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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Gloria Register Jeter, December 23, 2000. Interview K-0549. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Tensions between black students and white teachers

In this excerpt, Jeter describes the deep sense of frustration with how black students were treated at the newly integrated Chapel Hill High School. This psychological impact was exacerbated by the economic gap between black and white students, which could affect their academic performance. The Upward Bound program, however, did offer black students a stimulating experience regardless of wealth, and Jeter credits the program with her admission to the University of North Carolina.

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: Well I want to go back to something you said about the teachers at Chapel Hill High School. And that is, that it was not just that you were ignored, and implicit in that is that you were ignored. GRJ: Yes. We were ignored. But, worse than being ignored is the attitude that you are stupid and you don’t deserve my input. You don’t deserve my energy or my time. And even though, on the one hand, you might have a black student here who is studying and trying to learn, and you have some white students over here who are just playing around and don’t care about learning, my emphasis must be on these white students. I think part of the problem, too, with Chapel Hill is economic. There is a huge disparity between the amount of money that these students in this classroom have, when I was in school, I was in school with Ruth Julian and Hugh Taylor, whose father was the dean of the Med School – these people had money I’ll never have in this lifetime. They had – so – they had experiences that I would never even think about. I remember Hugh Taylor was supposed to go to French, down to French teacher. He went to France every summer! So when we’d go to class to learn to speak French, he’s telling, he’s teaching her! And those of us who can, who don’t speak English, the way white people spoke English, well you know you don’t expect black people to speak French. You’re just in here wasting my time. So they – just – they tried to prove to you that you were, dumb, and you were, not good, enough. And I think that sparked a lot of anger with us. Because some of us, I mean I wasn’t all that smart, but I did work hard and I enjoyed studying. But some people in the class were quite smart. But -- BG: Some blacks? GRJ: Mmmhmm. But it’s like they tell you, oh you can’t, you know, you can’t do this, because you’re black. And I think that’s what sort of ticks me off. BG: Did they make eye contact with you? The teachers? The other students? GRJ: Some of them. There were some students who, would make eye contact and were across the hall, there were some students who were, just overtly racist. You know. BG: All three years that you were there. GRJ: Yeah. BG: And, the teachers, um, did the teachers help you to get into UNC? Who, who was the one who helped you get into UNC? GRJ: It was more through Upward Bound. It was more through the Upper Bound program saying to me, well, you took these classes at Carolina, just, apply and go. They’ll give you scholarship money, we know they’ve got money, so you can just apply to college. And they, and they said, you should not apply to just one school, apply to several schools, BG: Who was “they” that were saying this. Upward Bound? GRJ: Mmmhmm. BG: So, did you get any help from counselors or -- GRJ: No. BG: -- or teachers at Chapel Hill High? GRJ: No, no. Uh-uh. BG: Did any of the black students get help? GRJ: Not to my knowledge, and if you were, BG: Did the white students get – excuse me, did the white students get help? GRJ: I don’t know. But I know as a student, as a young person, my parents always said, “You are going to college.” It’s not like, “you have a choice, if you want to go, you can go to coll--,” no. “You are leaving here and you going to somebody’s school. So we didn’t have any choice about NOT going to college, that was the law. You were going to school, there were certain things that we, had to do. That was one of them. So, what I did, when I got to high school, I looked around in the class and I said, well, this person looks kind of smart, and that person seems to be kind of smart, whatever they take I’m gonna take. So that, because I know they think they’re going to college, I know I got to go, or I got to fight my parents, so, that’s how I decided to plan my schedule. To pick out the classes that I wanted to take. I just said well, some of these white people in here are smart and they, they taking this kind of English and that kind of math and this kind of History, so I’m gonna take that too, because I know that that way, when I get ready to go I will be academically ready, for all sorts of credits that I need. But I think Upward Bound was probably the major influence on how, the actual mechanics of applying, getting an application, taking the SAT, and getting to the point of going to school.