Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Nate Davis, February 6, 2001. Interview K-0538. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Children learn about segregated society

In this excerpt, Davis tries to evaluate the significance of the assassination of Martin Luther King to the students at Chapel Hill High School. He speculates that white students may actually have sympathized with the black community's loss, but also that white parents, who did not have the benefit of regular interaction with African Americans, did much to nurture racism in their children. Davis's own parents did not teach Davis to mistrust whites, but they did teach him about community boundaries he should not cross.

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: Did you feel that the death of Martin Luther King, and all the demonstrations that had taken place in the South around that time, had any bearing on the feelings of the students? ND: White or black students? RG: Yeah. Both. Either. ND: I think you probably had a lot of white students that was afraid, you had black students that was angry. No one knew what was going to happen, you know, you probably had some white students that was trying to get across to their black friends, yes, this did happen but I'm not a part of it; you know me, you know who I am, you know what I believe in, you know I've been your friend. And I think there would have been less racism coming from the white students if it was not for some of their parents. Because a lot of the students that we had problems with, or that I have a problem with now, or back then, are my friends, I would consider them friends. But someone I have sat down and had lunch with or had breakfast with or whatever, that I see in the community and things like that, you know, so I think that it was something that they grew up with. It was something that was taught. And it took them a time to learn that this is not the way it should be, this is not the way I want to be. RG: What did you learn from your parents about whites, how you should feel about them? ND: I think back then, growing up, that was something that was never discussed. We knew that if you went certain places you would be discriminated against, but as far as your parents telling you, well don't trust this white person because they're going to do this to you, you know, it was not the person but the situation you were put in, where you went, you know, how you handled yourself when you went certain places. And we had everything we needed in our community, so we really didn't have to go anywhere, you know. We had our school, we had our churches. I was not lucky enough to be old enough to go to the movie theatre that used to be up here in Carrboro, but you know, back then they had the movie theatre, and we had Hargraves. Hey, you got everything you needed at Hargraves. I been coming to Hargraves since I was five years old.