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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Stella Nickerson, January 20, 2001. Interview K-0554. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Lack of investment in public schools

In this excerpt, Nickerson worries that African American parents are not involving themselves in their children's education any more. Increasingly, black people do not feel a sense of ownership of their community schools, perhaps because they never attended a segregated school they felt was really theirs, or because increasingly, parents are moving to the area. This excerpt points to, from the perspective of one African American who experienced segregation, the long term damage wrought by integration.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Stella Nickerson, January 20, 2001. Interview K-0554. 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: What are the problems that you see in schools today? SN: The problems I see when I first think about is, the lack of African Americans really getting involved in what’s going on in their schools. The parents are really staying away. They are not there as our parents were there. They are not there for the meetings. They are not there—the only time they will come is if their child is in a play or something like that. But that’s about it. They do not come to special events. I think they need to be more and more involved. Even if you try to set things up for their interest. Getting them there is hard some times. BG: Why do you think that’s so? Do you think that they don’t have the feeling of ownership? SN: The feeling of ownership, and I think a lot of them may have had bad experiences themselves in school. Or they don’t feel—the majority of the teachers are white teachers—I don’t think they feel as if that’s a place they can go and be comfortable. BG: Do you think there’s a socio-economic thing going on here also? SN: In Chapel Hill? Oh, yeah! BG: Between the teachers and the parents? The white teachers and the black parents? SN: Oh! No. It happens not only between white teachers and black parents. It happens between teachers and parents period. Which is a shame, it really is. BG: Why do the blacks not get more involved in the schools? SN: I really think they do not see it as their school. They just happen to live in the neighborhood and their children go to that particular school. BG: Where do you think that stems from? SN: Because the majority—I’m thinking back to the parents we have now—they didn’t go to a Lincoln High or a Northside. They were always in an integrated school. They didn’t have the ( ) experience that we had to say that this was “our” school. They never had “our” school. BG: What do you think could be done to give ownership to the blacks in the community so that it’s “their” school? Do you think there’s anything? SN: One thing that’s going to have to be done is going to have to be a change of attitude of not only the teachers in the school but also the parents. It’s not just one side that has to do it; I think both sides will have to work on it. Parents—and it doesn’t matter what color they are—need to start going into the schools and asking questions. You have the ones that are there all the time that are asking questions. But then you have this group that the only time they’re there is when there’s conflicts or whatever. They’re not there, asking, you know, why isn’t my child doing this, why isn’t my child in enrichment? They just basically take whatever is told and don’t ask any key questions. Trying to reach out to them and trying to get them in there is hard. BG: You don’t have a magic cure for getting them involved? SN: No. And also in Chapel Hill, the number of African Americans in schools is decreasing. It really is. And you look at a lot of them, the parents didn’t even grow up in Chapel Hill. They moved here from somewhere else. So the African-American family that actually grew up here—the parents grew up here, the grandparents grew up here, and all that—that number is decreasing. BG: Now I had asked you something about socioeconomic. You were about to jump on it. Then I specified about socioeconomic. But I would love to hear what you were going to say about the socioeconomics of the black community. Could you recall? SN: Yes. I think that it is still in decreasing. We almost headed back to the haves and the have-nots in Chapel Hill. And that’s sad. There was a time when it was all beginning to blend. But now I think we’re moving up to the ones that have and the ones--. And the have nots, they have, but when they compare to what it is that when you think of—I call call off some neighborhoods here. It’s obvious. BG: The difference. Economic success between the black community and the white community. Is that fair to say that you’re saying that? SN: I’m saying that. But the white communities, the ones that are living there, moved into Chapel Hill. They did not grow up here. The majority of them are moving in from somewhere.