Carol Brooks and Keith Edwards
Oral History Item Type Metadata
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Ben Barge: And so, I thought we could talk a little bit about Jim Wallace’s photos in this Courage in the Moment book. And as Mrs. Edwards pointed out to you I think your picture is on page one hundred and one hundred and three? Let’s see here. [Pause]
Carol Brooks: Yes.
BB: Mm-hmm. And I believe these photos must have been taken in ’63 or maybe early ’64. But do you have any recollection basically looking at this?
CB: Yes I remember it, slightly. It’s been quite 47 years? I guess? But I do remember--we were singing and chatting. That was Carol Brown and I can remember Maxy Mason, I can remember most of them. But we--I think basically here in Chapel Hill, we had a wonderful march. The struggle wasn’t as bad as it seems here. But in the other states it was really bad and I really enjoyed it marching in the Chapel Hill area. I did try it in Raleigh but they were a little violent. Chapel Hill wasn’t that violent.
BB: Why do you think Chapel Hill was less violent than in other places?
CB: I think because the blacks and the whites got along fine and simply because it was a university town and we had so many different personalities here then. But I was young. And I think basically its cause we were younger here too. I think.
BB: And so you said a lot of these were your good friends--.
CB: Classmates, that was a classmate--that’s my cousin, Carol Brown, and Maxy Mason, and Ferrington. And I can’t even think of his name. But I remember most of the faces names may be at an end due to the fact, you know, as you get older. But the struggle here, basically I enjoyed it, it was wonderful. It wasn’t like it reads in the books in Mississippi, Alabama, and even Durham. Durham was a little violent also.
CB: And, during that, that ranges back in the ‘60s and things like that, people were not, they were just prejudiced, I’ll put it that way. [Laughter] So maybe if you were to ask me something to way back and recall some of that, scenes and all that.
BB: Well sure.
CB: But basically, we were a peaceful movement here. I liked it better here. And you see on TV where the dogs and the police and all the dogs.
BB: Right. In Birmingham.
CB: And places like that, but Chapel Hill and North Carolina, some areas were not as violent as other areas. We may have had a few incidents, and I remember at the
Watts Motel, they would throw acid and pee out the window, embarrassing. But they just didn’t want us to integrate, that was the biggest problem. But I think we got along fine here in Chapel Hill. Things may be seemed like they are going backwards, instead of going forwards now, that you have all these different college students. I’m not knocking you--.
BB: [Laughter] No, I understand.
CB: A lot of the old places that people call home are being invaded by students which I know this is a university town, not that we are against it now, but we have to have respect also.
CB: If they think about it, I know the people--are you from Chapel Hill?
BB: I’m from Georgia, actually.
CB: Okay, well okay. Alright.
BB: What were you about to say?
CB: Never mind. Don’t listen. What else would you like?
BB: No we can talk about anything you like. If that is something you would like to talk about more--.
CB: No, I’ll answer your question, but Chapel Hill was basically, to me, was a very small town, but wonderful, enjoyable. It was more of a friendly town. But with the new college students coming home, from different areas, different backgrounds, it’s changing.
BB: It’s not so much of a small town feel?
CB: It’s not so much of a small town feel, correct. Well I can say I have lived in the city also. It’s getting more like the city, I think they wanted mostly city like.
BB: You spoke about a sense of--sense of joy and during the time period. What made it joyful?
CB: [Pause] Maybe because we had a lot of the classmates. And it was very--wasn’t violent to me. It would just seem like--you just enjoying yourself and having a wonderful time. Getting to know new people and trying to, I guess, progress into a new setting, to get along better with the students and other races. It was very wonderful. Maybe because I was young and wasn’t violent really--very young. It was really nice it really was. [Pause]
BB: Well, can you remember the first time you went to a marching demonstration? How did you first get involved?
CB: Well it was at the First Baptist Church really and I think it was Harold Foster and Leo Leak and Braxton Foushee. [Pause] We were cheerleaders at Lincoln High School and they asked if we wanted to lead a march and we quite hurrily said, “Yes” we did. See, I felt like being active in school in all it would help, so that’s it.
BB: And had you known Harold foster and them since you were children?
CB: Since he’s older than I am ever since we lived in the same neighborhood riding the same Potterfield, we called it. Was it Pottersfield?
CB: So we all grew up here and we all knew each other even though he was older, but we all knew each other. We got along well.
BB: So you were born in Pottersfield ( )?
CB: Lived in the big white house on the corner. Corner of McDade.
BB: What was it like growing up there in that house? What was the neighborhood like back then?
CB: Well it was enjoyable because we were more like a family. The whole neighborhood knew each other and we were more like a family. Growing up together. We all grew up together and attended the same schools and--. Well I think I attended Lincoln High School. Most of them moved to Chapel Hill High when it became integrated. It was really just a family neighborhood. I’ll put it that way, very friendly. We just have to get used to the students. They make it kind of hard for you, but we are putting up with it.
BB: I can imagine it’s changed a lot.
CB: It has and it would be even better if the students would understand--. I’m sure most of them are from out of town, as you can see, you’re from Georgia. Most of them from out of town—New York, New Jersey, and other places—where I think--. I don’t know whether they got along as well as the people in Chapel Hill or not. I just don’t know how they grew up in Georgia. I’m sure it was violent.
BB: You’re sure it was--?
CB: From what I’ve seen on TV, I’m sure it was very violent. But in Chapel Hill, it was
more friendly people knew each other and it was just one big happy family. So I guess it could be that way again if we can get these students to understand.
BB: What do you think is something that students should understand that they’re
not understanding right now? I mean, you spoke a lot about respect, which I think is very important, what do you think are some ways that students can be more respectful than they have been? Maybe more respectful, like it was back then?
CB: Well now you ask the question. And let me see if I can honestly come up with a good answer for that. I think if they would understand that this is a family neighborhood and we treat each other with respect by not being violent or--. When you’re loud--. You can have a certain time to have a party, which is fine; we party. But know when to cease, know when to stop and not be so loud. You know, just be--. You can be loud to a certain--. Say maybe, I’ll give them one o’clock or twelve but after that two and three o’clock in the morning, we are older, man, we need our rest. You are young and ready to go at three A.M.; I’m barely trying to get out of the bed. But I think if we could all work together and get along much better.
Keith Edwards: But--but you know, you can only hold stuff in for so long because mine goes all the way back like I said—when I was eleven years old. Spit on, kicked on [pause]. Just clothes torn off. Everyday I’m walking home and spit--just dripping everywhere because they waited mostly until you got outside of class and then, I mean, just a group of them just--. You had to throw your hands up like that to try to keep spit from going all in your face and stuff.
CB: See I didn’t have to encounter that because I was going--.
KE: See she went to the other high school. And see I thought--I thought I was going to remain with my black classmates, and so it was devastating for me. All my life since I was about five years old, I wanted to go to Lincoln. I wanted to get in the van, do something. I didn’t care what it was; I was going to do something so that I went to Lincoln. But that dream was taken away from me. And then I went up--. What happened, my first day of school, I went to Frank Porter Graham because they had just built that elementary school. When I went up there the principal told me that I was in the wrong school. So I said “Well”--. I knew I had graduated from Northside. And so the man said “Come on” and I got in the car because you did what people told you to back then. I got in the car with him. And when I got in the car and he was coming up on Franklin Street. Uh-uh, I got to hollering, [Laughter] screaming, I wouldn’t even get out of the car. He made me get out of the car. And then he took me in there to the principal and I was still crying--just bawling, girl. [Laughter] And the first thing the principal told me, he said “This is your school now. This is where you’re going. You’re not to hit any white student no matter what they do; you are not to hit them. You are not to talk back to the teachers.” And he said “If you do talk back to the teachers or if you do anything to the white students whether they do something to you or not, you will not be able to go to the Chapel Hill City--Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools. Your parents will have to pay for you to go to school in another county.” That’s what I was told at eleven years old.
And--and then he walked me to my classroom. When I went in there, time he opened the door, and them kids saw me and my skin was dark, they started throwing things at me while he was in there.
CB: See, I didn’t have to encounter that.
KE: He didn’t say a word he just went out and shut the door.
BB: This is before Chapel Hill High because you were eleven. This was at—
KE: I was eleven at Chapel Hill Junior High School out there on Franklin Street.
CB: See, I didn’t--.
KE: Franklin Street. And then the teacher told me to sit down. I saw an empty chair. The guy in front of me, he didn’t want me to sit with him, he threw his chair around. And so he took my chair. And everybody’s going up here and sitting in the front of the class. The teacher dragged my chair back in the back of the classroom. I sat back there by myself.
CB: See, I had heard that, too. See, I didn’t have to encounter that. I’m glad I didn’t have to encounter that.
KE: And so you see if I had homework--anything to pass up--I had to get up out of my seat and pass it to the person in front of me. And then--you remember how you used to make those little paper airplanes out there? I made airplanes out of them and threw them right out of the door--[Laughter] the teacher would give me an F.
CB: See, I’m glad I didn’t have to encounter that.
KE: We lost a lot of young teachers back then who just got their teaching certificates and came from UNC and from the north. They had to quit because the
treatment was so brutal that we received, that they were not used to it. They left. They wouldn’t even teach in North Carolina. And so what you had, you had--. There were
some older teachers there and they would have had that old mindset—White teachers had that mindset. So, it was just rough going. I had to face that every day. But when I got
home, I tried to put my books down, and run over to the center and play. But I couldn’t sleep that night, because I knew what I was going to have to face the next day. And my sisters and brothers kept on talking about the good experiences they had in school. “My teacher” this or laughing and joking--I had nothing to laugh and joke about. Going through hell every day. So--.
CB: I’m glad I didn’t have to encounter that. [Laughter]
KE: I--I thought God had even forsaken me it was that bad. But you did what your parents told you to do. And I remember my mother, bless her heart, she worked in the cafeteria. And when I would come through there and they were spitting on me, calling names, and doing it to other black kids, she help me. Because if she did anything she would have been fired. She had eleven kids to feed--her and my father. You couldn’t sacrifice for one and then end up, everybody, was going to be hurt--.
CB: Hurting the others. That’s right.
KE: One time, I went before the school board, because we were not making the
right grades. You had to make an A to get a C! The guys caught me after school. And they brought an iron pipe that they’d heated up. Burnt all my leg, girl, I had to wear this
mark on my leg for the rest my life. Right there. Yeah, held me down and put it on there.
BB: Some other students did that?
CB: Now what school was that?
KE: Students at the high school--at the junior high school.
CB: Oh, Lord, I’m glad I didn’t attend there.
KE: Right up there on Franklin Street. And what happened [Laughter]--. Whoo! What happened, my mom, she got off work and she took me to the hospital. And then we walked back, leg all patched up.
BB: And this is because you went to talk to the--?
KE: Because I went before the school board.
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