Racism demeans black teachers and students
Black teachers and administrators lost their positions during integration, remembers Davis, but their loss of status came as no surprise. Tensions were natural, thinks Davis. Both white and black students felt that they had lost something and hostility was inevitable. Davis remembers one manifestation of this frustration: a racist note sent to the integrated Chapel Hill High School after a loss to an all-white squad.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Nate Davis, February 6, 2001. Interview K-0538. 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
RG: What was it like in the school, with the teachers that first year, and with the relationship, your relationship with teachers and your relationship with the white students at the new high school?
ND: Well you know with the teachers, they brought some of the black teachers out, you know, Mr. McDougle came, Mr. R.D. Smith, so we had some people that we could go to, people that we could talk to if we had a problem, um, people that was out there that was going to make sure that we got a good education and we was treated, you know, fairly, that we was not mistreated. So we had people like that. You had Coach Culton who was the football, basketball, track, swim, golf, he coached everything. He was there and kind of, you know, took care of student athletes.
RG: So you felt he was fair to all races.
ND: Coach Culton?
ND: I would say so, yeah. And Coach Peerman was out there also.
RG: What was your feeling that Coach Peerman, who had been so successful with the sports program, was now assistant coach? Was that bothersome?
ND: He was assistant coach, he was JV coach. Um, in a way it did, but also, um, by me being a sophomore, I played JV football, so I got the opportunity to play under him, you know.
RG: Uh-huh. What kind of a coach was he?
ND: As far as, he was a good coach, he was a good person, you know, a good role model, he looked out for everyone. He was a fair coach, whether you was white or black, you know, um, with all the blacks that came out to Chapel Hill High School back then, I think they kind of felt like that they was gonna be mistreated. Like Mr. McDougle, he was assistant principal, I think he was in charge of books.
RG: So you sort of expected, when you say that others expected to be mistreated when they went to the high school.
ND: I think so, um, I mean I’m pretty sure that we was, and other people was not thinking that hey, this is a big change for us, it’s for the best, and everything is going to be just fine.
RG: Did it bother you that almost all the core curriculum teachers were white, and the black teachers were in peripheral courses?
ND: Well, see, I had had that for the past, you know, three years.
RG: So it was nothing new to you.
ND: No, it was nothing new. And I think people kind of expected, I’m pretty sure people knew that, this community knew that all the black teachers at Lincoln was not going to be brought out to Chapel Hill High School and also, you know, Lincoln stayed open for a while as a school, as like an elementary and middle school, so there was still some classes at Lincoln, so some of the teachers stayed down there.
RG: Um, what I’d heard from others is that tensions seemed to get worse over a couple of years, and I wonder if you could tell me what your feelings were about what happened at the school leading up to the riot that occurred.
ND: You know, I don’t remember a lot about the riot, probably for a couple reasons. Because we had teachers that wouldn’t let us out of class when the thing really broke out, you know, we’d be sitting there, we’d say we hate all white people, and she would say, well do you hate me, and we’d say no, we don’t hate you, and she’d say, but I’m white. Yeah, but we don’t hate you, we just hate the white people, you know. So, and, like I say, I don’t remember a lot of it.
RG: Do you remember the issue that sparked the riot, or the issues that made the black students have this hatred?
ND: I think the black students wanted to be a part, they wanted to be heard, to let people know that they were part of the school. And I think the main thing, they wanted it to be their school also. You know, I can remember the first year in ’66, we had an excellent football team. And we went to Roxboro, and played Roxboro, and they beat us. They beat us. They really beat us. And we, the next week at practice, Coach Culton walked out on the field, and he was real quiet, you know, and he had this letter in his hand. And somebody at Roxboro had wrote him a letter, and this is what it was saying, ‘Do not never bring those niggers up here to try to beat us in football again.’ You know. So, you know, things like that happened, and we would go places, and play games, you know. There were some teams that still didn’t have any blacks on their teams, so we encountered a lot of hatred from that. And I think it just kind of carried over and, what had happened, you had basically taken something from both races, you know, you had the white race that felt like Chapel Hill High is our school, you know, and you had the black race saying well, Lincoln High was our school. So you took Lincoln from them and you also took Chapel Hill High from the whites. Because they grew up saying, you know, this is my school. And we grew up saying Lincoln and Northside is our school. So it’s not, you know, I feel like you just didn’t take something from the blacks, but you also took something from the whites, also. And so you probably had a lot of hatred and a lot of hostility and anger built up in both races.