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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with James Atwater, February 28, 2001. Interview K-0201. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Atwater's childhood in segregated Chapel Hill

James Atwater spent all of his childhood in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, attending the only school for black students in the county and living in a segregated neighborhood.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with James Atwater, February 28, 2001. Interview K-0201. 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

JENNIFER NARDONE:
So, this is Jennifer Nardone, here with James Atwater, February 28, 2001, in Tysons Corner, Virginia. Mr. Atwater, can you just tell me a little bit about your family and your growing up in Chapel Hill, were you born there?
JAMES ATWATER:
I was born in Chapel Hill, one of five, one brother, three sisters. I was born in Chapel Hill, and I think I might have mentioned to you, I was in Chapel Hill until the early 50s, lived regularly in Chapel Hill until the early 50s. Eventually I moved onto the campus at North Carolina Central where I did my undergraduate work, and after I left North Carolina Central, I went to Philadelphia for a short while, at University of Pennsylvania, but I was drafted at that point, and went into the service, and since that time, I have not lived regularly in Chapel Hill. I have been back on numerous occasions when my mother and father were still living there. I still have three sisters who live there now, so I go back to visit them, and obviously I tried to stay in touch with what was going on in Chapel Hill. But of the five of us, I was the eldest, and the five of us attended Lincoln/Orange County Training School, from first grade through-well, I can't say that all of us attended it through twelfth grade because by the time it moved some of my younger sisters may have gone down to Lincoln on Merritteville Road. But in any case, we were residents of Chapel Hill, I was a resident for that long a period. And during that time, it was primarily a matter of, we can say, living in the African American community, and some of the things that you mentioned, that you gave as background to your specific questions. And as I said prior to desegregation, it was to a great extent, two separate worlds, even though there was some interaction on a limited basis.