Different forms of resistance
After briefly describing the choice between non-violence and violent protest, Norwood remembers his parents. His father worked hard as a janitor to feed the Norwood family. His mother, a housekeeper, was the disciplinarian of the family.
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
RN: So you know we got to hang out with guys like that. Those guys were labeled as troublemakers because of the way they spoke. When those guys made speeches, they spoke about violence—see, our thing, you slap me, I’ll slap you back.
The great thing, too, during that time, we had Martin Luther King. I was saying to myself, “OK, white people, you all got two choices: Martin Luther King, which is the non-violent way; or us. Now which one do you want to deal with?” That was the attitude that me and ( ) done took. We didn’t hate white people. We hated the system. Black Panthers did not hate white people. They hated the system and they hated those who supported the system. But we went behind great leaders. They not only let us hang with them, they taught us a lot, took us on. To say then, ( ) Stokeley Carmichael and H. Rap Brown, Preston ( )—being alive. I still—there’s no shame in my game to say this—a lot of people in my job, when they find out I used to be in the Black Panther Party, they want to ask questions. Some of them—I get the feeling that, “He’s crazy. He’s mean.”
Still, I lived the life that I want to help people. Therefore I took on the job at the homeless shelter. The pay wasn’t shit. I mean, real low pay. But I wasn’t making good money elsewhere. I went there, and they’re not going to treat black different from white or white different from black. Everybody was going to get treated the same because they’re homeless and need help.
Just the same the Panthers was trying to say, but they were dealing with the blacks. Because we were oppressed people back then. I mean, we had to go in the back door to go to the store but our money was still green. You know. During protests, we were protesting in front of the Colonial Drug Store. There’s a guy sitting there. This lady comes out, standing over him in front of the people, and peed on him. Going down there, you got hit with eggs marching down Franklin Street.
BG: Did any of the whites march with you?
RN: Oh, yes. We had some that marched, some that got involved. Like Revered Seymore. A lot of people don’t know that Martin Luther King spent some time in ( ) Seymore’s house when he came to Chapel Hill. There’s a lot of things that my daughter and my grandchildren need to know. So I’m trying to get all factual. ( ) ready to glorify anything. I want them to see the hard time. Like I told my daughter, I’m not going to sit here and make it sound like everything was sweet and lovely. It was a hard time out there.
I go back to when my father had to walk from ( ) Street to the university. Then he had to walk from ( ) Street to the university when his car broke down. He worked at the university for forty-six years as a janitor. He kept food on our table. He kept clothes on our back. Just one man that really pushed education. I could see him come in in the evening, just bone tired. But he’d get out there, show us how to cut this wood. And then when we did all our chores, like during the summer months, we would take a little time out and go fishing. And we weren’t fishing for the sports. We had to have the fish on the table to eat. This went on in a lot of the black community and stuff. But we survived.
BG: Did your father talk about his job at the university as a janitor?
RN: My dad used to tell us—I remember one time he asked me, was I ashamed of the work he did. I said no. He said, “Well let me tell you something. Whatever you do in life, do it damn good. And I’m a damn good janitor.” His hallway, man, he used to take us as kids. It used to shine like a mirror, you know, the reflection off it. The professors and stuff, they were real ( ) on my dad, because he gave that extra step. He was not what we call an ass-kisser. But he was the type of person that put their little extra in.
BG: What about your mom?
RN: My mom was sort of like laid back. She was in housekeeping. She worked a while for Coach Taylor. We used to hear around the house, Coach Taylor ( ). My momma was the best person that could use a switch and a belt. I mean, she was good at it. When it came to discipline us and whipping us, ( ) my dad. My dad felt kind of sorry and backed off. Mom, she used to say, “It’s going to rain.” ( ) and then when the song came on the radio, we thought it was time to get a whipping. She was a strong figure, though. As a matter of fact, she’s still the boss.
BG: So she ran the household?