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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Sheila Florence, January 20, 2001. Interview K-0544. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Joining the desegregation vanguard

No black students wanted to be in the vanguard of desegregation in Chapel Hill. At the urging of her mother, Florence did so despite her fears.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Sheila Florence, January 20, 2001. Interview K-0544. 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

BOB GILGOR:
Were you the first black student to go to the High School, or had there been other blacks?
SHEILA FLORENCE:
No, no blacks. I was among one of the first that went, that integrated the Chapel Hill High School, Chapel Hill Junior High.
BOB GILGOR:
Before you went there did you get any orientation during the summer to tell you what it might be like?
SHEILA FLORENCE:
No I didn't. We went, as far as I can remember, that was a long time ago, we had orientation just like everybody else. Went to the school, we would, they told all about the school, changing of classes, what we were required of, and that's about it.
BOB GILGOR:
Was that during the summer?
SHEILA FLORENCE:
Oh no, that was school starting. Yeah they let us know that we were going to be leaving Lincoln High School going to, I just call it, Chapel Hill High School.
BOB GILGOR:
Now did you want to do that?
SHEILA FLORENCE:
Cause I thought about it, I thought it would be a good thing in one way, in another way, I was scared to death to go. I was very nervous, but different ones, especially my Mama, she was saying "Well, I think you oughta go," because of their education was so much better, that was one thing that was stressed upon. And they were saying that we wouldn't have the same books, they were teaching one thing at Lincoln, another thing at the white schools. And so I said, well, I'll go. I was offered a chance to go, that was the way it was, I was offered a chance. I think so many more, so many other people they had asked, and nobody wanted to go.
BOB GILGOR:
They wanted to stay at Lincoln?
SHEILA FLORENCE:
They wanted to stay at Lincoln, I guess because Lincoln was an all-black school and the place to be, back then. Lincoln High School. And back then, blacks had their school and whites had their school, and just didn't mix back then. That just wasn't the thing to do, and plus they didn't want to miss out on some of the activities or miss out on being with their friends at Lincoln High School, being with the buddies.