Various experiences with white racism
In this excerpt, Battle recalls some of the stories she heard from family members who gathered to talk on the porch of her childhood home. She remembers one threat of violence and the casual racism of whites who assumed that accomplished African Americans must have white blood. This excerpt offers a quick glimpse at some of the experiences of African Americans before the civil rights movement.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Alice Battle, February 20, 2001. Interview K-0523. 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
BG: In your discussions of the history that you learned, was there emphasis put on what happened during slavery? It sounds like it was pretty clear some of the history did relate to slavery.
AB: I just remember that particular story about the molasses and cornbread. Not a lot of emphasis on slavery but she talked a lot about what happened after slavery. It was an aunt or great-grandmother. It had to be a great-grandmother instead of just a grandmother because Uncle Rick was brother to her mother and she said that on one occasion something had happened in the community and I’m not sure what it was but Uncle Rick and some more men were hold up some where with guns because the white people were going to come looking for somebody. One white man called out and said, “Rick Taylor, come on out. You know we aren’t going to hurt you. We don’t have anything against you. Just come out and nobody is going to get hurt.” He yelled out, “All right.” But he told the men with him, “Lay low boys.” I don’t know what the end of it was, but I know he wasn’t killed. Some kind of way it was settled.
She talked about somebody saying to my grandfather who was principal of the old Quaker School that, “Oh, yes, London, you are very smart. You know you have white blood in you.” He said, “No, Indian and Negro blood.”
BG: The object was to put them down saying that his smarts came from whites and not from his African heritage.
AB: Yes, and it’s Indian, Native American. That’s why I’m surprised because she always told us that he was part Indian, and then in later years our historian for the Witted family found in the documents in Hillsborough that there were mulattoes so I don’t know whether they said that because of the color and looks of mulattoes and they had straight hair.
BG: Mulatto being?
AB: A mixture of black and white. I just think she knew what it was. [Laughter].