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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Steve Cherry, February 19, 1999. Interview K-0430. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Limited, but civil, interracial contact in a segregated community

School segregation in Cherry's youth meant that the only contact he had with black children was on his grandfather's farm, where whites and blacks met for games. They were not close friends, but nor were they enemies.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Steve Cherry, February 19, 1999. Interview K-0430. 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

MARK JONES:
And how big were Rock Springs and Union?
STEVE CHERRY:
I would say at that time Lincolnton High School was the largest school in the county. Rock Springs and Union and Northbrook were all Class A high schools in athletics so they were all about the same size. Like I say, I had thirty nine people in my graduating class. There were thirty nine seniors. Newbold was probably a little bit larger than Rock Springs. But really there were not that many blacks that were in this county at that time.
MARK JONES:
And as far as athletic competition, am I correct in assuming that the Rock Springs teams played only white…
STEVE CHERRY:
We played only white teams. Blacks schools played black schools. The only contact that I had with blacks at all was here on my grandfather's farm and there were three or four black teenagers that were teenagers at the same time as I was a teenager. When we were smaller kids we played together and we were teenagers we would play baseball together, that kind of stuff but that's the only …
MARK JONES:
Just informally or …
STEVE CHERRY:
Informally. Informally- in the back yard.
MARK JONES:
And did they live here?
STEVE CHERRY:
The lived right in - well, two of them lived right beside me. One of them was a sharecropper's son that lived on my grandfather's place and the other, the black woman owned property that joined our property and her grandson. That was the two boys that I'm thinking of.
MARK JONES:
And were you close friends with these people?
STEVE CHERRY:
No. We just played ball together and worked together in the fields, but if I were going out, I would go out with white kids and they would go out with black kids… Sort of thrown together of circumstance. There really … at that point in time on this entire road - this road went to Cornelius. Across Lake Norman, before Lake Norman was there, across the Catawba River and ended up in Cornelius. And from the river all the way to Highway 16 there were only three white teenagers that lived there.
MARK JONES:
As compared to how many …
STEVE CHERRY:
Oh, Lord. I've got people that live within a half a mile of me now that I've never seen before.
MARK JONES:
How about, how many black students.
STEVE CHERRY:
There were probably - in that same stretch there were probably - I'm talking in terms of the boys because I knew them better, there were probably four.
MARK JONES:
And when you were playing … were there any conflicts, I mean other than - obviously when you're playing sports you get into arguments and things - anything based on race?
STEVE CHERRY:
No, no. There was - as far as any conflicts, there never was any because we were… Number one we were usually so tired we didn't want to fight because we'd been working in the fields. My grandfather had a farm and I helped him and he hired the boys and their mothers and fathers a lot of times to help in the fields. Like I say, you might throw a dirt clod at one another but it was more picking and playing than it was mad. They just as liable to throw the first dirt clod as me.
MARK JONES:
This is kind of a difficult question to ask., so I don't know if you want to answer it but I hear a lot today about how blacks are more equipped or whatever for certain sports like football, basketball … Now was that an issue back then?
STEVE CHERRY:
No, we were kids playing. We were kids throwing rocks and hitting them with tomato stakes and you know, we weren't worried about who was a good athlete. We were just - that was just something to fill the spare time till you went back to the fields.