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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 >>

Fading memory of segregation

Brown reflects on history and racism, worrying that contemporary students cannot relate to the experience of segregation and describing that as a woman, she understands discrimination.

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:
Do you discuss this topic often with your friends who teach at other schools?
ELIZABETH BROWN:
No. Occasionally when it comes up like my friends that were in school at the time that Kennedy was killed. We would talk about that and so on. It's just sort of an ordinary, everyday thing. Integration and segregation are just history now, and kids don't even think about unless you bring it to them. They what's the TV series, Eye on the Prize, they'll show that. It's too long to show the entire thing, but they'll show parts of it especially the ones with Birmingham. It's unbelievable to the kids when they see it. It just like happened on Mars or something. It's just so but even some of the, when I talk, a couple of years they put me in sociology, and when I taught, that I was a little bit, not a little bit, quite disturbed by some of the black kids didn't know their heroes. They sort of heard of Martin Luther King, but they weren't too sure about it. Coretta Scott and some of these people, and I was just horrified at it. But they already, it was like anyone over thirty can't be trusted. You know that era, and they just didn't know much about that, and they didn't seem to care and just prejudice in general. I was, the last minority group, now this group is not a minority. It's a majority, but it's still, it has all the characteristics of a minority. Now who could it be. They, finally someone came up with women, and this one girl who's a typical blonde response. I can say that since I'm a blonde. She said, but women aren't discriminated against. Everybody said, oh my gosh. But sometimes when I, when the white kids don't quite understand, this would happen in government more than in Spanish, don't quite understand what the problem of the black kids are, whatever. I can say I am white and I don't think I will ever be black. But I can tell you as a woman living in a man's world the barriers that I have seen and the barriers that I have faced and that women face and they don't even realize it and so on. Sometimes that will, they can sort of see my perspective and translate it to what the blacks feel so that even though you're asking why I went into teaching. When I was, I knew I wanted to go to college. I had to work in Daddy's restaurant when I was a kid, and I'd see these forty and fifty year old waitresses, and all they knew was waitressing and the conversation and so on, their level of conversation and so on. I knew I was going to college some way. I was not going to be, if you didn't go to college, you could work in the bank as a teller or you could work as a waitress or a clerk in the grocery store. So I was going to college, and if you went to college, you could be a teacher. You could be a social worker. You could be a lab technician. My older sister was that. Some of those make very good money. The lab technicians make more than teachers. But you couldn't go into research. You couldn't go into medicine. The obstacles were so great in medicine, I just didn't want to even think about it. I wasn't sure I really liked hospitals anyway. There's just nursing, and all my friends, they went into nursing or teaching that went to college. So I sort of thought what would be what I like the most, and what I liked the most was sports. Again there were no sports for girls. The only thing we could play is tennis. They allowed us to play tennis, and I got to be very good in playing tennis. It was the only way I could express my competitive nature in sports. So I loved sports, and I thought well, I if love sports maybe I would like teaching it. So I majored in PE, never taught it. Not one day did I teach PE. By the time I graduated, I still kept my major in PE because I had so many credits in it by then, but I had gone onto other fields