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Title: Oral History Interview with Gwendolyn Matthews, December 9, 1999. Interview K-0654. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Matthews, Gwendolyn , interviewee
Interview conducted by Van Scoyoc, Peggy
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Jennifer Joyner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2007
Size of electronic edition: 132 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2007.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2007-00-00, Celine Noel, Wanda Gunther, and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2007-09-25, Jennifer Joyner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Gwendolyn Matthews, December 9, 1999. Interview K-0654. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series K. Southern Communities. Southern Oral History Program Collection (K-0654)
Author: Peggy Van Scoyoc
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Gwendolyn Matthews, December 9, 1999. Interview K-0654. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series K. Southern Communities. Southern Oral History Program Collection (K-0654)
Author: Gwendolyn Matthews
Description: 128 Mb
Description: 34 p.
Note: Interview conducted on December 9, 1999, by Peggy Van Scoyoc; recorded in Cary, North Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by Peggy Van Scoyoc.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series K. Southern Communities, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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The text has been entered using double-keying and verified against the original.
The text has been encoded using the recommendations for Level 4 of the TEI in Libraries Guidelines.
Original grammar and spelling have been preserved.
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Interview with Gwendolyn Matthews, December 9, 1999.
Interview K-0654. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Matthews, Gwendolyn , interviewee


Interview Participants

    GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS, interviewee
    PEGGY VAN SCOYOC, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
This is Peggy Van Scoyoc. I am here today to interview Gwendolyn Matthews. We are at Wake Tech Community College where she works. Today is Thursday, December 9, 1999 and we are about to begin our interview for today. So, let's start out if you will with your family background, your grandparents, your parents. Where they're from, and what they did.
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
My grandparents, I only knew my grandmother on my father's side. Really on both of the sides because my grandfathers died when I was very young. So I only knew my grandmother and only recently, to be honest with you, in terms of my grandmother and my father and his siblings, did I recently find out how they lived. I presently live on Tryon Road which is where I grew up. I moved back home with my father right now because he is not well, so I've moved back in with him to be his caretaker. But down Lake Wheeler Road there used to be orchards, peach orchards in particular and tobacco and those kinds of things. And I found out that my grandmother and her children worked those farms. They picked the peaches and went from place to place and really did not have a house to live in per se', so whatever farm would take them in is where they lived and so they worked there and then they moved on to the next one. And that's a very recent knowledge for me. I really didn't know that. I never asked, to be honest with you, I never thought about it one way or the other. So I just recently found that out.
On my mother's side, most of her family is from Philadelphia. And so she was very Northern in that regard. In terms of my father and mother, I grew up the oldest of five children. When I went to Cary High, I was in the tenth grade. So I had just about all of my siblings, except for my youngest sister, and that's a very interesting situation. She was named after a young lady

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who befriended me at Cary High. Her name was Adonna. And another young lady was Legare. And so there were two young ladies who befriended me and I asked my mother if I could name my two sisters after them. And I don't really even know if they know that to this day. I think I told them but I'm not sure. But I did name them, I asked my mother and she did. So I'm the oldest of five. We lived a fairly, not comfortable but not poor. But we were not even middle class. Part of the reason was because my… it was an extended family kind of situation so we all just kind of shared. So whoever had money or whoever had food, you know, and everybody always had. And there were about three houses right there in the middle was my father's house and my grandmother's house, and another aunt's house and another aunt's house. And so they were my father's two brothers. And they all lived there. He had sisters but they lived a little further up the road. So we were all right there together so we all kind of shared. We weren't poor in the way that people might think of being poor. No money. There were times when we ate a lot of very simple kinds of things. We had very little meat sometimes. But it wasn't anything we thought about because everybody didn't have meat, so it was not big deal about that. And my grandmother always had food because she was the kind of person, she also cleaned homes. But every home she worked in considered her part of the family. So she could ask any family who's home she worked in for anything and they would give it to her. So her Sunday meals were great, and so we were all eating Sunday meals at Grandma's house because she had chicken and all kinds of things. And they also had a small farm. So we were able to get things there. But there was nothing my Grandmother wanted if she wanted for the house or the children so she just fed us all, kind of thing. It was a very simple way of life, to be honest with you. We all had cars and things, my father did. So we weren't poor or anything, but we really weren't middle class by any stretch of the imagination.

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I attended, what is it now, I think it's West Cary now, but I attended what was EAST Cary Elementary when it was segregated until eighth grade. And then my ninth and tenth grades were also segregated. I attended a school called Berry O'Kelly High School which is not even in existence now. Method is there but the high school is not there. I think the gym is there because it is like the community center for Method now. But the high school itself, the building itself where I attended ninth and tenth grades is no longer there. All those years were fun years because I was very active. I was head cheerleader, for instance. I sang in the choir, I was in lots of clubs. And so I was very active, I ran track and one summer the regional and local sixty yard dash things. And so I had a really good time.
Then in 1962, my father who was very active in the NAACP, integration was just getting started and there were pockets around the state as well as around Raleigh of schools being integrated. And so, at that time Cary High was more rural than it is now. It wasn't anything like, I mean Cary wasn't anything like it is now when I was back there in '63. Anyway, it took a year's preparation in terms of… they chose five of us. They were trying to get one in each grade. But what happened was, my cousin and I had always been in the same grade and had always been together, so they decided in the eleventh grade there would be two. So my cousin and I were in the eleventh grade. There was one in the ninth grade, one in the tenth grade, two in the eleventh and one in the twelfth grade, of Black students who first went into Cary High, there were five of us. And I really wish I could remember all their names now, but unfortunately I don't. I just remember my brother and a young man named Gregory Crowe.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
Did you know Gregory Crowe?
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
Yes. I knew all of them because we were at the high school together. So I knew all of them. I don't know why I can't think of the other two names.

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PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
I have some names written down that I extracted from the book, Around and About Cary, and maybe this will ring some bells. Francis White.
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
Yes. She was one of the five and she was a senior.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
Great, Okay. Phyllis McIver?
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
Yes, I think she was in the tenth grade. And Gregory was in the ninth grade. And Brenda and I were in the eleventh.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
Okay. And Brenda is your cousin? Okay. Esther Mayo
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
Oh gosh. I think she was tenth grade.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
Okay, and Lucille Evans.
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
I think she was twelfth grade, she might be twelfth grade also.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
Okay. So it was just… Gregory came a year after you, is that true?
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
After me, yes.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
So it was just girls that started that first year with you.
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
Yes. Just girls. I wonder why. It's a good observation. But yes, we noted that too, we were all girls. There was, at least from my father, there was some discussion about how to act and what to do and what not to do. How to respond, how not to respond, certainly not to retaliate. Just go about attending classes and doing the kinds of things you should do as a student and not get yourself embroiled in any situation. The first week was extremely difficult because when we stepped off the bus, when I say we I'm talking about my cousin and I, when we got off the bus, because we were on the same bus because we lived on the same road at that time, I think at that time it was called Ramcat Road because the community was called Ramcat, so it was called Ramcat Road, and then it went to Holly Springs Road and now it's Tryon Road. So it too has had it's share of names. So we lived on the same road together. She lived just maybe three

Page 5
miles up the road from me and so we rode the same bus. And so when we stepped off the bus there was a crowd of people saying, "two, four, six, eight, we don't want to integrate." So that was not a comfortable time. I don't think I'd ever seen so many red faces, meaning angry, faces in my life. But they did not put their hands on us. We were spat at, but none of it hit us. And we were called lots of names, typical names that you might hear. "Nigger," "Coon," "Bitches," and so we were, you know… Stepping off to that was not fun and I would have preferred not to have come back. But my father was determined that I was going to go through this. And so, and because they were members of the NAACP, this was crucial for us to complete it, they felt. The "they" being the organization as well as my parents and Brenda's parents, mother and father. And so we did it. But the first, we never had any true friends there. As I said, I was befriended by those two and another young man, I honestly cannot remember his name. For some reason I want to call him Gregory, who was in my geometry, math class I had, it may have been algebra, but a math class that I had. And he was very friendly in a very sympathetic kind of way, so he would talk to me in class. And Adonna and Legare did the same thing, they would talk to me in class. And so it wasn't terribly bad, but I was not, I cannot speak for Brenda because we were always in the same classroom. So there was one of us throughout the day in a class by ourselves. So sometimes we were not called on. Even if we raised our hand we were not called on. Students would not sit beside us or they would move their desks so that they would not be, you know how desks would normally be in a room. But there would be lots of space around us so they would not be sitting close to us. I have to admit I could tell though that some students would have preferred not to be that way, but peer pressure is so very, looking back on it now, I'm saying this, peer pressure I can imagine would have been great for someone to have befriended us. Why those three individuals did, I have no idea, to be honest with you. I don't know whether

Page 6
they just didn't care and thought this is not the way to do this. I will at least speak to them, whether or not I come to her house to eat with her is one thing, but I will at least speak to her and see if she needs any help. So I did have those three people in my classes who were friendly enough to where I could get through the class. But coming from an environment where I was very popular, I was well known throughout the school and very liked, and participated to go through living nothing. I did literally nothing at Cary High. If I remember correctly, I did try out for something but the experience was so devastating I chose not to go back out and try for anything else, and so I never did.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
Athletic, or…
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
Right. And so I never did. I didn't go for chorus, I didn't go for track, I didn't go for cheer leading, I didn't go for any of it because it was just too difficult to go through it. And so I did not. And Brenda did not. Now after, those that came after us had a little easier time, yes. But for the first two years, and that would have been Francis and me and Brenda in particular and one of the others, it was not a good experience for the first two years. Very difficult when you're not called on, when no one really talks to you, nobody sits beside you, people on the bus don't want to sit, don't sit beside you, don't want to and don't or you get on the bus and the bus is filled and you have to stand up and nobody, and everybody's scrinching so that you don't touch them, and so it was not the best two years of my life, to be honest with you. But I had a very strong, and all of us had very strong family support. My mother was very supportive. She said you go through and you do what you need to, and if you have to come home and cry, you will cry. And I did. So she was always very comforting, encouraging and comforting, but also one of those mothers who said it was my… get that stiff upper lip, kind of thing also, you know. And go through this because you can do it, you know. And she prayed for me and cried with me and

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talked to me, and so we had very good… And Brenda's mother did the same thing and I would imagine everyone else's mother did too, except I only know me and Brenda. And so I assume the other mothers did the same thing for their children. And so Aunt Clyde, Brenda's mother, would come down they would commiserate and they would talk and how are we going to handle this, and do things like this.
And so the good thing about it was, as I said, nobody ever touched us, no one physically. Were we spit on, yes, nobody wanted to share a locker. Spit at, I should not say we were spit on because I think that would have been something different. Spit at, but not spit on. And so, it was not the best two years of my life. If I could have done something else, I think I would have done it, but I could not. And it really was… We knew we were setting a precedent and so we did not, we were just cautioned by many men from NAACP as well as from my father and the community, not to do anything that would make it difficult for those who came behind us. And so that was an awful lot of pressure, I mean an awful lot of… You know, we were what, sixteen years old, fifteen, sixteen years old at the time and we'd left friends, we almost felt… I think that if Brenda and I had not had each other, it would have been a much more difficult time for us. But we had each other so we could, you know, that was something. But also we knew that we could go home and home was a good place to go, because then we would get the comforting and we would be allowed to cry. And I don't know if Brenda cried as much as I did, but I did some crying, I really did. Because it was just very, very difficult. We had been honor roll students, it became very difficult to keep our grades, to make good grades. I will not say that… I don't mean it that way. I'm just saying that it was very difficult to get good grades.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
Do you think the teachers were harder on you? That they graded you more harshly?
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
I do, I do. One teacher was Mrs. Crook, who was not, and I'm calling out her name only because she was… I felt very comfortable around her. I don't remember which one was

Page 8
actually… I did not have her as a teacher. I think because her husband was a minister, because I had him when I was at Meredith, I also went to Meredith. And so I had him as my religion teacher at Meredith, and I think maybe that was some of her… She did not go out of her way, I don't mean it that way, but she certainly made sure that we were comfortable if we were ever around her. So Mrs. Crook I specifically remember. To be honest with you, I do not remember any of my other teacher's names. I just remember Mrs. Crook because she was very kind toward us and so we appreciated that. So she was a very kind lady, as I said. I'm sure it had to be difficult for her even, maybe. I don't know what her peers thought of her, or maybe they just expected her to do it because she was a minister's wife, who knows. But she was very kind. So the turmoil was simply that very few people talked with us. Very few people asked us any questions or wanted to know anything about us. And I say that in light of leaving the environment of a Cary High and eventually going to a Meredith because I didn't go to college, to Meredith right away. But when I went to Meredith there were lots of questions, such as do you tan? Why is your hair like that, because one day I could wear it in an Afro and the next day I could wear it straight because we pressed it. And they had all kinds of questions of me, but at Cary High no one asked, wanting to know anything about us. And I think that was really because of youth, you know, peer pressure and things of that nature. Those were very difficult years. I think I've touched on just about everything, the most difficult times.
What did I learn from the experience? I learned that I could do anything. That I could go through anything. I don't know when I have had a period of my life… My mother's no longer living, but even going through her death let me know I could get through it because it was very difficult. I was out of the state when she died and so I was not, I was very sad about that. But I knew I could go through anything, having gone through that. I also found, or learned, people

Page 9
have often asked me… Very few people, by the way, know this about me. I choose not to talk about it, not because I'm embarrassed or because it's too painful, it's just a part of my life. Should someone find out, for instance one of the Sociology teachers found out quite by accident and asked me to speak at her class, and I did. And so, what I learned about myself was that I could go through anything, but I also learned that no every White person is a bad person. I have friends who went through other circumstances, such as at Ligon High School who are just angry people about what happened and the fact that Ligon is no longer a high school. And just all kinds of feelings that they have going through. I believe I came through with not so much anger because of my parents. I really, really do. And not that their parents taught them anything. I just believe that because of my mother's faith and belief and she prayed for me a lot and prayed with me a lot, I just think her belief that I could get through this with God's help is what got me through it. Even though I, at the time, was not a Christian. But just her willingness to let me come home and cry in her arms, just her willingness to say, but it's going to be all right. And her honesty in saying, "Gwen, not all White people are like that and you have to remember that." And her constantly saying that, at least three times a week, you know, helped me not to be so angry and to be so bitter. And I really do believe that, because I think otherwise the experience was so difficult that I think I could have come out and been a Black Panther. And I think that's what prevented me from being so angry and so bitter, and feeling what an unfair situation to go through and how dare people spit at me, and what do you mean you don't like me because of the color of my skin. I still don't understand that. I simply don't understand that. But I'm not bitter about the experience.
And I think it has made me a compassionate person, an understanding person regardless of who the minority is, or just even anyone who was in a situation that was very difficult and they are struggling trying to go through it and struggling trying to find answers and

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asking for help and wanting someone to empathize with them. And I think it has made me that way so that I'm able to help those, regardless of… Obviously I'm in an education environment. I have students going through all kinds of things and I think going through that experience really has made me a compassionate person, because that was so difficult. And it was so mind boggling at times of what you would be called and nobody, no adult would chastise the student until you would come away with, "did I just hear what I just heard and then did that teacher just let him get away with it?" was more than almost anything you could imagine. So to be honest with you, I'm glad I went through it.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
Are you?
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
I really am glad. Not having anything to compare it with, as in I did go through this, I didn't go through it. But I do think it made me the person that I am. I think it made me much more able to laugh at some of the things that took place at Meredith. For instance, I had a young lady at Meredith walk up to me and say, "I've never been this close to anybody Black except my maid." And so, you know, I just looked at her and laughed and said, "But I ain't your maid." And then she laughed, and afterwards we became friends. So it made going through Meredith a little bit easier too, much more fun. Meredith was a different type of environment completely. The people there were very different anyway, just because of the wealth of most of the people. So it was a very different environment totally. But there were those who did not like me and did not think Meredith should allow Blacks in and did not think this, that or the other. But it made it much more easy to go through Meredith, which was a very fun situation, believe it or not, much more fun than Cary High. But I do think it made me the person I am, and I'm glad I went through it.

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PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
Did you have a lot of pressure on you to not only trail blaze for everyone, but specifically for your younger siblings?
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
Not at all. The pressure was more, you must do this for the others who come behind you.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
All others, not just your siblings?
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
All others, exactly, not just my siblings but for all others. Now that's the pressure that I have said that I felt. I do not know about the others, but that was mine. And that's why it was so crucial for us not to do anything, say anything that would make anyone lash out at us in a way that it would have been a real mess at Cary High. So it was more the trail blaze for others as opposed to… It was also a, let's help break down some of the stereotypes, kind of a situation. And so that's why when we were chosen, we were chosen for the kinds of things we had gotten involved in, we were chosen because we were scholastically very, very good, and we were chosen because our personalities were such that they thought we could go through this without ranting and raving, or knocking somebody down or slapping somebody. In other words, getting physical ourselves, because we were chosen according to a very strict criteria, I understand. And so that was part of it. So it was more of a trail blazing, let's do this for everybody, let's get rid of the stereotypes and we believe you are the ones who can do this and make it easier for those others who will come to Cary High or East Cary Elementary or West Cary Elementary.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
Was it the following year that Gregory Crowe joined you? Do you know what his experience was and how it might have differed from you girls?
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
To be honest with you, I really don't because he was younger and because he was male, I really don't. I think, I really don't. I don't want to speculate, I really don't know. I

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don't think it was any easier. I don't think it was any worse. But I really honestly don't know. I don't remember that.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
Did he seek you out and kind of cling to you?
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
No. We had always, always been friends, so we talked, you know, I knew him before. So we talked and I knew his sister, Sandra. And so while Sandra did not come, I just knew the family and knew them, and so we just talked in that regard. Never, I'm mad, help me through this kind of situation. Greg's personality was a friendly personality too so that he was, and he was very bright. So I believe that he may have faired a little easier because in his brightness there was no mistake about it. I think for Brenda and I also, we always had A's, we were always on the honor roll, we always had excellent grades. But I think for us, we were almost shut down in trying to go through because we would not be called on and we'd have to forcefully give an answer to let people know that we had an answer. I think for Gregory it was just a little different. Because as a male, he was, and he was not a very big young man. I was not like 6'4", weighing 250 pounds or anything. But he just carried himself very differently and was able to respond in a way that maybe sometimes as women, just because we were female, we tend not to at that time. For instance, Women's Liberation was not quite as evident at the time as it is now, so we responded a little differently.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
When you were at Berry O'Kelly, how did that educational experience differ from your educational experience at Cary High? Did you see much difference?
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
I think the difference, and one of the reasons I think I personally had an adjustment was, I found the teachers at Berry O'Kelly very nurturing and very encouraging. So that when I got to Cary High and did not have that, it was much more distant and, to me, much more cut and dried. Faculty members at Berry O'Kelly did not become our friends, so I do not mean to say it

Page 13
that way, but they were just very encouraging people. Very, "Gwen, what do you mean, you don't have your homework? You know, I will call your mother and tell her you didn't have your homework." And I'm going, "Oh Mrs., I'll get it, I'll get it." That kind of situation, whereas at Cary, and it simply could have been because of the times, there was much more, "Oh, you don't have your homework. Okay." And it was almost as if they didn't expect me to have my homework if I didn't have it. I always made sure I had it, but yes, there were times I did not have it. Part of it was because I simply didn't understand it and trying to get the help to understand was very, very, to be able to understand, was very difficult.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
Were you given the opportunity to even ask questions?
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
Not that we were… We could ask the questions, but would I get the response was the… no. I would not get the response.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
Did they ignore you?
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
Yes. So I did not have the opportunity to get the answers. And that's where those three individuals became crucial. Because if I was going to get any kind of understanding, those three people were helpful. And again, looking back, and I know people are saying, oh you know, she's just saying that so as not to be so hard on… Looking back, I think I would understand, if I were an instructor, and clearly some of the instructors honestly did not like us. I mean, that was clear. They did not want Blacks there. That was obvious, and so I knew that. But there were others that I thought also, that I could tell, may have wanted to help, but just simply did not know whether they should or could and how would they be thought of if they did among their peers. And so I could tell that there were some who honestly would have wanted to do so, but the environment was not conducive to that.

Page 14
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
Did you feel like you could or would want to approach any of your teachers after class to ask for help or clarify questions you had? None of your teachers?
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
No, none. None that I can recall.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
That's too sad.
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
It is, but you know. I did make it through and that's all I can say.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
Boy, what strength that took.
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
Well, again, I have to say, if it had not been for my parents, I would not have been able to go through this. And I think that was the case for each one of us who were the first five to go in there. If it had not been for our parents, if it had not been for the community, if it had not been for the church, I don't believe we would have been able to come out, or to go through it to last all the years and go through it. I really don't. It was very comforting, they were very comforting toward us.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
Cary adopted a voluntary approach to integration, and this began, well, your piece of this was a year before the laws were passed that pretty much forced the school boards to integrate, so you were doing this as a volunteer a year ahead of time. How do you feel about that? How did you feel about it at the time?
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
I don't think it occurred to me one way or the other. I never really thought about it because my Daddy said, you're going to do this. This is what you are going to do and this is where you will be in school next year. And so, it was, "Oh, but Daddy." And it was, "And, and." So, I didn't think about it.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
You didn't take part in that decision making process at all within your family? You did what you were told.

Page 15
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
No. I did what I was told. And it was not cruel. He did not come across as being cruel. It was more, "this is something you must do. I believe you can do this, Gwen, but it's not up for discussion. I know you're leaving friends, I know you're leaving fun and I know you're leaving this, that and the other. But you're going to leave it." So I was crying, and I'd go to Mother and say, "please make Daddy change his mind." And there was no… "No, I don't think so."
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
But you sacrificed a lot by leaving Berry O'Kelly and all your athletic programs and all the extra curricular activities that you were also involved in that you never replaced. So that was a big ticket.
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
Never replaced. It really was. And again, I had great friends at Berry O'Kelly, great teachers.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
Did you stay in touch with…?
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
Yes, throughout those two years, yes we did. But it also became difficult because, probably as you know, when you leave one environment and go to another it becomes difficult to bridge it, again. Because our worlds were just so different. But I did, there were several that I did keep in touch with. Couldn't replace it, but that was also an experience I'll never have again, and quite frankly, don't want to do again. I am glad I had it but I would not want to do it again. It was emotionally… For a long time, to be honest with you, if there was… The downside of this for me personally is my relationship with White men in that those are the angriest faces I remember when I stepped off the bus. So it took me a long time to trust White men. And it's interesting there were males and females, young and old, in the crowd of people who were standing outside saying that.

Page 16
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
So it wasn't just students? It was parents?
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
Oh no, the majority was parents. And yes there were students, but the majority of them were parents. And so it took me many years to be able to relate as comfortably with White males as I am with White women, even though White women were there. But what I remember, I guess, because they were taller, I just had this memory of stepping off the bus and seeing the sea of faces and lots of people, what appeared to be lots, it could have been twenty, but at the time it looked like two hundred to me. And it was not that many, and it was not two hundred, I don't mean that at all. But stepping off the bus and seeing women and children, or teenagers I should say, not children, children, but teenagers, and behind them were tall White men whose faces were so red and that's what I remember, not so much the women and the teenagers. But I remember, I guess because they were tall and stepping off the bus I could see them clearly. And so it took me many years to be able to trust White men and be able to talk as freely and easily with them as I can with White women. That's the downside. And that took me many, many, and I mean many years to be able to relate to White men as easily as I do with women. I took me a long time to trust them. And to be honest, I'm not sure I do now. I typically have to catch myself and say, "All right now Gwen, wait a minute now, let's back up here." But I'm much more comfortable with them, I sit and laugh and talk and joke with them and no problems there. I just don't know that I trust them as much. But then, I have all kinds of folks I don't trust. That's the way I look at it. I have all kinds of people I don't trust. Even pink with green polka dots. So it's really not so much of an issue now. It really isn't.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
Did your siblings, then go to Cary High behind you?
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
The sister next to me, there are eight years between me and my sister. She went to Swift Creek, where did Deborah go? Yes. But the time my… my brother went, my sister

Page 17
Deborah, and our oldest brother, who was Alvin, we all went to Cary High. My youngest brother, Gary and my youngest sister, Adonna, went to Athens.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
Oh, okay. So by the time eight years passed between your graduation and your next oldest sister coming in, do you know how her experience differed from yours in that eight years? Totally different world?
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
Much different. Yes, totally different world. And I think some of it too was Cary itself had begun to have a different kind of people in the community itself. It was just coming then into it's prominence, so to speak. And so I think that the kind of students, teenagers that came into the school, I think the issue for many of the parents then became quality of education, not who was coming into the school. Because they were coming to IBM and all those other places in the Research [Triangle Park], so a very different group of people, parents in particular, began to come into the community. And their request for things was much different from the other kinds of requests from people who had been in Cary all their lives, and so this was their school, so to speak. So now it was a little different. So by the time Deborah came, it was easier. The students were different, the camaraderie was different, the getting involved was different, so it was very different.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
Eight years made a big difference?
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
It just made a great deal of difference. Yes. She still had, there were always pockets of people who didn't like her or didn't want her, but as far as friendships, she had White friends. I never experienced that the two years at Cary High on the level she did. Her level was going to their houses, their coming to ours, and so for me, see, I never had that. They never came to my house, they never invited me to theirs and so it was different by the time she came there. One of her good friends happened to be White and so they had a wonderful… My brother Alvin,

Page 18
same thing, he had lots of White friends as well as Black friends, and so they just went out together, they did all kinds of things together. My brother is forty, and I'm fifty-two, so as you see the differences. So he had a wonderful time, you know, enjoying it. And so totally different lives, totally different, by the time they came to Cary High.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
After you graduated from high school, what happened?
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
I went to St. Aug[ustine] for one year. I left Cary High and said, No, I don't intend to see another White person in school as long as I live, and I really did say that. I thought, no, not going there, don't want to do that again. So I went to St. Aug for one year. And I have to admit, I made friends with the people and I partied my whole year. So needless to say, we did not do well that year.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
But you made up for a lot of missed fun.
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
Missed fun. And so my father then said, no, we're not paying for this. You get you a job. So I went out and I worked for six years. When I was at Berry O'Kelly, I had an English teacher whose name was Mary Carter. And Mrs. Carter said to me once, why don't you think… And the Principal, Mr. Moore, at different times, they said to me, why don't you think about going to Meredith. They thought I was a good enough student. I looked at them and laughed. This was before I went to Cary High. And so I was in the tenth grade. And I just looked at them and laughed and said, I don't want to Meredith. Interesting enough, when I went to St. Aug and did not do well, came out and worked for four or five years, and when I decided, I was a keypunch operator at Wachovia Bank. They called them keypunch operators, they don't call them that now. I don't know what they call them, I think they're data entry people or something, but anyway. I said, I cannot do this for the rest of my life. And it was at that time I thought about going back to school. And I began to take courses, I think I had a course at N.C. State, I

Page 19
think I had a course at Meredith. And the Admissions Officer at N.C. State looked at my transcripts from St. Aug, and I think I had one A and that was in English, which is what my major is. And he looked at me and he said, now this A, and obviously these other grades don't count. And I said, yes Sir, I know. He looked at that A and he said, now you know that A in English is equal to a C here at N.C. State. I just looked at him and said, oh, okay, and I did not go back. I chose to go to Meredith. So it's very interesting that I eventually ended up at Meredith and that's where I graduated from in terms of my under-grad years. And so I went to Meredith, as I said, totally different group of people, or for lack of a better word, class of people and I really do genuinely mean it was very different from, at the time, Cary High. And so I thoroughly enjoyed my stay there. I was very active and majored in English and enjoyed my years there. My sister behind me, Deborah, graduated from Meredith. So while I did not think I was an influence on my siblings, I ended up being an influence on my siblings, and in particular Deborah. And the others tell me also that I did, but particularly on Deborah. She went to Cary High and she also graduated from Meredith, so we're both Meredith graduates. I graduated from Meredith and I taught in high school, at [unknown] High School for three years, and then decided to go back and get my Masters. I went to Teachers College at Columbia University to get my Masters and then decided that I wanted to teach on the collegiate level. And I came back and taught at N.C. State for three years. I left N.C. State and went to Hampton Institute, or Hampton Institute, it's now Hampton University, in Virginia, I taught there. And then I came back to Raleigh because my mother became ill and died. So I came back to Raleigh because my youngest sister was twelve or thirteen at the time and so I came back for my next oldest sister, Deborah, to be in the house with her. So we were in the house with and raising Adonna. I just kind of did odd jobs, because I did not know what I wanted to do. I had always kept up with data entry so I would do data entry

Page 20
jobs. My sisters looked in the paper once and said, Gwen, Wake Tech has a position for an English teacher. I had only been back maybe a year, so I had not been in the area that long and I came back at an odd time. I did not want to go back to teach high school. So I said, oh okay, I'll apply. I honestly did not think, because in the Black community, Wake Tech did not have a very good reputation toward Blacks. And so I thought, yeah right. But I thought oh well, I can apply and I will do that, and I was hired. And so now I've been here almost eighteen years.
So I've been here the longest of any place I've been. So this is where I've been. I started out in the English department. There is a developmental education program here, and at that time it was called Academic Enrichment. And there was only one English teacher. The department head at that time's name was Ann Tech asked me if I would like to come to the department, and I said, Oh I don't care. And I did, I came into the department and loved it. I loved teaching the developmental students. And so I taught them. When she decided to leave, she asked me would I be interested in being the department head, and I said, no, not really but I don't care. So she said she would recommend. I said, I don't care. And I really didn't think I would get it because there had been those in the department longer than I had been, but what I didn't know was that she had asked each one of them and each one of them said No, they didn't want it. So I ended up being the department head, and have been the department head for fifteen and a half years. And then recently, this past January, I decided I had done that long enough. I just think there comes a time in your life sometimes when you know you've done all you're supposed to do in that position. It was a very different department. We moved from only four teachers, there was Ann Tench, Steve Jones, Kay Holland and myself, just the four of us, so from four teachers to eleven full-time and nine part-time, so the department just grew while I had it. And so it was almost like, okay now what else is there for me to do. And it was a very different program. And so I thought it was

Page 21
it was time to do something different. So right now I'm in the Academic Advising Center, and I love advising students and always have enjoyed it, even when I was the department head. I loved advising students and talking to them about where you want to go, what kind of plans do you have, what do you want to be when you grow up, kind of thing. And so I have enjoyed that and when this position came open, I talked to the person who is now the Dean of College transfers who used to be in my department and I used to be her supervisor. And so now she's mine in a sense. And it's a wonderful opportunity, so I asked her about it and she said, oh yeah, I'd love to have you. So I moved here. So I'm in the Academic Advising Center for college transfer students, and I thoroughly enjoy it. So I've only been in this position since July 1.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
So very new.
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
Very new, and thoroughly enjoying it.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
I think we're about to run out of tape on this side, so let's turn this tape over.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

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PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
Okay, you made a statement earlier about, I assume, it was an advisor at N.C. State who said that the course you had taken at St. Augustine, your A was equivalent to a C at N.C. State. Now you're an advisor. How would you rate what he said to you at the time?
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
Oh, about an F minus, minus, minus, minus.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
What a thing to say to a student.
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
Exactly. And I would never. That was so humiliating. It was really humiliating. It was embarrassing. Was it a slap at the school? Was it a slap at me? Was it a slap at the teacher? Was it a slap at all three? I honestly didn't know what he meant by that. All I knew was my feelings had been hurt. So as an advisor, one of the things I'm very conscious of is not saying anything that would damage a student's feelings, ego, whatever, pride, whatever you want to call it, self esteem. All these terminology's or terms that they use now, I make sure, I really do make sure that I don't say anything that will offend them in any way. Because that was so discouraging. I have since taken courses at N.C. State and done well. But at that time, I thought, I guess I'll never come to N.C. State. And it made me decide on Meredith, it really did, because I chose not to come to N.C. State for that reason. For one thing, I thought I'd never get in. I thought well, forget this, I guess I'll never get to be a student at State so I'll just go on. So I've taken courses periodically at N.C. State.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
And you taught there as well.
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
Yes, I taught there as well, that's right.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
So they hired you.

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GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
Yes they hired me, must have been good enough, I don't know. But probably by that time we had all learned some things about people. I enjoyed my time at State, I really did, in the English department. I enjoyed it.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
Okay, well I think we've covered a lot of ground here. Could you talk a little bit about just your general impressions of life in Cary over the years to kind of wrap up.
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
Oh gracious.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
Yes, that's a broad subject, but.
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
I wasn't thinking so much as it being broad as the changes that have taken place. I knew Cary, when I was growing up and was going to Cary High, from where Cary High is now to what in a sense is downtown area, I remember when, you probably heard where Blacks lived on one side, on the other side of the railroad tracks. That's how I knew Cary to be, was all of my Black friends were on the other side of the railroad tracks that run through downtown, or not through the middle of downtown necessarily but are right there. Well, my friends were over there on the other side of town, they were Black, and across the tracks, and to see Cary now and how it has grown and how far it has extended it's boundaries is just phenomenal. I had a friend who used to live there, Steve, and he and I talked together, his name was Steven Jones. And he lived in Black Cary proper, you know. And he was considered "old Cary" because he was originally from Cary, he always attended Cary schools, his family had lived there and that's where he grew up. And so he was always amazed also at what was happening to Cary. It's nothing like what it was then, nothing. It was very, it had a much more rural flavor to it when we were growing. Not that it was rural in the sense, but it was a small town, it was very small. And so now there's this large place, it's very, very interesting to see the growth of Cary over the years. I'm not sure that I like it. Those who are not from Cary don't have anything to compare it to and so they probably

Page 24
like it. But it was so quaint, is almost the word, when I was growing up. And I really liked Cary, the town itself. I don't remember so much about Cary and it's racial situation, the town, as I do about Raleigh. Because I remember going downtown, for instance, to Hudson Belk with my grandmother on Saturdays. We would always go on Saturdays. And I remember the water fountains and the bathrooms, one was labeled Colored and one was labeled White. And I remember the Colored bathroom was always filthy. I mean, it was always just dirty. And you didn't want to drink out of the water fountain either, so we would sneak a drink out of the White fountain when no one was around because it was just. Oh the crud that was down in there just wasn't clean looking. So if we did go to the bathrooms, we made sure if we had to go we waited until we got home or something. So I don't remember that much in that regard about Cary because I never went to Cary downtown. I don't know what they had down there. I just remember looking at it and I liked the way it looked. That's what I remember. So all this growth has just been phenomenal in terms of Cary. It has a very different feel to it now. Much more, and I guess it's because of the flavor of the people who have come in from outside of the South, it doesn't feel like the Cary that I knew when I was there. It feels very different now.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
I'm sure that's true.
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
Yes, very different. But it's interesting.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
Was it a safe, fun, carefree kind of childhood to live and grow up in Cary or were there a lot of stresses?
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
Well, I grew up right where I am now which is on Tryon Road. That was a very carefree environment, and it was a community in which there were Whites and Blacks, and yes, we had our own churches. But children would play together. So across the street from me, from where I live now, was a young lady named Sandy and we played together. We did not go over to

Page 25
each house per se', but if there was an opportunity for us to be together, you know, we would play together. And so we knew each other. We were always waving at each other and so my childhood in that regard in growing in the little area that I grew up was fun. I had all my relatives there, all my cousins were there and aunts and uncles, and a large extended family and so if I got whipped at one aunt's house, I got whipped at the other one's because I had no business doing it up there and by the time I got home I'd had two whippings and so. Because I was very mischievous, I really, really was, I have to admit I was very mischievous. But it was a fun time. I thoroughly enjoyed it, being out there because it just had the extended family. Just having Grandmas and aunts and uncles and cousins, and everybody I could play with. First cousins, I mean first, second, third cousins, I mean we just all were there. So it was just a fun time. You know, I had cousins who would take me off, who were much older than I was and am, but they would take me off to places and take me around and do things. So it was a great time, I enjoyed my growing up years. It was just being at school in the eleventh and twelfth grades that I didn't have a good time. But as I said, coming back to the community was fun and enjoyable. So that it made it, I was able to go through that because that was just from 7:30 in the morning, whatever time I got on the bus to 2:00 in the afternoon. And then after that I'd be home in my own environment with fun people and could enjoy things. And weekends, of course, were fun.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
Okay. And then integration happened to the South, not only from your school perspective, but just life in general. Do you have memories of seeing that taking place in maybe the bigger cities like Raleigh or Durham?
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
Only on a fairly limited basis because of the community that I grew up in, it was probably not until after Meredith, or once I started attending Meredith that integration became much more noticeable. And I did do some of the things that were taking place in Raleigh. For

Page 26
instance, I remember downtown had a theatre called the Ambassador and Blacks could not, had to sit in the back of it. So I remember doing that. And I also remember marching for the integration of that particular theatre.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
Did you actually participate in a march?
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
Yes. They were peaceful. There were policemen and they had guards and hoses, but they never turned them on us. We would be over there saying our chants and the police would be here, just kind of standing there. So there weren't, when I was there, there was no dogs. The dogs lunged but they did not turn them loose on us. And so it was fairly peaceful. The only time I remember it getting violent was when Martin Luther King died, was assassinated. And then downtown became a whole different… But I was not a part, I was not there and I did not partake of that. But I do know, I had friends and they said it was not a pretty sight to be involved what was going on downtown at that time.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
How long did that last, do you know?
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
I think just a night of that, when they found out that he had been assassinated, just a maybe twenty-four to forty-eight hour kind of time period, so it wasn't an extended period of anger and violence being wrought upon the city or anything.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
It was quite a time.
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
It was quite a time, difficult time, but Raleigh seemed to have weathered it relatively well. And I honestly don't remember other than that particular time extreme cases of violence in terms of integration where there was… I know that there were times when people were very angry and very upset. For instance, when Ligon, which was the only Black high school, Berry O'Kelly was the only Black High School in that part of the county. You know, there were other Black high schools around the county. Ligon was downtown and it was a very, it was a school

Page 27
full of pride and lots of well known Black families and their children had attended Ligon. So when the time to change Ligon to what is now the middle school, and even though there were some very, very angry words passed. But not the kind of violence that had taken place in some of the really Southern areas took place. That was because here was landmark that they said, why don't you let us stay being the landmark that it is and let it continue to serve the community. Integrate it if you will, but let it continue to serve the Black community. And obviously it didn't take place. So that was one of the other more difficult times, I remember within the Black community and for the city of Raleigh was changing from Ligon High to a junior high.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
So it was more verbal violence, but not physical violence? And it went on for awhile?
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
Yes. Now that's because there was lots of discussion about it, lots of write-up in the newspapers about it and lots of Town meetings about it, trying to absolve everyone or getting everyone to agree the best way to do this and in the end, of course, the City won.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
So it ended up being an integrated junior high school?
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
And I think now it's a middle school. And now it's one of the magnet middle schools.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
How interesting. So they were bringing White students into a Black school?
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
neighborhood and school, yes. So I'm sure that was…
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
It could have been very explosive.
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
Yes, it could have been. It really could have been. I just remember it being far more verbal though. There was no physical violence whatsoever.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
How far back does your family go in this area? Do you recall. You've talked about grandparents living here. Were they born here? Do you know how far back?

Page 28
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
Yes, they were born here. My mother's side of the family was not from here.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
Oh, Philadelphia.
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
Philadelphia, yes. But my father's side of the family, the area that we live in has always been home. Lake Wheeler Road, Tryon Road, that area has always been home to my grandparents, and my father and his siblings. That's where they're all settled in and they're all there now, they're still there. Aunts and uncles are still there. There are cousins who have moved away as I did at some point, but as far as grandparents, aunts and uncles, are all still there and that's home.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
That's great. What did your father do?
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
My father was a laborer. He worked at a place that used to be called Standard Homes downtown in plumbing, which is a plumbing kind of place. He worked there. He worked at a fabric place, I've forgotten what that place was called and he worked there. His last job was as a blueprint… My father always wanted to be a lawyer, but he said that when he wanted to be a lawyer there was no such thing as integration. And I think that was why I had to go to Cary High. Because there were things he wanted to do and that he felt like because of the system that was in place, he could not do them. First of all, I talked to him, and he said he did not have the money to go to college anyway. And when he was coming, the eleventh grade was it, so there was no such thing as a twelfth grade. So eleventh grade was it, and so he did not have the money to go to college. So he is, and he's still living, he is a very, very intelligent man. Could have been a good lawyer because he has a way with words. I used to be in 4H. My father would write my speeches. And every time, if I wrote one, I may get second place. If my father wrote it, I got first place every time. I mean, he was just wonderful with words. And can hold a conversation with anybody on any subject because he watches television, he does a lot of reading, and so he is a

Page 29
good conversationalist. And so he can talk. People would probably think, when he was young, he's a little older now at eighty and some dementia has set in, but he in his younger years, he could hold a conversation with anybody on any topic and know exactly what he was talking about. So he is a very bright man and it's a shame that he couldn't, but I think that was some of the reason why I had to go, or he felt that I must do this, I needed to go to Cary High School, that those following, and I think that was why for him it was, a those following you can be able to do this, for him.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
What kind of doors do you think integration opened up for you and your generation, in terms of college or career or opportunities?
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
I think having had the experiences that I've had, including the schools that I have graduated from, have opened many doors. When I worked, I worked a summer when the school system was county and public and it was over on Devroe Street. I don't remember whether that was a city public school system or Wake county, I don't remember which one. But anyway, I worked there one summer and I worked for a man named Mr. Grayson who was really, really nice and we had a great time. It was like a little summer job. When I graduated from Meredith and applied for a job and I went back down there to look for some interview, the man said to me, because of my experiences, he really didn't so much care about the grades, although they were important to him, but the fact that I had gone through this and the fact that I had graduated from the schools I had graduated, he was going to be sure I got a job teaching in some school in the city, and he did. So for me personally, it has been very good, it really has and I cannot deny that. For my generation, those African Americans who took part in that, I think it has been good also. Because what it has allowed is a standard of living and a knowledge about people and world that we may not have had any other way. And so I think it has been good for us generationally also.

Page 30
So there are things that we have gone through though that I think we are able to share with those who come behind us for them to have a better understanding of some of the things that are taking place now that they may not have understood or would be able to understand if we had not gone through them ourselves. So I think on two fronts it has been good for us individually, and certainly as a race, but I also think it has been good for us as a race for those who have come behind us to be able to share what the '60's were like and what the '70's were like and what it was like under segregation and what it was like under integration. And hear the new kinds of things we've learned about people and about ourselves and about the world in general. So I think it's been, in that regard, good. And as I said, our standard of living that we may have had to work much, much harder for and much longer for had integration not taken place. So I think it has been good. I think if there is a downside, to be honest with you, I think African Americans have lost the sense of family, extended family that we used to have. I don't see in generations behind us the kind of extended families that I was talking about in that little community where we all knew each other. Even if you were not part of the family but you needed some food we all gave you food. Grandmothers feeding children in the community without there being any questions, any expectation for anything. Keeping children. Watching out for each other. That sense. And part of it doesn't necessarily happen necessarily to do with integration but what happened when integration came was we were able to then go into so many different communities and that we don't have that same sense of community with grandmothers and aunts and uncles and cousins right there together, we're all doing the same thing as we did before integration. So I think that sense of family has also, for us as a people, has been lost. And getting it back could probably be a little difficult. And I don't that we can. I don't know that we ought to, I don't

Page 31
know one way or the other. But I do think that's one of the downsides, I think, for Blacks that I find has been interesting as I look at what's happened and where we are and where we've gone.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
Very interesting. Have you kept in touch with any of the other students that you went through Cary High with?
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
No I haven't. Brenda obviously because she was my cousin and she's no longer living now. I did, obviously with Brenda. But the others, we all just went in such different ways. Interestingly enough, we're still friends and when we see each other we say, well hey, how you doing and so there is still that kind of camaraderie there. But in terms of specifically making the effort to keep up with each other, no I haven't.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
Do you know where any of them are that I might be able to interview any of them?
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
Gracious, I don't. I know Francis' parents name are Mr. and Mrs. James White and they live not that far. They live up near the Swift Creek area. And I know you should be able to get them or they can tell you. I'm not even sure… Phyllis, hmmm. I can find each one of them because those two are still down the street from me and I know Phyllis McIver now is now Phyllis Burt. And she still lives in the community. So I don't know if you want to look in the telephone book or if you want me to get in contact with them. And then you can just call me and I can give you their phone numbers and tell you where they are. I'd be glad to do that.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
I'd love to find as many of them as I could.
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
And each of them may know where someone else is. Because of the people that were in their classes. So they would probably be able to put their fingers on other people. I think Esther is still in Morrisville, but I know she's married and I don't know her married name. But I believe Phyllis or Francis would be able to tell us where. So I think they will be able to put their

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hands on people also. So I don't mind calling them and finding out any information and then passing that one to you or just telling them to call you, whichever might be easiest.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
That would be great too.
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
I would be glad to.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
Great. Did you know Doug Pennington who went to Cary Elementary and Jr. High in '64, I believe. He was…
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
I remember the name but I did not know him.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
I'm trying to find him too.
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
If we could find Phyllis and Greg, we can find Doug.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
Great. Let's hope. That would be just great.
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
And Esther. Because the Pennington's and Mayo's, I know the families, live in the same community. So if we can get Esther and Phyllis, they will know where Doug is or let you know where Doug is, or someone in his family can tell you where he is. Again, that's what I meant by that extended community, that extended family where we all knew everybody and everybody knew everybody else. And I suspect that in many, even when integration was not in place, even for many White families that was the case, the extended family kind of thing. I'm sure it was the case for them also, and some of that shifting has taken place.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
The Walton's don't live like that anymore. Absolutely, for any of us. Probably one more question that I missed a little earlier. How aware were you of the people who forged integration in the Cary area, the actual people who made that happen, who put together the voluntary program. Were you aware?
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
Not very much. My father was aware, but I was not in any way involved, I didn't know them, I didn't.

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PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
Okay, you were not really necessarily aware of them or their influence or what they did? Okay.
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
No, their plan, no. That's okay.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
Okay, is there anything else that you would like to add that I missed?
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
Not that I can think of. If I do I'll call you, but I really can't think of anything. I think I've touched on just about everything that may be of interest.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
This has just been a wonderful, wonderful interview. I thank you so much for the information that you have shared with me and with anyone who may hear this interview in future times to learn from. It has just been fabulous and we just so appreciate it.
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
You're welcome. I enjoy doing it, I really do. And not because it makes me someone special, but more as a learning… When I did it for the Sociology class, the questions that the students had were amazing.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
What kinds of things did they ask you?
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
More because, they said they did not personally know anyone who went through, who was the first to do anything of that nature. And so for them it was a learning experience, of actually hearing from someone who went through it. And more of it was just surprise that I'm not bitter. And I said, I'm surprised too. But I have to say it's because of my parents. I really believe it's because of my parents. If I did not have them to lean on and to cry on, and really not so much on my father. He just gritted his teeth and I was going to go through this regardless. But my mother was there to let me cry on her shoulder and to encourage me and to say, well you can do this and we know you can do it and you wouldn't have been chosen if… And so for them it was a matter of, I'm surprised that you don't hate us, kind of question or observation. They want to know about what was school. The same kinds of things where how did the students react

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to me. How did I react to them. Why didn't I decide not to become… Was I active. If not, why didn't I become active. And those kinds of things, same kinds of questions, you know, why I didn't become active. So the times I do tell, one other time in another class, an African American history class, the teacher asked me to come in. She found out that I had, I was one of the first volunteers to do any… wanted me to come into the class and they were… And these were African Americans, primarily in this class, this African American class. There were two White students in there. And again it was always, why aren't you bitter. Why aren't you angry. And I just had to reply the same way. If I hadn't had my parents I think I would be angry. I think I would have been a Black Panther. But because of them I was not. And besides, you know, once you get older, you also have to recognize that being that angry eats away at you. And you become a very bitter person and not a fun person to be around.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
You ultimately are the one that pays the price for that bitterness.
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
That's right. We chose to be this way.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
That's wonderful. Well, again, thank you so much, this has just been wonderful. Thank you.
GWENDOLYN MATTHEWS:
Good, you're welcome. I'm glad.
END OF INTERVIEW