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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Richard Bowman, July 8, 1998. Interview K-0513. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Black high school gives former students the skills to address inequality in Asheville

Bowman has helped to renovate Stephens-Lee High School and monitor the academic welfare of black students since he returned to Asheville. He credits the progress of the local movement to improve black education to the motivation students of his generation received at Stephens-Lee. They moved away to places where they could aggressively use their talents, then they returned to address injustices in Asheville.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Richard Bowman, July 8, 1998. Interview K-0513. 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

KELLY ELAINE NAVIES:
That was real important. So, tell me in your opinion, as you look back on your years at Stephens-Lee and what's happened since then-how would you compare what's gone on in the black community since Stephens-Lee was there and now in the contemporary time? In other words, what kind of changes have gone on and what did the closing of Stephens-Lee have to do with that?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Well, [pause] -Stepens-Lee. When Stephens-Lee was open it trained the students to be leaders and to be aggressive and go out and some of the students took advantage of that and left the city because they knew that there was no way they could be aggressive here, because there were not job openings for blacks. So, they left the city and went to different parts of the country. They were aggressive and they succeeded in reaching higher level than they ever would have reached in Asheville. They worked in these positions for years and learned a lot while working in these positions and then when they retired from these positions they came back to Asheville and used that knowledge to help push Asheville up. Whereas as some of the people who stayed here and were not exposed to those things, uh seemed to be just as content at the level that things were thirty years ago and most of your movement is caused by people who left and came back. A lot of your movement is caused by people who left and came back.
KELLY ELAINE NAVIES:
So, you, yourself are a part of that movement-you have returned-and we're gonna talk a little bit about where you went-but, you have returned to Asheville as a retired man-was it your plan to come back and give back to your community?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
To be honest, no. My plan was to retire and come back to Asheville and relax and enjoy these beautiful mountains, but when I came back and found out what was going on in Asheville, I said I can't retire. Cause, it's too many things need to be done-
KELLY ELAINE NAVIES:
What kind of things are you talking about?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Well, one is uh, the education system-the number of blacks finishing high school. They don't have black graduating classes the size of the classes we had finishing high school-just a few blacks. In certain positions, blacks appear to be being used. The black males are strong and are used as football players to win games for the school, but after football season is over they are forgotten about. There's no concern about their education. In fact, I volunteered to work on a committee here to monitor the black athletes and see to it that if they don't maintain their grades, they not play football.
KELLY ELAINE NAVIES:
So, you volunteer at the high school?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Yeah. And I volunteer to work on the Ashville City Schools Foundation Board. And that's another board where we work with education. I work on this listing [unclear] project to find out exactly why the students are having such a rough time-we interviewed parents and teachers and students-the board of education is implementing things that we came up with on that program. But, and uh the gym is being renovated now-I don't know how many blacks we have here that know how-that have had the experience in reading blueprints that I've had so I volunteered to take the blueprints and kind of follow through with the construction.