Interview K-0168. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Griffin, Arthur, interviewee


Interview Participants

    ARTHUR GRIFFIN, interviewee
    PAMELA GRUNDY, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
ARTHUR GRIFFIN:
. . . Pam Grundy, talking about Second Ward High School, Charlotte's first colored high school.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
That's right, and it is the 7th of May, 1999.
ARTHUR GRIFFIN:
At 7:39 in the morning.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
All right. I guess just start, before you get to Second Ward, with where you grew up.
ARTHUR GRIFFIN:
I was born in Good Samaritan Hospital, which was located on the site where Ericcson Stadium is currently located. It was located on Mint Street. I grew up on 6th Street, which is in First Ward. I entered public schools in 1954. That was called Alexander Street Elementary School. That was, I guess, the colored elementary school at that time for folk that lived on that part of the city, which was the eastern part of the city?—I'm not real sure about the directions right now. I went to Alexander Street, and black people that lived on the other side, in Brooklyn, went to what's called Myers Street. So I did know a little about that. And I went to Alexander Street up until about the 4th grade. At that time, the upper end of First Ward, Ninth Street, Tenth Street, Brevard Street, that was white. The southern part of First Ward was black. Davidson Street, Alexander Street, the McDowell Street was black. So as whites sort of migrated or left the area, they left what's now the First Ward Elementary School. It was an older school, but when we moved to Alexander Street to First Ward, we thought it was a brand new school because conditions are so much different with regard to quality of facility. That's why this whole desegregation thing was really unique. Simply because First Ward Elementary was an older school, but their facilities, their books and everything were a hell of a lot better than the facilities

Page 2
at Alexander Street. As a matter of fact, going to Alexander Street, since all of the black kids had to go to one school, we had a double shift, and you would go to school from 8 to 12, and another shift would come in at 12 o'clock and would go from 12 to 4. And that went on until the guys who went to First Ward—it was like being delivered and going to Heaven. Going to First Ward, and living in First Ward, you'd be blind, deaf, dumb, not to know about Second Ward, because there was an event called the Queen City Classic, and that was like a huge homecoming. And living in First Ward, walking to what was called the Park Center—now it's called Grady Cole Center—it was the Charlotte Armory, at one point while I was growing up, then they changed it to Park Center. But you could just walk up Seventh Street, [unclear] Sixth Street, and walk all the way up to the Park Center. And right behind Park Center was Memorial Stadium, which was this huge event for little kids—to even think about looking at something as great as the Queen City Classic, which was your two black high schools, West Charlotte versus Second Ward. And it would fill up Memorial Stadium. So for us growing up, I mean, that was the event. All these black people just filling up a big huge arena, it was just unheard of. So every year you'd just wait till the Queen City Classic. Growing up, Second Ward was the school closest to my home, although it was a couple of miles to get there, a mile and a half, two miles to get to Second Ward. You just grew up knowing you were going to go to Second Ward High School. As I said, I entered school in '54, so I graduated from elementary school in 1960 and went to Second Ward. Second Ward was 7th grade to 12th grade when I was there. And urban renewal came about in Charlotte in the middle and late '50s. So we knew some things were going on because you could read in the paper where some places, people were telling, "You got to tear these houses down, they're not safe, decent and sanitary by the government's standards." And so it never dawned on me that they were going to tear First Ward down. It was like, oh, some of these places over by Brooklyn

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was going to be torn down, and I didn't really—I wasn't clued in to politics at that time. I mean, seventh grade, it's like, I don't know what's happening. Also, in the sixties, of course, you had John F. Kennedy being shot and stuff. But right before that, we were told that Second Ward was going to be rebuilt. Now, I'm just a youngster at that time, probably 9th grade, I'm not real sure if I was in—9th, 10th grade. And there were drawings, because somebody decided that this would be a governmental center, a plaza, and that Second Ward would be rebuilt as a vocational high school. The community voted, in a bond referendum here in Mecklenburg County, in '62 or '63 to rebuilt Second Ward High School. However, at the same time, discussions about school desegregation as a result of the Brown decision, and folk would move out to West Charlotte. Black professionals moved out into University Park. C.D. Spangler had first built Double Oaks Apartments, and then University Parks Homes. And a lot of middle class or upper middle class blacks were continuing to move in that direction. I guess going to West Charlotte. And I still don't know to this very day—I guess you'd have to talk to Darius Swann or Julius Chambers to really get that history-but our perception was that those kids, the brightest black kids, the most affluent black kids, really had second-class resources. There was absolutely no question about what we had at Second Ward; they were truly second-class, even to West Charlotte. It was sort of the school for kids who weren't that affluent in the African-American community. That's why when you said you were going to do the story about West Charlotte, "What about Second Ward?" We didn't have a whole lot of money and political clout, but we got some political clout and money now.
Second Ward, we really felt that the school was going to rebuild, and I really didn't think otherwise. But I did know, because some of my friends were being forced to move, because they lived in Brooklyn, I knew something was going on about urban renewal.

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Didn't know a whole lot, but friends would say, "Yeah, we're moving to Biddlesville," or "We're moving to Smallwood, off Jones Ferry Road around Johnson C. Smith." And as we continued to go through Second Ward, I think all the way up—I think even when I graduated, there were still hope and discussions about rebuilding, because they had the money. The community had voted for the money, and I thought that was just unique. I left Second Ward on a scholarship, going to North Carolina A&T, but I flunked out of A&T because I didn't pay attention to what I was supposed to do. I was just sort of somewhere in the stratosphere, trying to figure out who Arthur Griffin was. I came back home, worked at Federal Reserve for a little while, probably a year and a half. Got drafted. Went into the military. Went to a military school within the military, I got commissioned, and stayed in the military until I ETS-ed out of Vietnam in 1971. I came back to Charlotte, I went back to school, got a job, but by that time—of course, I heard while in the military that 1969 was the last class from Second Ward, and that I think it was torn down that summer, or the very next summer. They actually bulldozed the administration building, a number of the classroom buildings, but they left standing one of the renovated wings that dealt with science, and they left the gym, and even today the library, the science wing, which was a new wing, and the old gym still stands as the Metro School. It's certainly been renovated a couple more times since then.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Do you remember when you first heard that Second Ward had been closed?
ARTHUR GRIFFIN:
I remember. We thought that it was the utmost in betrayal, because no one had indicated at any time that the school was going to be closed. The best news we had received was that the students were having contests, trying to decide what's the name of the school. What was the new name going to be? And I've even looked through school board minutes, back in the late '60s, where students came before the board of education and suggested that the school be called

Page 5
Metropolitan High School. So even up to the very last moment, students, families in the community felt, and were promised, that the school would continue. And not until many many years later, and even now, going back, reading the case, the Swann desegregation lawsuit, it became a casualty of the lawsuit. And this is an opinion, although it's not written anywhere, but certainly a lot of older people who were around at the time have shared the same opinion, when we were talking about school desegregation, which were the closest schools to desegregate with Second Ward? I don't know if you—are you familiar with Charlotte at all?
PAMELA GRUNDY:
I wouldn't be familiar enough to know which would be the closest.
ARTHUR GRIFFIN:
The closest school is Myers Park. Myers Park would have been desegregated, so you'd have white students from Myers Park coming to Second Ward, and students from Second Ward going to Myers Park. And I think, like in many other decisions back then, folks just said, "No, we're not going to a school that looks like this." Because a school was not in great repair, didn't have nearly the things that Myers Park High School had. And I just believe that economics decided that, no, this one's going to close, our kids, if they go anywhere, might go to West Charlotte. And that's what happened, ultimately. The kids around the east, over in the Myers Park area, were assigned to West Charlotte High School as opposed to Second Ward. Whereas it would have been a shorter trip and a whole lot of other things had they been paired with Second Ward. But the politics just didn't make it. I think we just were on a losing end. As I said to you earlier, Second Ward didn't have all the affluent African Americans, and a lot of the African Americans that were somewhat affluent were being urban removed to the west side. And it left, generally, the lower-income African Americans around Second Ward, around First Ward, and around Brooklyn, to the very, very end. Because ultimately they started to urban renew First Ward, and they moved my family from First Ward to Fairview Homes, so that tells you about the

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economic level of Arthur Griffin's family as opposed to moving into a new home somewhere on the west side. So it was a sense of betrayal. We had—Dr. Grigsby was the principal for a very long time, then Dr. Spencer Durant was the principal for a long time. When I started in 7th grade, Dr. Durant was the principal. And up until about the 10th grade, I believe, 10th or 11th grade, he left, and Dr. E. E. Waddell became the principal. So there's always been a sense that something must have been said, because Dr. E. E. Waddell's brother—he has a twin brother—was Vernon Sawyer's deputy director, or deputy whatever it is, of the whole urban renewal program. So it's always in the back of my head that perhaps he knew something about what was going to occur to that area of the city. But I'm not real sure if he knew. But it's just in the back of my head: this guy's twin brother's working for the city's arms that's going for the entire black community, wiping it out, then maybe they could have talked. But I don't really know if that occurred. Just a sense of betrayal and loss, because that's all I've ever thought about. When we were urban removed, for example, over to Fairview Homes, the public housing community, off of Oaklawn Avenue, that was West Charlotte's attendance area. But I continued to want to go to Second Ward, despite being in West Charlotte's attendance area, and I paid my ten cents every morning to ride the Duke Power buses back across town and go to Second Ward.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
What was so special about Second Ward that made you want—?
ARTHUR GRIFFIN:
I grew up wanting to go to Second Ward. And just watching the older kids in the neighborhood, in terms of going to Second Ward, being in the band, cheerleaders. It was just—it was like, that's where I wanted to go. I mean, I just couldn't fathom going anywhere else. And at a certain point in my life, and particularly because of the upheaval in the community, you know, that was like roots. Not only did I have to move to a different community and go into a different school, that was like roots for me. You forced me to move to Fairview Homes, but if I have a

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choice, at least I'll retain my friends at Second Ward. So I just stayed at Second Ward, and then—I think it was the best decision I could have made.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
What was it like to go to Second Ward High School?
ARTHUR GRIFFIN:
What was it like to go to Second Ward High School? It was great. It was a big school. Going from elementary school to a high school, from grades 7 through 12, I mean, you know, we have grades 9 through 12 here in public schools. But, you know, all your friends were there. You go, you go early in the morning, you'd walk to school—they wouldn't—black kids in the city didn't have school buses. White kids did, though. Some of them. And we walked to school every day. You'd walk to school with the same crowd, you had your little stores you'd stop by and buy your candy for two or three cents. They had penny Tootsie rolls back then. You can't buy a penny Tootsie roll at this point. I mean a big one, not just a little midget piece. And you'd stop on corners, you'd talk to the store owners, they'd get to know you. And you'd just walk. And it would rain, you'd all laugh about how you're all wet, because there were no school buses and you had to walk and your parents didn't have any car to drive you. And when you get to school, you'd play before the first period, you'd goof off, you'd see your friends. And you'd cry together when there were problems, because we lost a lot of friends. They were lost through some violent acts. You lost friends through dropout. You lost friends through pregnancy, teen pregnancies. Probably almost fifty percent, not quite fifty percent, almost fifty percent of the kids I grew up with, in terms of first grade, second grade, third grade, by the time we graduated, they were gone. For one reason or another. And I always tell people, "Notwithstanding what you say now, there has been progress since segregation, in terms of, now, desegregation." A lot of people who are new in this say that the gap's too wide, or we haven't made a lot of progress. But from my perspective, we have made progress. There's a lot of progress to be made.

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But I got involved. I mean, I was in the band, when I was in the seventh grade or the eighth grade. There was a white guy who runs a musical instrument company, and he's like the son or grandson of Mr. Howren [spells it out]—it was Howren Music Company, on East 6th Street. Right across from the old public library, [unclear] you'd go up these old crickety steps. And my dad was buying me a cornet, which is sort of like a trumpet. And he paid so much a week, two dollars a week, three dollars a week or something like that. I bought that in seventh grade. And I played in the band at Second Ward, from seventh grade until about the eleventh grade. I don't know what happened. We had a new band director, for one thing. L. Augustus Paige was the band director for a hundred years, and then Mr. Cooper came over, and I guess I didn't—we didn't get along too well or something. So after all those years in the band, I think I left the band in eleventh grade. But being in a band, you know, you had your band members that you were friends with, you'd hang out with, you'd go around with. I was in several clubs and organizations. The High Y, the Science Club, you know, just a number of clubs and organizations. It was like a family.
Parents didn't participate that much in PTA. You know, when I reflect now, and people tell me about parent participation, hell, we had neighborhood schools, black neighborhood schools, but the parents didn't participate in PTA. But there was a real sense of achievement, and a sense to get a quality education. And the teachers had that. Just they'd look at you and it was almost as if they wanted to wield a good education into your head. And you knew that people cared about you. But in terms of parent participation, it wasn't that great. I was a single-parent guy. My father raised me, actually. My mom was an alcoholic, and she left the home, probably when I was like five or six years old. And he could not read or write. But he had a strong sense of going to school. Certainly not going to college; it was just, graduating from high school was his

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horizon at that particular time.
But it was families. I mean, things that you would do during the summer months. People you'd associate with, you'd play with, you'd go to parties with, you'd hang out with, didn't have cars like kids have today, but you'd walk or catch a bus. Every now and then there was a kid that had an automobile that you could get a ride with. But it was like family. Little projects. You'd go, for example, to Ovens Auditorium when Ovens Auditorium was absolutely brand new. You'd get on a bus, you'd go over there and hear the symphony, it's like, "Mm, OK." Then you'd come back and you'd hear your own rock and roll music, some other stuff, and, "OK, let me stay at home, I don't know if I want to go back to Ovens Auditorium." But it was just a family. The teachers—my seventh grade language arts teacher, for example, lived about 3 blocks from my house in First Ward before it was completely bulldozed. So it was just like a community. I mean, you'd get in trouble at school, ultimately, you know, my dad would find out about it, because the teacher was there to say, "Arthur was cutting up." So it was like Heckel and Jeckel. Just a different personality. I was a rabble-rouser at home, and I'd just try to toe the line and give this false image to the teachers, I was such a good guy.
But they were good people. Marjorie Belton was a guidance counselor there; she's retired now. Her son, David Belton, is one of the vice presidents for the Chamber of Commerce, and I always ask how his mom is. And occasionally I get to see her. But she was always trying to keep the high road for us rabble-rousers from the rowdy school. They had a big fence around it. People always used to joke, "What's that fence for, to keep you criminals in, or what?" But it was just a family atmosphere. We did the very best could, we took all the courses that were offered. I was on a college prep track where you took biology, chemistry, physics, trigonometry, those types of things. And I didn't know, until probably my senior year, just what the lack of resources were,

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because we'd skip around. We'd have a physics laboratory book, and we couldn't follow the book, because if we didn't have the equipment to do the labs, Dr. Levi would kind of just skip over. It was sort of disjointed, but he would go to something where we had the equipment to do the labs. And I thought, I'm just doing what Dr. Levi wants us to do. But it's just a family piece. We would go off to represent the school on different occasions. We only played black schools; they didn't allow us to play white schools at that time. So we'd play West Charlotte, we played York Road. We played Plato Price when I was in the seventh grade, and [unclear] were high schools, but they closed probably by the time I got to ninth grade. The county's black schools. So we'd go out of town to Stephens Lee, up in Asheville, or we'd go to Atkins, up in Winston-Salem, or to Dudley in Greensboro. We'd go to the black schools to play sports. And that was exciting, because, you know, you got out of Charlotte. I'd never traveled anywhere in my life, other than going to Macon, Georgia, where my mom was from. So it was just a family experience. Teachers really cared about you, in terms of just being a person. Because they'd talk to you about your life. You know, what are you doing, why are you doing this, why did you do that? It wasn't just academics. And Shirley Johnson, Marge Belton, a lot of teachers are people I still try to communicate with every now and then to let them know I'm still kicking.
But it was just simply, Pam, a sense of family back there with Second Ward. And you knew that you didn't have all the resources that West Charlotte had, so it was like, you know, we're a family over here. And when we would travel, believe it or not, the two schools would come together. If we were at a state tournament or something in Winston-Salem, or up in Asheville, West Charlotte would join Second Ward and we'd be the boys from Charlotte. It was that crowd. So I mean, even though I went to Second Ward, a great experience, right now when I see my colleagues from West Charlotte that graduated at the same time I did, it's like we all went

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to the same school back then. It wasn't Second Ward versus West Charlotte during those particular moments. But certainly during the Queen City Classic, it was like a war. I mean, you hated West Charlotte. You wanted to kill them. You wanted to beat them up. But it was certainly a sense of pride, and people talk about it even to this day. And as you talk about West Charlotte, I'm sure one of the big pieces you'll see is the pride and the joy that people refer to when they talk about the Queen City Classic. It was just a great experience. But yeah. My senior year, I was editor of the yearbook, so I got to roam around campus with the photographer taking pictures. But I mean, it was just family. I was all over the place. I wasn't as shy then as I am now.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
It's interesting to me. I've interviewed a number of West Charlotte people, and they do talk, all the time, about Second Ward. And it seems like it's almost impossible to think of the two schools separately.
ARTHUR GRIFFIN:
Wherever you go, it's like Second Ward and West Charlotte. We would compete—we would compete not only in terms of the Queen City Classic, sportswise, but we would try to compete in terms of kids who were on academic teams. And it's almost like you would kind of know the kids who were doing well academically at West Charlotte, you would kind of know the kids who were doing kind of academically well at Second Ward. And we would go over to visit periodically. I would go over to visit some of the young ladies on the campus, but also, you know, I would know some of the teachers. Kelly Alexander also grew up in Brooklyn, and so we knew each other as young kids, but then when his dad moved over to Senior Drive, right across the street from West Charlotte, when we'd go over to visit West Charlotte, we'd always go over to Kelly's house or something. So we had friends that lived in the community right around West Charlotte, and we'd go over to West Charlotte and go on West Charlotte's campus. That's where I met Pop Miller, who was an assistant principal at West Charlotte years ago, and Pop used to

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always run me off campus. "Griffin, get off, you dummy!" And he would, he'd call back, and by the time I would get back to Second Ward, Miss Belton would say, "Where've you been?" "Oh, nowhere, just down to Hardee's." See, Hardee's was brand new on Kings Drive and Independence. Independence Boulevard was brand new, back in the old days, and it ran right beside Second Ward. And we would, you know, skip campus to go to the Hardee's to buy french fries. I mean, that was really new. A hamburger for twenty-five cents. That was a big deal back then. And we'd always kind of tell a little small story, like, "Yeah, we went to Hardee's," and actually we went all the way across town to West Charlotte. So there were a lot of people that we knew as different cliques, sort of social cliques, and that's why you would see us even today kind of look at one another as being one of the same, in terms of coming from Charlotte's public schools. One went to West Charlotte, one went to Second Ward, but during that same era, we were like family. So that was real important for us. And I think that's what you sort of pick up on when people talk about West Charlotte and Second Ward. You kind of talk as if it's one family, because of the things that we went through at the time, that we reflect upon now, that we had no idea had certain levels of value to the relationships and socializations.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Well, integration came. What did you think at the time? I guess you weren't really here.
ARTHUR GRIFFIN:
I wasn't here. As I said to you, I came back in '71 from Vietnam, and started going to school out in UNC-C, when I got back, on the GI bill. And it was here. I mean, it was here. Politically, I didn't pay any attention, other than the fact that schools were desegregated, black kids were going to formerly all-white schools, and white kids were going to formerly all-black schools. The only thing I noticed was that progress caused all of the black schools to close. I mean, you just—Second Ward was gone, a number of elementary schools were closed, they were

Page 13
black elementary schools. And I didn't pay a whole lot of attention to that. I got out of school, I started working as an intern with, it was called the Legal Aid Society back then, in the mid-'70s. And, you know, just doing odd jobs at the law firm. And parents started coming in about 1975, '76, complaining about their kids getting kicked out of school all the time unfairly. And so I kind of took an interest in talking to folk, because our office—"We don't do that, we don't do educational law." "But we help poor people here!" "We don't do educational law. We can do evictions, we can do divorces, we do contract breaches, those types of things." So I got interested in it and said, "Well, let's try to see what we can do." And what I got interested in—the Legal Aid Society filed a lawsuit against the school system in the, when, I can't remember now, early '70s that went to the North Carolina Supreme Court. It was called Gibbons v. Poe. William Poe was the superintendent at the time, and it created what North Carolina now has adopted as due process rights for students. And it basically said that if there was riot or a threat of damage to property or injury, the school principals could put you out on something called 'absence before conference', up to three days. But you had to have a conference afterwards. And if you were going to be out of school for ten days or greater, there should be some degree of due process for students. So I said, "Gee, we did this case years ago, why aren't we helping parents now who's asking for help?" They just ignored me. I wasn't a lawyer. I donned this description called paralegal, and I just took it upon myself to go represent some parents and students at disciplinary hearings. [unclear] and say, "Wait a minute now, they have a right to put their evidence in. The principal says you can't do this . . . " And that's when I got a first blush of desegregation. Because kids were having some difficulties back then.
I remember at West Charlotte, specifically, a young white male—well, first, it was called a big riot, it was in the newspaper that black and white kids were fighting. And some of the parents

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contacted me, because some of the kids weren't going to be able to graduate because of the disciplinary hearings. I went up to the school to represent some of the kids, and during my investigation, I talked with most of the participants, and then at the very hearing, the white male student said, "I started the fight. I didn't like what he said," or he thought the kid said, and, "Yeah, I walked across and I hit him and we went through the window and my boys got into it and his boys got into it." And I said, "Did you admit that? Did you tell the principal that?" He said, "Well, yes." [unclear] getting kicked out. And I said, well, that was just patently unfair.
So I just started going around to the various schools, trying to help kids. And from that experience in the mid-'70s, I kind of got interested in schools. School life, education, what was going on. And Rolland Jones was fired on public TV in about '74, I think it was, or '75, about that same time. Lib Randolph, John Phillips, and Chris Folk took over the school district. And I started going to school board meetings, trying to find out what's happening. Jim Hunt introduced pubic kindergartens in about '77 or '78. He had the competency test, the California achievement test was introduced. And the first administration of the California achievement test, the gap between blacks and whites was about 60 points. And I said, "This is crazy. What's going on? We're being desegregated, but what's going on?" I was saying, "This is wrong." I was hot-headed, young, I even used a word that politicians don't use these days: I was calling people racist, and this is racism, and—I didn't know back then that you don't say that publicly in North Carolina, and particularly in Charlotte. We're sort of peaceful folk. And they just started saying, "Arthur Griffin is just a rabble-rouser. He's just absolutely crazy." But I went from disciplinary hearings to trying to get more involved in the schooling process in Mecklenburg County. And since about '78, '79—Jay Robertson came, I think, in about '78, and that was after the television firing of Dr. Rolland Jones. And Jay was here from about '78 to probably '86, a real long tenure.

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But I got more and more involved in what was happening with public schools, how public schools worked, trying to understand the curriculum, trying to understand why African-American kids were having such a tough time in this quote-unquote desegregated setting. And it wasn't until about 1983, when Phil Berry, who was on the board of education, an African-American male, won a seat to the North Carolina House that I got interested in the political side of it. Because I was a tomato-thrower, for the most part, in terms of public education. Talking about, "Why are we busing all these little early pre-school black kids, when the court order said to bus some white kids at some point?" You don't talk about that; that's taboo. And I just mentioned to somebody recently, the trial—that's one of the things that this one plaintiff, Jim Ferguson, is talking about now, which is, why didn't we do what we were supposed to do back then? And I'm saying, "Had they listened to me, the rabble-rouser, the kid from outside, perhaps we wouldn't even be in court today."
But my involvement led to an appointment to the school board in 1985, and in '85 it was simply academic disparities that I was concerned most about, and trying to hire African-American teachers, because I could see a dwindling or decline in the number of African-American teachers from what existed in the late '60s, early '70s. Never did we talk a lot about desegregation; only we talked about it during pupil assignment. Charlotte started to grow in the late '80s. In '85, we built McAlpine; in '87, McKee Road. We were going to build Providence—it was underfunded by about ten million dollars, so they got another ten million dollars. Providence opened in '89. Then you had, like, University Meadows, Mallard Creek. And because the population was growing such, in the late '80s and early '90s, issues of desegregation became more and more prevalent on the front burner. Because we were talking about moving more and more kids. And as you opened up a school, you had to populate that school with so many white

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kids and so many black kids. And people just started going bonkers. In 1988 we had the first school board member that was elected on a neighborhood schools platform; that was Jan Richardson. So school desegregation became a real big issue when the community started to grow. From '78 to '85, school desegregation was not a very big issue in Charlotte, North Carolina. Because we weren't growing that rapidly, we weren't building and opening up schools, and folk had resigned, "OK, we're going to go to school in a diverse setting." And then we started growing, new people started coming into town, and the politics kind of changed. And as I said to you, it was really shocking for Jan Richardson to win in an at-large county race, on a neighborhood schools platform. Peter Relic didn't do too well here; he stayed about a year. We had an interim team again, and then we hired John Murphy. And John Murphy heard what people were saying from a corporate perspective, about school desegregation and busing, and he implemented a more expansive magnet school program. We had a magnet school program, what we called alternative schools, going as far back as 1972, and that was for more the elite folk, because C.D. Spangler put his kids in the alternative schools back in '72; James Ferguson put his kids there. Harvey Gantt put one of his kids there. So. We had five schools that were doing very well, but John Murphy wanted to expand that, and that was a very contentious discussion. The white community really supported magnet schools. The suburban community, they loved it. The business community, loved magnet schools. The black community was so afraid of that. They just packed the school board meetings saying, "Don't have magnet schools. This is just a way to go back to segregated schools."
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Why did they see that as a way to go back to segregated schools?
ARTHUR GRIFFIN:
Because it created magnet schools in the black community. And it forced black kids out, for the most part. It was a change from mandatory. They felt that if whites were given a

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chance to voluntarily select schools, that they wouldn't do it. That was the sense in the black community. And as the program grew, with a lot of restrictions, their realization became true. Because as you built a brand new school in the suburbs—if you had a math-science theme for a magnet school, you have good math-science teachers at a new elementary school in the suburbs, why would you go to a math-science school? The curriculum's the same, basically. The communications magnet school we have now. If you have good language arts, good English teachers, at your neighborhood school, why would you go to a Communications—? Over time, that's true. You could see, if you put a quality, brand-new, bells and whistles schools out in the suburbs, those folk will stay. They won't come in. Where you have people coming in right now are in unique curriculums: your performing arts, where you can dance, where you can do plays of one denomination or another. And that's unique. The academically gifted magnet school is a unique school. But your other schools are not as unique. And that's why you have your ratios changing the way they are, over time. I even wrote an article in Community Pride, in late '92, saying that this is not the way to go, with magnet schools. Because we opened a magnet school, and I think it was Ashley Park or Oaklawn, where the ratio was like 44 percent African American. And I said, this is Day One. It's supposed to be 40 percent. This is not a good sign. So. They just didn't have the restraints and the control necessary to maintain diversity on a long-term basis.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Let me get back to something that you said earlier, and let me also ask you, how much time do you have?
ARTHUR GRIFFIN:
Oh, we got time. There's an eight-thirty meeting; I told them I wouldn't get there until nine o'clock. And I told them I could only stay for a few minutes because I have a ten o'clock meeting.

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PAMELA GRUNDY:
OK. I just wanted to make sure.
ARTHUR GRIFFIN:
This is a good excuse not to go to the eight-thirty. This is a legislative meeting; we've got a lobbyist from Raleigh. All the lawyers are there. I've been dealing with lobbyists and lawyers for so long. And the vice-chairman's going to be there, along with other of the school board members. So. I mean, they may be in this room. I don't know where—[unclear] 408—I'll hear them if they come in here.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
I wanted to go back—you said, sort of in the late '70s, you began to study school curriculums. You were trying to figure out what would—
ARTHUR GRIFFIN:
The California Achievement Test, first administration, the black kids' average score was 19. 19. This was in 1978. This was seven years after 1971, the Swann case was affirmed by the Supreme Court. And I'm saying, Why? Because prior to that, the messages we were getting, generally, by the time I got involved from '75 to '78, which was a very short period of time, was that we were educating all the kids effectively. And when you get your first test—it's like, wow! And you're kicking kids out of school for breathing wrong. And I'm saying, something's wrong somewhere. And I slowly started asking questions. There were people on our testing commission—because the first thing comes out, "Your standardized tests are culturally biased." I mean, what's going on? Is this the wrong test? And I knew absolutely squat about education. And I would just bug the hell out of people, asking them questions. because I didn't know. But I knew something was just wrong. This picture was wrong. I mean, kids going to school, exposed to, at least in theory, resources. What's happened? And I met with Lib Randolph, who was over curriculum. When they fired Rolland Jones, they appointed three people to run the district. Lib Randolph was an African-American female, and I'd ask her questions, and she would give me her answers as best she could. And I'd also talk to Dr. John Phillips about the operations of the

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schools. You know, teachers. And none of them wanted to talk to me. It was like, you're just an irritant. And I got that from them. But I was persistent, because something was just fundamentally wrong. I was taking these courses out at UNC-Charlotte early on, before leaving and going to do this paralegal piece with Legal Services. I took some courses with Bertha Maxwell. And they had, probably around '71 or so, they had finally agreed to have an African-American Studies program out there. It took them a number of years to get it through the UNC system. But in taking some of those courses, you talk about African-American history, the promises of Brown, the promises of the future. And then you look at what was happening to children in your local public school system. You say, "Something's fundamentally not right here. Don't know what it is, but something's not right." And all I could say is, "You're wrong, you're racist, these kids should be excelling," etc.
Because when we were growing up, in Second Ward, I figured if you had the teachers—and we had the teachers then—and you had desegregation and you had the equipment and stuff, that was a formula for success. And I thought, because I didn't know anything about desegregation or schools, but I knew that they were desegregated. And so that formula should be working to a degree where you'd see more than 19 points for African-American students. And I just said, "This is crazy." And I'd ask for test scores, I'd say, "Give me test scores by school, break it down by black and white." [unclear] tons of information. And people sort of looked at it. Ms. Randolph said I'm the gadfly. I'd come around just annoying people over the years. But it was just a question of trying to figure out what's going on. Because I'd go to the microphone, scared to talk, shaking my little piece of paper, and they'd tell me very eloquently, "Arthur, you don't know what you're talking about." It was sort of embarrassing, but a challenge. "Well, maybe I don't know what I'm talking about, but why don't you give me the information so I'll

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learn what we're talking about—both in terms of desegregation, as well as the teaching and learning experience for African-American children?" And it just took a hell of a long time. From '78—even when Jay Robertson came, I continued to ask questions and go back before the school board, because people—there was always this challenge. And you'd hear white folks say, "Well, if they stayed in their own communities and they had the resources, they'd be all right." And I'd say, well, look at Hidden Valley. Hidden Valley's black. It's a community school. People own their homes around Hidden Valley. Not the way I grew up, in the projects, around Hidden Valley. People own it. And they're black. And look at their test score. Their test score is just as low as the school where there were black and white. So something ain't right here. Don't know what it is, but something's not right. And we just bugged the hell out of people for a number of years, trying to find out what was happening. And I really didn't know a thing about education. My schooling was in economics and business. And it just took a long time.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
What was wrong?
ARTHUR GRIFFIN:
What was wrong? Expectations. Accountability, in terms of—we didn't expect kids to succeed. We were basically focused on harmony and peace. If your school was quiet, you're a good school. As opposed to, your school demonstrating academic excellence. And that was the key for me, in terms of kids being successful and being able to go to colleges and universities, was academic excellence. The expectation was just low. Folk had low expectations of African-American kids and poor kids, for the most part. And I even wrote—it was in the newspaper in1980, the lawyers have that, it was a part of this lawsuit—where I had this big Afro, to say to the school board, you have low expectations. If you had high expectations, these kids would be able to succeed, and you'd make sure you put teachers around these kids and expect those teachers to effectively educate them. Because folk were saying, If you're poor, if you're black, if you're

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bussed away from home, they gave every excuse why kids couldn't succeed. And I'd give them Hidden Valley. I'd say, "These kids aren't poor, their mommas and daddies own homes around the school, they can ride their bicycle to the school, tell me why." And I'd always come back to Hidden Valley. "Hey, here's a neighborhood school in a community, why aren't these kids excelling?"
And when you start dissecting it years later, Pam, what you'd find is, you have a high turnover in schools where there were African-American kids or poor kids. I mean, I didn't know that in the late '70s or early '80s. I wasn't that sophisticated. I was just simply throwing rocks, saying the test scores were awful. But when you combine low expectations, a lack of focused accountability, and your turnover. I mean, just constant turnover. And even today, that same pattern exists. That's what we're talking about in federal district court now. And I just found out, just yesterday, looking at schools that had a lot of diversity or where the population is primarily black, constant turnover. And we put a rule in saying you have to stay there for two years. We tried to say three years, but the teacher organization said, "Oh, no, you can't just hold somebody. Give them opportunities." So we said rather than three, go two years. As soon as people get to two years, they're transferring out. Nobody is transferring in, OK? And when you start looking at your experienced teachers right now, they're not in those schools where kids have the greatest needs. And that's why in our budget we're asking for some additional stipends, to compensate teachers who are working in those areas. But guess what? There are people on the other side who are saying, "Well, I work very hard—"
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

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ARTHUR GRIFFIN:
. . . location of resources. We still have a difficult time allocating resources appropriately. A lot of people call it equity. We just continue to have a difficult time doing it. And the problems are compounded now. African Americans are not in education. We said fifteen years ago that this horde of black females that couldn't get into IBM in 1960, that were extremely intelligent black females that couldn't get into Fortune 500 corporations, went into education. Guess what? Thirty years later, they're retiring. So in 1990, you just see a hemorrhaging of African-American women getting out of Education. Here in North Carolina, well, particularly here in Charlotte, all my classroom teachers that I had when I was in high school all have retired. They retired, I think the last one in about 1990, '91, '92. But none of them are around. And those were the teachers who had the skill set, the motivation and heart to make it happen, even without the resources. The teachers are getting in today, for the most part, are the ones who go into general education.
I mean, you're a professor. When you look on your campuses, you'll find a core group of kids who are really gung ho and want to be teachers and want to change the world. You have another cohort that are folk who are in general education. And they're going to come out and teach, and they're not evil or mean people, and they want to do a good job for kids, but when they come into the public school arena and see these different people and different needs, it's like, "Let me transfer to McKee," or "Let me transfer to McAlpine. At least if I'm going to be marginal, let me be marginal in an environment I'm going to be comfortable with." So we have to change that, through [unclear] and teacher training, to help young teachers become comfortable in a different environment. Because that's all we have. We can't go out there and just grab these wonderful, [unclear] pick these great folk to put in our classrooms. We have to deal with the people who are coming

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to us each and every day, and try to surround them and support them with the resources to help them be successful. Because they, too, don't get up and say, "I want to hurt a child." They get up every morning saying, "I want to help." And we just have to provide a support system to help them help kids. Right now we don't do that very well. And we just have to provide a support system to help them help kids right now. We don't do that very well. We don't do it very well in America, but right here in Charlotte we don't do it very well. And we gotta change that if we're going to change public education in America.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Let me just, moving back again for a bit to where you were talking about the problems with expectations and the problems with kids achieving: West Charlotte is, I think, frequently held up as an exception to that. Do you think that it is and that it was an exception?
ARTHUR GRIFFIN:
I think it was an exception. It had an open program component. When you start looking at the kids—I don't know if you know Joe Martin, I don't know how long you've been in Charlotte—
PAMELA GRUNDY:
I know who he is.
ARTHUR GRIFFIN:
OK. His kids went to West Charlotte. So you have a cohort of kids who are coming from—a small cohort, right, and coming from the Eastover area, they go to West Charlotte. You have another group that comes to the open component program. Kids come from around the county, going into West Charlotte. And those kids do very well. We have another component of kids who are sort of the assigned attendance zone; those kids are poorer and poorer. They don't do as well. So you almost have like a bimodal group at West Charlotte. You have one group that's just knocking the socks off of it, just doing wonderful things; and another group that are not doing so well. And if our demographics continue the way they are, you're going to see a larger proportion of the population of poorer kids, as opposed to the kids who are doing well.

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Because the parents are aging out at Myers Park, that attendance zone.
So there's fewer and fewer white kids going to West Charlotte from that attendance zone, and the open component is shrinking a little bit. It's not as popular as it was ten, fifteen years ago. What do we need to do to keep it going? We certainly need to help our open component, down at Irwin Open School, at the elementary level, and support those families as they go matriculate through Irwin to Piedmont Open Middle and into West Charlotte. We really have to continue to do that. We've had multiple principals at West Charlotte, as opposed to the old days when you had principals there for five years. They're there now for about two years. So that hurts too. West Charlotte was a model primarily because it's the last historical black high school that has a lot of white support. So that's your big model. Plus we didn't fight in Charlotte like they did in Boston, and a bunch of kids from West Charlotte went up to Boston, to say, "This is how you desegregate, guys." Now some of those people from Boston are moving to Charlotte, saying, "Well, this is how you resegregate, guys. We'll show you." But the kids do well. Parents don't do quite as well, in this 1999 model of desegregation. But that's why I think West Charlotte is doing well. Plus, you blend the old with the new. They have a national alumni association of old black folk that's supportive of the school even when it has white leadership. So you have a blending of the old and the new at West Charlotte. It gives it a different flavor, a different atmosphere, a different persona as relates to, here's an old school, you've got new people there, but you've got the old folk embracing the new folk and you've got the young folk embracing the old folk to make a family. We have to work on that to make sure we continue that success that we've enjoyed over the years at West Charlotte. If we don't work on it, we'll lose it.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
That is one thing that talking to people about West Charlotte has brought home to me, is how much constant work it takes to keep a school going. That's just something that—

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ARTHUR GRIFFIN:
It takes tremendous work. It just takes tremendous work. Because our communities are changing. And the values and what people perceive to be the attributes of a great school change over time. And we want to make sure that people see West Charlotte, the total community sees West Charlotte, as providing a comprehensive, quality educational experience for a high-school student. And that goes with clubs, with organizations, as well as the academics. And as you've read in the newspaper, four of the last five years they've had a Morehead, we've had kids go all over the world from out of West Charlotte. We've had athletes just excelling at West Charlotte. You have different debate teams or clubs. So you've had that kind of wholesome academic environment, where kids can succeed in the classroom and outside of the classroom. And you've got the old folks up there supporting them in terms of the history. I don't know whether Geraldine Powe is still the president of West Charlotte National Alumni, but, you know, they come back and tell you about what they did in the '40s and '50s and all that stuff. And I think it's good for kids to know what that school was like forty years ago. And what they're doing today. They get in the newspaper for really doing great things.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
As someone who went to Second Ward, what does West Charlotte mean to you now?
ARTHUR GRIFFIN:
It's a school that, on the school board or not on the school board, I would fight to save it. They will never close West Charlotte. Because schools mean so much to communities, and in particular high schools. This is the place you graduated from. Elementary schools, not as much. And it means a lot to Charlotte. It means a tremendous—it's our last historically black high school. So I think you'd get every African American, at least who grew up in Charlotte, to walk up and down Trade Street if that school was threatened in any way, because it's like family. It's like your distant cousin. You still love your distant cousin, you know your cousin's over there, you haven't seen her in ten years, but you still love your cousin. West Charlotte is like a distant

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cousin. Maybe a first cousin that's across town. But it's a school that I have very fond memories of, and would want to make sure that those fond memories remain, as an operating, regular, comprehensive high school. Not a warehouse, not a special program, but an operating comprehensive high school here in Charlotte, North Carolina.
If the times were different, and Second Ward was here and threatened, it wouldn't close. There are enough of us now out here that often get together and we say, "Wow, if we were only adults back then, that school would still have been open." It's lifeblood. Can you imagine? Right where we're sitting today, we'd be sitting in the principal's office at Second Ward. Right where we're sitting today. This is where the administration building was. And, you know, it would just be marvelous to come back. You'd see all these huge towers, but here's your high school. Here's Second Ward that's still here. You've got Dilworth, and people come back to Dilworth and say, "Hey, this is a wonderful community I grew up in fifty years ago." C.D. Spangler walks up and down the streets talking about his granddad built this house here, and he remembered Miss So-and-So when they bought this house here. I mean, there's history. You got John Crosland, who bought the Latta Arcade, when they go downtown they point to history. I can't point to my history right now, in terms of First Ward, where I was born. My hospital's gone. At least they have the facade of my elementary school; it's called the Alexander Neighborhood Center or something, off of 11th Street. Part of First Ward is there. It really wasn't my school. It's a white school, originally. Alexander Street was really an African-American school from the old days. And we really wish that was still there.
My community, what's standing there now? The African-American Cultural Center is Little Rock A.M.E. Zion Church, I remember. I don't remember very much of anything else in First Ward. And then coming across to Second Ward, there's not very much over here. The gym

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smells like the old gym at Second Ward. That hasn't changed at all. I mean, you go to the gym, it smells just like that when you go down the stairs to the locker rooms. As a matter of fact, some of my classmates go over there every now and then and go in the gym and say, "Hey, guys. I feel better now." But it's like going home. And when I have to make tough school decisions, I go over to the gym, and I go over to Fairview Homes, kind of walk around and say, "Now, what should I do?" And reflect back on growing up. Because it's things about children being successful. How do we have successful kids going through our public schools in Charlotte? And looking back on history, and looking at us now, and using that knowledge and experience to say, "OK, fifty years from now, what will this decision mean? Twenty-five years from now, what will this decision mean?" And I try to do things based on that. Twenty-five years from now, what we're doing today, what are the implications.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Do you think about Second Ward a lot?
ARTHUR GRIFFIN:
Do I think about Second Ward a lot? Probably every day, when we talk about schools. I mean, when I come out here, I got to go right to—when I come out of the parking lot, I see the gym where I played basketball every day. So I mean, it's not something where it's just—it's a part of me. I mean, do you think about your husband a lot? Do you think about your—? Well, it's sort of, it's a part of you. And when I drive out of the parking lot, I see Second Ward every day. So sure, I think about it, and when I see some of my old classmates, of course we think about it, because I remember them—. I was at the airport—what is this, Friday? I was at the airport Wednesday morning to pick up my wife, and saw a classmate, a high school classmate, there. What did we talk about? She was introducing me to her friends from Philadelphia, "Oh, yeah, this is a high school classmate of mine." So it's always a part of you. You never forget Second Ward.

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One day, if I stay on the school board long enough, there'll be another Second Ward one day. Somehow or another. People are talking about buying this property, talking about doing some other things, and this time I'll have some influence, if I'm on the school board, about what happens if they redevelop this particular piece of property. They wanted to put a shopping center here, a Neiman Marcus shopping center, an upscale place. "So what are you going to do about Second Ward?" They couldn't figure that out. And they talked about an aquatic center, because they can't get the civic center, and they want to have it adjacent to Marshall Park, the little pond over here. And there was a suggestion of having an aquatic high school. Well, we can talk about that, [unclear]. I don't have a clue what you do at an aquatic high school, OK? Don't have a clue. [PG laughing] Are we dealing with fish? Are we dealing with kids swimming? You got the aquatic center. But if you want to have an aquatic high school, name it Second Ward, maybe we can do business, OK? So I'm just saying to you, there continues to be discussions and opportunities, and I'll try to stay very close, whether I'm on the board of education or not, because if they do something with this site, I certainly want them to do something to remember Second Ward. I don't want, in twenty years, this is a big brand new tower, the little remainings of Second Ward gone, the education center gone, people coming to the Adam's Mark Hotel, they look out, they wonder,—it's like, you know, there's no sense of a school ever being anywhere on this property. So I will do whatever I can do to make sure that whatever's here, there is some remembrance of Second Ward High School, of Charlotte's First Colored High School, as it was originally called before Second Ward.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Why is that memory of history so important, both for Second Ward and in West Charlotte?
ARTHUR GRIFFIN:
Well, it's a part of you. It's almost like, if you cut that part off, it's like cutting your

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roots. Everyone wants to have roots. I'm getting older, both my parents are deceased, and as you get older, your friends start to die. But fifty years old, a hundred years old, you want to go somewhere and say, "Hey, that's Second Ward. I went to public schools there." I want part of my history to be around. I've grown up in the era where mostly all of my history's gone. The community I grew up in is gone, the schools I went to are gone. The neighborhoods I played in are gone. And it sort of leaves you with an empty sense, as if you sort of—have you seen any space movies, where you're out in space, kind of floating? You know, I don't want to be floating in life. I want to have some connections to who I am. And every day, we're losing more and more of that history. I mean, when you told me about this project, this oral history project, I'm saying, "Damn, why didn't we do that?" When they were coming to do urban renewal, you had almost all the big black churches right here in this little piece of dirt here. Businesses, shops, structures. And folk want to know, now, "Why do black community this and so and so?" Well, when you devastate a community, it takes generations to get it back. The support groups. The family support groups, institutional support groups. Now, a lot of people don't realize that twenty-five years ago, thirty years ago, this was a thriving area. And to tear up churches, to tear up institutions, it takes a long time to get those back.
And that's why history is so important, so that we don't forget the future. I mean, if kids and people start coming in, it's like, "I don't have any ties to anything, there is no history," —if you don't have any history, you don't have any future. That's what I'm trying to say. And my future is linked to my history, with regard to what I'm doing. Even with this trial. Folk have indicated, when my time comes to testify, it's going to be kind of unique. Here's a person who's chairman of the school board who actually went to an all-black everything, here in Charlotte, can talk about how it was when the case was brought up originally, and the inequities today, and give

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some comparative analysis in terms of, how far have we come? Have we made progress? Is there progress still to go? Are there any vestiges of a dual system? If so, what are those vestiges? And I can kind of give them a response that's a lot different from other people. But that's simply because of history. My value in this trial is only based on the fact that I have some history.
So I think that as a community, as individuals, I think there is tremendous value to history. I really do. Particularly—after the American history, we talk about multicultural, and you have to have some roots. I mean, I just read in the newspaper the other day how the German community has a German school. They want to make sure the kids speak German and make sure that the kids understand German culture. What do I tell my kids? "Where did you grow up?" "Well, this little [unclear] house in a neighborhood." "Well, it's not there, Dad. What school did you go to?" "Well, we used to be called Second Ward." And that's why it's so much importance placed on what happens to West Charlotte. I mean, people don't even talk about York Road. People don't even talk about it. But Norm Mitchell got elected to the board of county commissioners. And I always kid him, I say, "Well, at least some of you—" their mascot was wapitis—"At least some of you folk made something of yourselves over there." But people don't even remember. Going to Kennedy, Kennedy Middle School, the white folk in Steel Creek were saying, "We don't like this mascot. We think—what is this? What is a wapiti?" [an American elk] And I looked around, I said, "Wow." I mean, that's part of my history. They're saying, "We don't even know what a wapiti is. We don't even want this." And I'm saying, "Well, you know, you got the school in your community, at least leave the mascot there of a historically black school." And that's the value of history, in terms of who we are and what we're all about. I think not knowing your history really puts you in the perils of not having a future.

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PAMELA GRUNDY:
What do you think that history means to people outside the black community?
ARTHUR GRIFFIN:
Well, I hope it's a reflection of the entire community, not just the black community. But, you know, a peek through the window of our past, with respect to who we were then. And gives us an opportunity to learn of qualities of life, the sacrifices that people made back then. The mistakes that were made. So that we can look at the future and say, you know, "Let's incorporate those wonderful things that we were able to do back then in history, and let's get rid of those things that were destructive and detrimental to a people back then." And that's why I think African-American history, the history of Charlotte, the history of black schools in Charlotte, is so important to the white community or the community at large , to understand where we've been, where we are to day, and where we hope to be tomorrow. It's absolutely critical. And just for the black, knowing about Second Ward in the black community is not enough. The broader community needs to understand. Just a reflection: I built a house in southeast Charlotte, off Carmel Road, in 1978. And when my kids were growing up, we were in this predominantly white community. And again, they had the little youth athletic teams and cheerleading squads and stuff. And just talking to some of the parents, it was like, "But where is Beatties Ford Road? What is West Charlotte? Is that a school?" And it's like a whole segment of the community had no idea where I grew up. My life. Me. And I'm saying, "Well, no, that's So-and-So, and then that was Second Ward . . . " And I understand that the importance of history is for the entire community. It may be about me and Second Ward, but it's for the whole community to recognize that there was a school. Because I'm having conversations with some friends now that are white, "Second Ward? What happened?" "Well, there were wards back in the old days. There was a First Ward, and a Second Ward, and a Third Ward, and a Fourth Ward. . . ." And just sitting down talking, "Oh, OK, well, that makes sense, the community was

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carved up into wards." And it helped them understand a little bit about Charlotte's history that happens to include Second Ward.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
What are the lessons of Second Ward for people who don't know it from experience?
ARTHUR GRIFFIN:
Well, the lessons of Second Ward is, it was a family. People came together during difficult times, to reach excellence. And when I say excellence, we had folk like Belinda Tolbert, who played Jenny on "The Jeffersons" for years. She was a younger classmate, probably two, three years younger. But she always loved to play and act. We used to say, "Aw, girl, that's just crazy." But out on the playground, she'd be acting, and we'd be, "Aah." But look, she became a movie star. Not a movie star, she was in a couple of movies, but at least a TV star, back in the old days. So the importance of the lessons for the community at large, for the sake of other people, is that, hey, there were great things happening in Second Ward. Great people were there. People who cared about life, who cared about this community, who made a lot of great contributions to the Charlotte community over time. And with respect to the future, when you look back at some of the contributions, it motivates us toward excellence as relates to the community today. Look at what people were able to d thirty, forty, fifty years ago; look what we have today and the potential for greatness as a community, both black and white. Not only in public education, but in life in general. I think that would be a lesson to take away to the community at large, is our great potential.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
What do you think desegregation was accomplished in this part of Charlotte?
ARTHUR GRIFFIN:
What do I think it has accomplished? I think desegregation has accomplished two things. It's certainly accomplished a better understanding of the races, believe it or not. I know people have different opinions about that, so I use my own experience. Growing up in Second Ward, we'd say, "Let's go beat the white boy's ass." We'd say, "Why won't they let us go play in

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Myers Park?" Not for sheer competitiveness, but there's a sense of anger and hostility, OK. We wanted to play white schools so we could beat them up bloody, OK? Not to just play them athletically. This is a memorable experience—probably about three years ago, at Memorial Stadium, South Mecklenburg played West Charlotte High. My kids attended South Mecklenburg, because we live in that quadrant of the county. And the West Charlotte kids were on one side, my kids were on the South Meck side. And a friend of mine, he used to be a district court judge, he's a lawyer now, named Michael Todd,—Michael went to Myers Park, but he was going to West Charlotte for a while, but he went over to Myers Park—we were saying, "Man, isn't this something?" "Yeah, all these white people over there on the West Charlotte side, yelling for West Charlotte to beat, and all these black folk over here on the South Mecklenburg side, yelling for South Mecklenburg to beat West Charlotte. And isn't this something?" And we almost cried, just saying, "Gosh, look how far we have come with respect to the races getting along." Not to fight them, not to cut them. Back then, we didn't have guns; it was a lot of knives, cuts, back when I was growing up in high school, in terms of violence. And it was a lot of violence, too.
But in terms of a goal or a benefit of desegregation, certainly that has been one, that we've learned to live a lot better. You don't have the hostility and the hate. Even my own son, he's a graduate of South Mecklenburg, was in the Carolina Place Mall during the Christmas holidays. He saw some white kids that he went to school with. They stopped and clapped and shook hands and talked and all that stuff. And, although he didn't hang out with them, he hangs out with some black kids, but he knew these white kids well enough to have a conversation and talk, he hadn't seen them in a while, since they graduated from school. And I reflect on that, because as a citizen in Mecklenburg County, or any county, but let's just say these kids are voting age now, because they are. When you have to decide on civic issues, they can come

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together and reflect on the experiences that they both have. It won't be a hateful, it won't be haves versus have-nots. They can reflect on, "Well, I know a black guy named Tony Griffin and maybe he would benefit from this." Or if they had some discussion, as citizens, as voters. They would tend to be more supportive of a healthy community going forward, as opposed to animosity, anger, one versus the other. So desegregation brings about a greater sense of democracy, both in terms of my own experience from West Charlotte and Second Ward, and I see it in my offspring, my kid, as he meets and greets kids that are white and are different, even though they didn't associate with him each and every day.
The other value in terms of desegregation is that there are opportunities that did not exist for African Americans in a segregated setting. Now, what do I mean by that. Let's take my wife. Her dad was a psychologist, her mom was a schoolteacher, and she lived twenty feet from West Charlotte. All the well-to-do black folk moved over to West Charlotte, all right? I was still at the ghetto school called Second Ward. But our brightest black children, kids who were ready to learn, kids who had family support, were given crap in terms of resources. West Charlotte, although it had better resources than Second Ward, couldn't compare to Myers Park. You ought to hear my wife tell this story. I was in a business called—it wasn't Decca then, it was called Distributive Education or something back in the old days—and they had their little office machines and such at West Charlotte, manual typewriters and such. Alicia says that when she went to Myers Park for some kind of meeting, they had an IBM 129. They had electric, the very first IBM Selectric typewriters, they were electric as opposed to manual. They had Somebody Woods reading something—can't think of what it was—Dublin Woods or some kind of Woods, it was a reading program that was mechanical, it wasn't computerized, but it was mechanical. All this stuff. And they didn't have that at West Charlotte. So our best and brightest youngsters

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didn't have access. Not saying that the best and brightest are the only ones who should have access; all should have access. But today, an African-American kid who's ready to learn has access.
So that's a distinction in terms of desegregation. A lot of folks say, "Well, if you go to your own neighborhood school,…" Well, we've shown our best and brightest in the black community had the best, but compared to the total community, did not have the best. So it's access. Desegregation has created a greater access. Now, it's almost like saying, you can't discriminate. You can buy a house wherever you want to buy a house, but if you don't have the money, you can't live where you want to live. So the piece in Charlotte, as relates to desegregation, was about access. Now, we got some other things we need to work on in terms of preparing some kids to come to school ready to learn, etc. But you certainly don't want to go backwards, by saying, "Here's a kid from a family that's ready to learn, but doesn't have access." So a lot of African-American kids now have access to quality education, because of desegregation. And it's much broader than that. You just have to walk in my shoes to understand how deep this goes. African-American kids were coming along years ago, and even today to a great degree, "I want to be a lawyer, I want to be a doctor, I want to be a teacher, I want to be a preacher, I want to be an athlete, I want to be an entertainer." What the hell do we ever hear about being a transportation—getting a doctorate in transportation? "What is that?" A landscape architect? "What is that?" Desegregation opens up a whole vista of knowledge and opportunity that's not always on a piece of paper, but in the interaction with others, you broaden your knowledge base. And by broadening your knowledge base, you broaden your opportunities. African-American kids now hear about occupations and jobs and careers that they wouldn't ordinarily hear about if you're segregated.

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And likewise for whites. Desegregation is good for white kids, to understand about others that are different, about African Americans, who are a large minority group in America. Likewise Hispanics. And I don't know about the future because I don't study all this stuff, but I do read a little bit, and I'm told that America's browning. That the demographics will change. If you want your white kid to be successful, if you want your white kid to be a corporate president, who's going to work for your white kid? Going to be a minority. Even from the selfish perspective, you know, of wanting to be a Wall Street wizard and be the President of the United States. Who's going to be Vice President? Who could be in the Cabinet? Who will be the employees in the middle-management of government? It's going to be minorities. And a minority, maybe, I hope and pray, will be President one day. But I'm saying to you, if we're going to get along in America, looking perspectively, then it makes sense to be in a diverse setting, because we're moving so quickly to our gated communities in the suburbs, and our churches aren't,—where else? Unless you look at the purpose of education differently. If you look at the purpose of education as being one where you prepare youngsters for the future, then we see the future. This is a part of our obligation, is to prepare youngsters. If their future's going to be diverse, where else do you prepare youngsters? We don't have any arguments about technology. Parents want computers in the classroom. I gotta have it! Because why? That's the future. Well, is the future diverse? If so, let's prepare youngsters to live and work in a diverse society.
So I think—I gave you a whole big answer, much bigger than you asked for in terms of why desegregation, what's the value of desegregation. It's more than just resources. The history in this community right now, Charlotte as well as the country—in a segregated setting, you lose the community's will. Twenty percent of all of the African-American kids are in ten school

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districts: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, and they don't bus. It's not about desegregation in Chicago. It's not about desegregation in New York. It's not about desegregation in Philadelphia. It's not about desegregation in Dallas. They go to all-black neighborhood schools. It's about access and resources in all those communities.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
But in Charlotte you think it shouldn't be?
ARTHUR GRIFFIN:
It should be—
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Shouldn't be that way.
ARTHUR GRIFFIN:
It shouldn't be just about access. We started off about access, and even I was one of those, probably, fifteen or twenty years ago, saying, "Make Hidden Valley work, then.
Make it work. It's all black; make it work, then." [Laughter] make it work, but I'm just saying. As you look at the future, you know, segregation is kind of racial avoidance. You learn that. And if the world is going to continue to be as diverse as we say it's going to be, racial avoidance is not going to bode very well for a successful economy or a successful democracy. Now, look around the world. Look at Russia. They broke up. We didn't fire a nuclear weapon over there. And when some Russians came over here, I said, "You're from Moscow." They jumped all over me. "No, we're not Muscovites!" That shows my ignorance in terms of diversity. I didn't know. "We're so-and-so." They went back to their ethnic whatever-it-was. Look at Kosovo, OK? That's not about anything but, "What are you? You Serb. You Albanian. I don't like you." Now, if we know America is browning, why are we creating such hotbeds of hate, of ignorance, OK? Not for [unclear], I'll be probably dead and gone, but I'm saying the next generation coming back, why are we creating that? "Well, we'll give the blacks South Carolina and North Carolina, and we'll give the whites Utah and So-and-so, we'll give the rich this part of the world…" It won't take very long, because we have to work as a democracy, where everybody's important. And we like to fight.

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We have a history of fighting in America. You know they have, you're the professor, all right? You got these many folk right here on the bottom that are brown, you got these many folk up here in the political arena, economic arena, that are white, now, how long do you think it's going to take before these folk on the bottom say, "I think I want a piece of this?" What's going to happen in this world? This world.
So it doesn't make sense. As you talk about history, lessons learned from history, what do you expect to achieve with respect to desegregation or the importance of desegregation. We have to learn to live together, and we have to learn to use every resource that we have, and one way of defining and understanding the differences and understanding and appreciating the resources of all people. We need to learn that at a very early age. And the best public institution to do that is our public schools.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
At what point, what happened to make this change for you, to make you shift away from access to these other issues?
ARTHUR GRIFFIN:
Economics. Economic survival. Looking at communities fall apart that are all black. I mean, you look at takeovers. Cleveland failed, in the late '70s. One of the first cities to go bankrupt. Everybody left, except the poorest of the poor. Cleveland's a takeover city right now, where you have a black mayor taking over the school district. Chicago. Mayor Daly's taken over a school district. Philadelphia, they tried to take over a school district, it just didn't work. Denver, the mayor's taken over the school district. And all these areas are minority. Detroit, the mayor just took over the school district. And tons of other urban cities. Whites left. Blacks stayed there. Economics. You have to have white people, green people, black people, you have to have all people to have a healthy economy, and a healthy economy gives you the greatest opportunity to have a healthy lifestyle in terms of old people getting their needs met,

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young people getting their needs met. When people start to segment away like that, the public infrastructure that keeps this country together fails. So that's when I start, when I start looking at public infrastructure failing, and the depth of the despair that resulted from that, I say, "Wait a minute, we all got to work together. We got to figure out how to do this. It's not just about you being successful over here and me being successful here. We're going to have to work together."
And that's what's happening. We used to be a manufacturing company. We don't manufacture any more. Information. When RJR Reynolds, when Nabisco bought RJR Reynolds, or RJR bought Nabisco, one of the two, that was a $26 billion dollar transaction. And nothing was produced. Nothing. It was a transaction. And I said to myself, "What's going to happen to my kids, and their kids, if the world pulled away and everything would just simply be a transaction?" We couldn't survive. And that's what's happening. We're information. That means all of our brain power, our whatever power, if it's only—and just a few can go to some island and set up a computer terminal and transact business, it's just information-based. So what's going to happen to America? Will America be like Detroit, or Cleveland, or Dallas? Where all the brain power and all the other power decides, "We're just going to leave and let America fend for itself?" We have to maintain a strong country in order to provide quality of life experiences for all citizens. Whether green, purple, white, or black. And that's the biggest thing that's sort of stamped on my mind right now, that says, We have to work together as a people in order for this country to survive. I'll survive, I'll do all right till I'm gone, but what about the folk coming behind me? This country will be like some of the cities, if we adopt some of the public policies of some of our urban cities, as a country. We will perish, like some of those urban cities. So it just doesn't make sense for us, with all this brain power over here, to ignore our potential and do something different. That's why desegregation is important. And because I

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have different relationships with different people around the world. If I was still in my own community back in the old days, I'd be racial avoidance, like I said to you earlier. I just wanted to beat up the white boys on the team, not recognize that we need to be working together. Racial avoidance teaches you that, by default. We're enemies, or we're not dependent upon, there's no interdependence. It's you versus me, or whatever. And that's not good for America. It's not good for the world. And people are slowly leaning that. Too slowly, though.
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Well, this has been wonderful. You [unclear], we're right at nine o'clock now. I appreciate your taking all this time. Let me just ask you, is there anything else that you think is important about Second Ward or West Charlotte or desegregation, or something that I haven't asked about that we haven't touched on that you think is important and should be said?
ARTHUR GRIFFIN:
I don't know. You've touched on most of them. I've certainly had discussions among my old classmates about desegregation, because it was like, "Just give me the resources at Second Ward and leave us alone," kind of piece, and I think that was probably how I felt for many, many years. But knowing that the world is much larger than Second Ward, and the decisions that are made, both in the corporate boardrooms as well as the public sector, in terms of public policy decisions, must be made in such a way that it benefits the mass of the people. And the only way you can have good public policy is if you have a better understanding of your public. And your public involves all kinds of people. So it's gone from simply a resource piece to a community value, as relates to diversity. And I probably am more convinced of that now than at any other time in my life. And I thank Second Ward for giving me the opportunity to learn how to read well enough, and communicate with people, in such a way that I'm always learning. And in that learning process—there's no learning if there's no behavior change. So there's been some behavioral change on my part, in terms of just getting along with people. And

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I think that's very, very important. Going to Vietnam in 1970 was a time when Martin Luther King was killed—I mean, that was a hot—several late riots, in the late '60s, and race relations were awful in the military at that point. I mean, absolutely awful. You don't cross the line. You're over here with the brothers, and those folk over there with those folk. I couldn't imagine a world like that today. Could not imagine a world like that today. Vietnam was interesting. The Vietnamese called me "nigger", and I said, "Where in the world did this person get this from? I'm over here getting shot at in these little jungles with a rifle, and he calls me a nigger." So it's been a life of growing experiences for me, because I wasn't always at this point in my life. I was more of a, "Give me my own and leave me alone" kind of person. But I'm absolutely convinced that if we're going to survive as a nation, we're clearly going to have to embrace differences, respect those differences, find common ground, and move forward. I don't know what else I can tell you, other then that that was given to me by those wonderful teachers at Second Ward, I guess. I don't know, Pam. [Laughter]
PAMELA GRUNDY:
Well, that's just great.
ARTHUR GRIFFIN:
Thank you for even caring enough to do this. I don't know how you—
END OF INTERVIEW