Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Gloria Register Jeter, December 23, 2000. Interview K-0549. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Integration brings cultural changes

Here, Jeter discusses student life at Phillips Junior High School. Jeter and other black students did not participate in many clubs, she recalls, and some of the black girls began shaving their legs, in Jeter's opinion because white girls were. This excerpt reveals some of the sacrifices black students made during the integration process, from relinquishing their interest in extracurricular activities to their standards for beauty.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Gloria Register Jeter, December 23, 2000. Interview K-0549. 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: Did you feel the need to assimilate into the white culture that you were experiencing at school? GRJ: No, because they did not allow us to. If I remember correctly, we never stayed after school for anything. We did not join any clubs in junior high school, we just went to school and came home. And so there was no after school activity, or anything other than just going to class and coming home, that you could do. BG: What about the way you dressed, the clothes you wore, the way you fixed your hair, did you make an attempt to change any of that? GRJ: I did not, well, I should say as a young woman, probably in junior high school, I decided that I needed to shave my legs, which is a really cultural thing, I have come to understand. Black women, when I was growing up, If you had hairy legs, the men thought that was really sexy so I, we didn't, nobody shaved their legs. But when I got to junior high school, the white girls were shaving their legs so I decided that I should, but I quit, I decided this isn't going to make a big difference to me, and I still don't, even though my daughter does, that's surprising to me. It's a cultural thing. BG: Did you go to any of the sporting events or any of the extracurricular things? GRJ: The only thing I can remember at Guy B. Phillips is they had a 9th grade dance for those leaving and going on to the High School, and I went to that, and that is the only thing I can remember doing other than going to school. I never remember doing anything extra. BG: Was there a reason for that? GRJ: Well I think one of the reasons was, if were to stay, we all had to agree to because we were sharing a taxi back and forth and I could not afford to pay for a taxi myself, we were splitting the fare three ways. I couldn't just arbitrarily decide well I need to stay after school to do such and such. Plus they were not very encouraging, it seems to me, they didn't want you to feel part of the, that this was your school, it was their school and you were just going to class. Which brings me to Chapel Hill High School, because by the time I got to Chapel Hill High School, their theory was, their line was we are merging Chapel Hill High School and we are merging Lincoln High School.