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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Kenneth Norton, March 23, 1999. Interview K-0440. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

White community strives to maintain segregation

At the heart of this relatively wide-ranging passage is the idea that the white community spent a lot of money to maintain segregation, indulging in expensive renovations or closing usable buildings to delay integration. Norton also remembers the social life of his community, including the prominent role of Davidson's churches and Davidson College.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Kenneth Norton, March 23, 1999. Interview K-0440. 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

BRIAN CAMPBELL:
So, how did those students come from Cornelius and everywhere else to this school?
KENNETH NORTON:
They had buses. They bused them… in the north end of the county.
BRIAN CAMPBELL:
So they bused them from the time this was opened, they had already started busing?
KENNETH NORTON:
This looks like to me most of these people were from Davidson, so I don't remember what year they really started the consolidation, but when this building was built, that was the plan. It might have been a few years after that before they … Because all the people I see here are from this area.
BRIAN CAMPBELL:
So was that the plan of the people in Davidson or do you think it was something that the county decided to do, to build this school?
KENNETH NORTON:
Well, I'm sure it was the county, but Davidson had a lot of influence I'm sure. I don't know who the board members were back then. I didn't know the board members. Now, they've done away with the board members. I was on the board, president of the PTA over in Rowan County after I moved over there. I was on the local school board. If I had been over here, I would have fought to keep this building and this facility, because I fought to keep the one over there. Now it, it was a black school and now it is an elementary school. They blew out the thing and enlarged it, but they spent a lot of money to try to maintain segregated schools. Somebody put me on the local school board and I fought to keep that facility open, to turn it into a seventh grade school to start with. They weren't going to let me win because I said: "This would be the perfect place for a junior high." The high school being on the downtown section of this little town of Landis and the high school being just off 152 towards China Grove, and the school that we had called Agra Memorial (sp?) in Landis, just outside the city limits would be between the elementary school and the high school. They weren't going to let me win that case, but I was just satisfied to keep it open. The German Lutheran settlement over there - Rowan County - and I'm tax conscious. I said, ADo you want your tax dollars wasted? You've got this facility here and you're going to let it die?" I would have done the same sort of thing if I had been on the school council over here. No one really fought to keep that. Mecklenburg might have not gone along with it anyway, but …
BRIAN CAMPBELL:
You don't think there was much of a fight to keep this one open, that you remember?
KENNETH NORTON:
I don't think there was, no. Kids went …My uncle by marriage, my aunt's husband, was the last principal I believe of this school, John Tibble (sp?). I don't think there was much organized effort to keep it open. People fight now in the Charlotte area, but this was a separate school system then; Mecklenburg County Schools and the system in Charlotte were two different systems, and since then they've been consolidated. Now they've got too many kids down at North Meck[lenburg High School], way over 2,000 and someone said 4,000. That's too many in one high school. I believe in smaller schools, a more community type situation.
BRIAN CAMPBELL:
Do you remember the community being really active in this school?
KENNETH NORTON:
That was the leading thing, and we had nothing else other than churches and schools. We had three little churches and I always felt that there could have been one, but we have Presbyterian, Methodist, and Baptist out there vying against each other. I'm not hung up on denominational things. But that was it. All the social life was through the church or the school. In fact, we saw a movie once a week. A man by the name of Henderson would come down here and show talking movies. Prior to that my foster daddy and his brother had a place around across from the old train station where they showed silent movies. That's about all I can tell you.
BRIAN CAMPBELL:
Were there other events, like did the churches ever have big gatherings and stuff at the school or any other groups that met at the school?
KENNETH NORTON:
No, the school programs were basically like Halloween. Most of the social life of the school I don't remember the churches being involved in the facility that much. The churches had there own little thing going pretty much. They had picnics - Davidson College used to let them have ball games over there and picnics, baseball games. We had the Christian Aid Society which brought some people from each of the churches into a group. That's the little cemetery behind the baseball field, the Christian Aid Society cemetery. We had a Masonic Hall behind our church. The church has been destroyed, but the church was built out of brick from the old Chambers building that burnt [a Davidson College building]. That's the Methodist church that's now there that bought the old white Presbyterian church and tore the old building down, and the Masonic Hall has been torn down.