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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Elizabeth Brown, June 17, 2005. Interview U-0019. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Segregation damages southern economies

Brown considers the economic impact of segregation: she believes that it hurt Alabama financially. She also reflects briefly on race in her classroom.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Elizabeth Brown, June 17, 2005. Interview U-0019. 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

KIMBERLY HILL:
Let's talk some about your teaching, and were there any ways that you think your lessons changed after desegregation?
ELIZABETH BROWN:
My lessons changed. I think my class, let's see. This past, most of the time I have a mixture of students in my advanced placement class. This year I had all white, and in a way I was glad and in a way I wasn't glad. It doesn't, we don't choose our students. I tell the students you don't choose us and we don't choose you. But I probably let the white students have it a little bit harder than if it were mixed maybe.
KIMBERLY HILL:
What subject is this?
ELIZABETH BROWN:
This would be government. I would be more likely to be a little bit more frank when some of the things I think are going on in government than I would with if it was a mixed group, I feel like. When I got to economics I was so glad our governor said that our tax system in Alabama was immoral. You don't generally hear a Republican official saying that about taxes. I was quite glad to hear that because if they have Republican tendencies, I feel like I'm on the right side letting them. So I really, it's hard to, it's hard for me to at times to teach social justice and integration and segregation and things of that nature, but when I can work it in, I will try to work it in. I try to work it in in such a way that makes them realize [if] some of them aren't convinced of it morally they will be convinced of it economically because I pointed out to them that the South was in a stalemate when they were ignoring the contributions of all these talented African American people. They couldn't get the jobs that they deserved. They couldn't get the money they deserved. They couldn't get the political positions that they deserved, and when they started integrating and integrated more, that's when more prosperity came to this state. In economics I point out what we call the opportunity cost. And if you're on the curve, that means you're employing all your resources in labor, capital and management, entrepreneurship to its fullest extent. I always point out now on the graph where would you put segregation or where would you put prejudice, and it's either going to be pointed out in the classroom or it's going to be a test item where they have to figure it out themselves. It's going to be not on the line but inside the line, which means the economy is not reaching its potential when it does that. So there are a variety of times in economics and government I can point out to them how segregation kept the South behind for many, many years. Also I point out really stupid statements that our politicians have made during the years. I sort of remember those and probably do them in such a way that they make fun of them too. But there's a fair amount of kids here whose parents came from the North that are Catholic and are used to Catholic schools and the cost of Catholic schools. As far as discipline in the class, having a mixed group, in Spanish I forget. I don't think of boys, girls, different variety of students in the class. I'll think sometimes do you have any people of African American descent or black students, and I'll say no. Oh yeah. I have, yeah, I have three or is it four? I can't remember because I just don't think of those labels after a while.