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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with J. W. Mask, February 15, 1991. Interview M-0013. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Strategies to compensate for underfunding

Mask remembers some of the strategies he used to compensate for his underfunded programs, such as encouraging band members to buy their own instruments and writing a letter to a local paper complaining that black coaches were not paid as white coaches were. This passage dramatizes some of the contortions black principals had to endure in order to receive basic support for basic services for their students.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with J. W. Mask, February 15, 1991. Interview M-0013. 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

It seems to me from what you said before that the PTA was very active.
The PTA was active. We had a very active PTA. Let me tell you something else too. This is significant. A lot of times we were told that white groups and organizations provided certain experiences and opportunities and no doubt they did. I wouldn't repute that because I have no way of knowing but now we moved from one part of town to another part of town and our PTA bought the stage curtain for that school and that stage curtain is still there if I am not mistaken because that was shortly after we moved in in 1954. Then our PTA also purchased the first band uniforms that we had. The students purchased their own instruments for the most part. We didn't have the money nor the resources to get into that so we encouraged students to buy their instruments. We had an excellent music instructor at that time, Drayton Oglesby, whose home was in Monroe. He is retired and plays for one of the churches there now. He was one of Dizzy Gillespie's music instructors.
How much administrative power or control did you have over your school site and your responsibilities?
Now when you say over my site. I would say I had all the administrative responsibility over that school. I had only one incident where my administrative control was challenged and that was based on the superintendent under whom I worked from 1939-59, who was a strict segregationist. I could give you some examples of incidences along the way that sort of pointed to that fact but it must have been around 1956-57. There were some fellows who had come back from the Korean war; white fellows who had formed a basketball team, and we didn't have a comparable group, I don't believe. I can't recall whether there were any black players in that group but one of the players, the guy who was in charge, asked our basketball coach if our basketball team could have a little practice and if they could come to our gym and practice some with our players. Then they conceived the idea that we will charge ten cents and that will help get a few things for your team because all of our athletics was provided--we didn't get a dime or anything for physical education either. But anyway, it was put in the paper that this local Veteran's Team was going to play Monroe Avenue high school basketball team, which was probably stretching it a little bit because they were not school people but, it was sort of an after school basketball game. The superintendent didn't say anything about it and I don't know if he even noticed it before hand, but he came the night that we were playing and came up to the gym. We had a multi-purpose room, we didn't have a regular gym. We had all the chairs to clear away. He came to me that night, looked at it, and said, "It won't work!) He didn't tell me that he was going to do it but he had the principal to stop by his office on his way home and asked him where the idea came from. He asked if he had planned it with me and he said, yes he had. So that was it. The same coach, who lives in Rockingham now, is an active young man who was recently appointed to the City Council -- Bill Blackwell. We noticed that the local paper would pick up things that we would learn about that we wouldn't know otherwise. They were paying the white coaches a supplement and they were not paying black coaches a dime. So we saw it in the paper and we began to talk a little bit about it and so we sat down and talked about it one day and decided that we ought to do something about it. I don't know if I wrote something to the paper or whether there was something like an open letter that was sent to the paper, not unsigned however. We noticed that the coaches at the high school are receiving a supplement for their duties and that is not happening at the black school so they did begin to do a little something about it after that was exposed. But he called the black coach and had him to stop by his office and the first thing that he said was, you know what, that letter came right off Mr. Mask's desk, didn't it. It was signed by the coaches. He said, no it didn't. That was our idea. Anyway he didn't like it. He didn't ever like to be challenged but there was that type of discrimination in providing services and opportunities.
He never challenged your supervision or your educational or your administrative decisions except where there was a racial issue involved?
Hardly ever. Mostly racial.