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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Johnny A. Freeman, December 27, 1990. Interview M-0011. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Desegregation brings in money, but also problems

Freeman recalls some of the difficulties the desegregation process posed. Athletics presented problems—some teams refused to play teams from Jordan Sellis High School because it had not yet desegregated, and students refused to ride in a black activity bus. After desegregation, an influx of funds helped solve some of these problems.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Johnny A. Freeman, December 27, 1990. Interview M-0011. 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

GOLDIE F. WELLS:
How did you utilize funds? Where did you get your monies from?
JOHNNY A. FREEMAN:
We had fund raisers. Back in those days it was understood that you had fund raisers and I had been against it all along. I just wasn't for fund raising but I did as little for that as I could do.
GOLDIE F. WELLS:
But did you need it for survival?
JOHNNY A. FREEMAN:
Yes, because you had some obligations. You had your bills, you had your kids having to make trips and stuff like that. You had no choice. And when I came to Burlington Jordan Sellis didn't have an activity bus and the Superintendent had given the school an old school bus.
GOLDIE F. WELLS:
Do you think it was because of the color of the bus or because the bus was not new?
JOHNNY A. FREEMAN:
Well, it was the idea that the bus was painted black and that was a symbolism. I guess they thought that they were being put down or for whatever reason. They refused to buy it but I can remember very vividly Williams High School had a brand new activity bus but we could not use it. Our kids were going to Greensboro to play for the State Championship in basketball and the bus gave out with us between here and Greensboro. So I called the Assistant Superintendent at that time and he told me to call the principal and ask him if we could use his bus to go pick the kids up. He talked with the coach and the coach said no, we could not use the bus so then the Assistant Superintendent told me to call maintenance and so I called maintenance. They said the only thing that we have is a truck that we could put some sides on and go get the kids. I knew that that would not work so I had to rent a bus from Moore Brothers out of High Point to come and pick our kids up to take them to Greensboro. Of course we had to pay what we called "deadheading" at that time. Aas we were moving toward integration we had reached a point that we could not get schools to play us. There was not a single school in Alamance County that would play us in football.
GOLDIE F. WELLS:
Why?
JOHNNY A. FREEMAN:
Because they had integrated and they refused to play Black high schools. Even Williams High School which is right here in the school system refused to play us. So we went all the way down to, boys who played basketball, Little Washington, North Carolina to play basketball. We went as far as South Carolina to play football. They were the only places because schools all around us had integrated.
GOLDIE F. WELLS:
Why had your school not integrated?
JOHNNY A. FREEMAN:
Well, the Superintendent had a plan for integration and his plan worked extremely well I thought. He integrated the grade by the year--one grade a year. And at that time the county schools were consolidated and when they were building the high school they were consolidating. But the Burlington City School System I had personally took the 7th grade and then the next year the 8th grade, then the next year the 9th grade and the following year we got the new high school. Then we went to the new high school.
GOLDIE F. WELLS:
Those were some of those trying years.
JOHNNY A. FREEMAN:
That is correct and I might hasten to add that as I recall when the Blacks were leaving the old Black school going to the new integrated school they literally destroyed the Black school but this did not happen. The kids did not destroy the school. It was open the next year as a 9th grade center and consequently it continued to be used as a 9th grade center.
GOLDIE F. WELLS:
What do you attribute the difference in leaving the building?
JOHNNY A. FREEMAN:
Well, because we talked to the kids and we told them that the school would be used by their brothers and sisters and why destroy the school. They should be able to enjoy the same comfort that they enjoyed and by talking with the kids and what have you. They listened to us and they did not do it.
GOLDIE F. WELLS:
Did the funds change the amount of funds and the way you were issued your funds after desegregation?
JOHNNY A. FREEMAN:
Yes, because as I said, I did not have a full-time assistant principal and I did have after integration. I did not have an activity bus and I got an activity bus when we integrated.
GOLDIE F. WELLS:
What about the materials?
JOHNNY A. FREEMAN:
Yes, we were not hurting as far as supplies but I'm sure that was a difference but having been segregated its hard to say what you would lose and not lose because you don't know. But I do know there were some differences. At that time I had only two coaches and I had football, basketball, track and everything and that is all I had.