Black students riot to protest lost traditions
Norwood explains that he and other black Chapel Hill High School students rioted because they felt that the desegregation process abandoned Lincoln High School’s traditions. Lincoln's mascot and the trophies for its wildly successful football team disappeared, and esteemed figures like Coach Peerman lost their jobs.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Raney Norwood, January 9, 2001. Interview K-0556. 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: Were there specific things, other than the way you were treated by some of the white students—the name-calling, the spitting, and the way you were treated by the English teacher—were there other things that you wanted from the school system?
RN: Yes. When we first got to Chapel Hill High School, everything that Lincoln had was taken away from us. They took away the school colors. They took away the mascot. They took away the name of the teams. When we first got to Chapel Hill High it was the Chapel Hill High Wildcats. ( ).
We finally got the school color changed. We had this showcase where we had trophies. No Lincoln trophies. When you came to Chapel Hill, Lincoln, in basketball and football, Lincoln was a name. I mean, it won championship after championship.
Our coach became almost like a doormat. He was an assistant coach.
BG: Coach Peerman?
RN: Coach Peerman. We felt that, with his winning record and the way he looked out for students—he didn’t care if you were on the team or not, even the guys that played football and basketball—he really looked out for them. He was more concerned about their grades and where they were going. And being made assistant coach was almost like a slap in the face.
BG: Because of the great tradition of Lincoln High—their winning football teams? Chapel Hill High didn’t have that same tradition?
RN: Chapel Hill, they had a nice record. Lincoln High had a superb record. When you go out of town and mention Lincoln, people listen, black and white. When they had games, whites came out to see Lincoln high school, a team beating another team 78 to 0, going un-scored-on all season. Then they got the bad marching band—we used to say “bad-ass” marching band. They had cute little majorettes. We got a drum major high-stepping, putting on a show. ( ) When the band performed, people followed them from the planetarium all the way to Carrboro. You didn’t know when they were going to stop, put on a show. Again I go back to the drum major; I mean, this guy could high-step, do a dance. The majorette was trained to dance.
All those were things that we looked forward to because we didn’t have too many things to look forward to. When I came to Lincoln, I grew up saying I want to be in this band. I wanted to be on the football team but my parents wouldn’t let me be on the team because I got hurt when I was about nine years old. I got shot in the eye with a BB. And they were scared I was going to get hit in the good eye so they wouldn’t let me play football. But I did get in the band.
BG: What did you play in the band?
RN: First I was on the drum. But ( ) I was always the tight one to kind of show off. So I went to the cymbals. I tool these cymbals and modified them, where they can spin. And one of the guys taught me to rig them where you could spin them and they would come up.