Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Kathryn Cheek, March 27, 2003. Interview K-0203. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Race is not a big deal to children

Here, Cheek remembers the solitary black girl who joined her formerly all-white first grade class. The girl was "crying and crying and crying" after her mother left her alone in the classroom. Cheek seems to think that the girl cried because she was alone, though, not because she was surrounded by white children. Children did not really care about race, she recalls.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Kathryn Cheek, March 27, 2003. Interview K-0203. 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

SUSAN UPTON:
Let's start out with the desegregation stuff. When do you remember-like what are your first memories of the desegregation process?
KATHRYN CHEEK:
I remember-I think it was first-well it had to have been first grade because there wasn't mandatary kindergarten back then so my first year of school was first grade, not kindergarten. And I remember a little girl in my class just crying and crying and crying. And she had been brought in and left, a little black girl, had been brought in and left by her mother in this ocean of white faces. And all of-all the white kids parents being so upset because her mother had just walked in and left her. You know, first day of first grade parents, mom, were staying around and all that stuff, but I think she just wanted her to be tough. And I remember kinda feeling sorry for her, but that's -I mean, that's about my only memory.
SUSAN UPTON:
Did she end up staying in the class?
KATHRYN CHEEK:
Yes.
SUSAN UPTON:
The other parents, were they upset because she was black or because-
KATHRYN CHEEK:
No, because she got left, and she was upset.
SUSAN UPTON:
That makes sense. Well, were you aware of how everything-I guess you were aware of how everything was changing in the schools.
KATHRYN CHEEK:
Well, kind of, but not really. As a child you didn't-I mean that wasn't an issue and you didn't really care. I think we were probably aware because our parents were concerned about stuff, but I don't personally remember anything. I mean it was just-
SUSAN UPTON:
Do you remember any of the concerns from the parents, or any other adults aroundyou?
KATHRYN CHEEK:
I remember-you know this is probably just my old childhood memories, but memories of concern that it was pulling down the schools and we had Lincoln as a black school, why couldn't we keep it operating as a black school and so on. I don't remember it being a big deal.