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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 >>

Protesting segregation in Chapel Hill

Florence remembers protesting segregation in Chapel Hill, though she says she was too scared to involve herself to the point where she faced arrest. She remembers taking strength from Martin Luther King.

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:
The movie theater, did you picket the movie theater?
SHEILA FLORENCE:
Oh yeah, when integration first started, we were involved.
BOB GILGOR:
Were you involved in 1960 when the first sit-ins occurred at the Colonial Drug Store, Big Johns?
SHEILA FLORENCE:
Sure was, I was out there watching on the picket line I was walking and they would sit in, well they would sit down in front and make a little circle, they would lock arms and Big John, he had two sons, and they would come to the door and the two sons, they would have baseball bats and they would stand there, they would lock the door. They would see us coming and they would run, lock the door, stand there with baseball bats till the policeman came and they carry the picketers, not the picketers the ones that was sitting in, they would carry them off, put them in the police car and carry them downtown.
BOB GILGOR:
Did you ever get taken in a police car?
SHEILA FLORENCE:
No.
BOB GILGOR:
Did they lift them or drag them?
SHEILA FLORENCE:
No, they didn't lift them. By them locking arms they'd have to drag them to get them loose and then put them in the police car.
BOB GILGOR:
Did some of your friends get arrested?
SHEILA FLORENCE:
Oh yeah. They did, so some of them got arrested and I remember one night we went all the way down to the Town Hall to protest and I remember Me and My Mom we were one of the ones who spend the night up there in the Town Hall, upstairs.
BOB GILGOR:
So your Mom was out there with you even though it could of cost her her job? Did her boss ever say anything to her?
SHEILA FLORENCE:
No. Never did.
BOB GILGOR:
Did the other students ever say anything to you at the white schools, that you were out there picketing? The teachers?
SHEILA FLORENCE:
I don't think so. I remember one of the black girls that sit in my class, that was in my class, she got arrested and they sort of made fun of her being arrested, picketing and sitting-in, they make bad comments about it. About her being arrested.
BOB GILGOR:
How did you feel about her being arrested?
SHEILA FLORENCE:
I felt bad for her cause I was too scared to do it, so I looked up to her cause she had nerve to do it.
BOB GILGOR:
So you took pride in her while the other students were teasing her?
SHEILA FLORENCE:
That's right. Yeah I told her it was a good thing that she was able to do it, glad that she was one of the ones that had nerve to do it, cause I was little scared, but I would always be there every time they were like "okay we gonna picket, we gonna have a meeting," I was always at the meetings. I would give them support, but I was always too scared.
BOB GILGOR:
Where were the meetings?
SHEILA FLORENCE:
At some of the churches, like up at First Baptist.
BOB GILGOR:
Was that in '63 or back in '60?
SHEILA FLORENCE:
Back in '60. Lot of times we would meet and we would have our signs and we would say where we were going to picket. That was something a lot of nights me feet were so cold I didn't know I had feet, couldn't hardly walk, and hands also, hands would be cold, you'd have gloves on and your hands would still get cold cause we'd be out there a long time.
BOB GILGOR:
how did if feel when you were picketing?
SHEILA FLORENCE:
Felt like I was doing something to help integration and we'd hear what Martin Luther King was doing and so that gave us the courage, we would sing "we shall overcome."
BOB GILGOR:
Did you have the same feeling about the school, that you were one of the first blacks at he school, that you were doing something for integration?
SHEILA FLORENCE:
I did.
BOB GILGOR:
Did that help you get through it all?
SHEILA FLORENCE:
Maybe that's what it was, I was doing something so that it wouldn't be bad for others that was gonna come after me, maybe that was what helped me get through it. You was asking a little while ago what helped me get through it, maybe that was something that helped me to get through it. That I was paving the way for other blacks that was gonna be coming, then it wouldn't be as bad for them. They wouldnt' get the names and the bad treatment and what not, they were doing.