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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 >>

Athletes stay out of desegregation violence

Black athletes did not become involved in the violence at East Lincoln High school. They had learned to respect their white teammates, feared that fighting would result in expulsion from their team, and listened to their coach.

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:
I started to ask before- you mentioned previously that the athletes weren't normally involved in these clashes. Why do you see that? Do you think that simply because through athletics - football, basketball, they interacted … like, blacks were interacting with whites, whites were interacting with blacks and they had gotten beyond these racial issues?
STEVE CHERRY:
I can only speak for East Lincoln High School. First of all, I think that the athletes had a respect for each other. They were teammates. Secondly, at East Lincoln High School, I think the athletes, both black and white, knew that ‘If I get in trouble, he's going take my uniform.’
MARK JONES:
Meaning you.
STEVE CHERRY:
Right. And, they had to bring their report cards to me at every grading period. I checked with their teachers between report periods. We have had study hall before practice - that kind of thing. It wasn't that I was a tyrant. It was that I had a real good ball club and I didn't want to lose anybody. And I didn't want a kid to mess himself up. And everyday - there was not a week went by that a lot of times I did not call one of my players into the office and say, ‘Joe, Jonny's getting ready to get himself into trouble down the hall. He's been running his mouth some more and you better get down there and straighten it out. You don't want no trouble. You don't want nobody talking about East Lincoln High School.’ The first thing you know, thirty minutes later, Jonny's mouth was shut.