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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Willa V. Robinson, January 14, 2004. Interview U-0014. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Whites burn down black school

In this excerpt, Robinson addresses the baffling arson that destroyed Maxton's black school. The arson was foolish, Robinson thinks, because torching the black school left black students with nowhere to go but the white school. It is likely, as Robinson notes, that it was an act of aggression rather than an effort to scuttle the process.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Willa V. Robinson, January 14, 2004. Interview U-0014. 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

WR: Yeah. That was the only high school after they had burned down R. B. Dean. I mean Robeson County Training School. MM: Do you remember what time of year it happened? WR: It was like in July or August. It was just before school started. At that time school used to start right after Labor Day, but it was either July or August that they burned the school down. They said it was a bunch of young white boys, but they never was persecuted [prosecuted] for it. MM: Okay. So they had already decided to close the school and have students begin attending the white high school? WR: No, they really hadn’t gotten into the particulars about how they was going to do it, and why. It was a puzzle to me and a lot of other black folk. Why would they burn the school down if they were against integration? Leave the school there, and you’ve got a better opportunity of keeping them over there. But for some uncanny reason they burned it down. They could have just been frustrated. The young teenagers didn’t know what to do with themselves, and listening to all this integration stuff from their parents in their home, with their parents talking, and not ever being exposed to having to sit in a classroom with other colors of children, or whatever, and they could have just got all mixed up and confused, and said, “Well, we’ll fix it. We’ll go burn the school down.” You never know, and we’ll never know, I guess, what really went through their minds at the time. The logical thinking to me was, “You don’t want me at your school, why are you going to burn down mine? Let me keep it.” I don’t know. I really don’t know.