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Interview with Irene Elizabeth Stephens Hunt

Interviewee: 
Hunt, Irene Elizabeth Stephens
Contributor: 
Weinstein, Elizabeth
Interviewer: 
Wright, Christina
Date of Interview: 
2004-02-13
Identifier: 
BBHU0007
Subjects: 
Rockwell Rosenwald School, Derita, Mecklenberg County, NC
Interview Setting: 
2408 LaSalle Street, Charlotte, North Carolina
Collection: 
Before Brown Collection
Interview Audio: 
Transcript:
BEGIN TAPE 1 SIDE A CW: Today is Friday, February 13, 2004. This is Christina Wright, interviewing Mrs. Irene Elizabeth Stephens Hunt for the Oral History Program at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte. Mrs. Hunt is a former teacher and principal of Rockwell Rosenwald School in Derita, Mecklenburg County. She was also a teacher at Torrence Lytle High School in Mecklenburg County and at Shamrock Gardens Elementary School in Charlotte. She was a graduate of Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte and got her master's in education at the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We're conducting the interview in the home of Mrs. Hunt at 2408 LaSalle Street, Charlotte, North Carolina. Mrs. Hunt, you were born on February 9, 1910. You've just had your ninety-fourth birthday the other day.
IH: That's right.
CW: Where did you grow up?
IH:I grew up in so many places. [Laughter].
CW: Uh- huh. Did, were you born in Gaffney?
IH:I was born in Gaffney. That's right.
CW: Uh- huh. And -
IH: And then I left, I was in, I taught school in, in South Carolina. More questions?
CW:Um-hum. Do you remember much about the community when you were little? Try and think of your earlier, earliest memories, before - I know that your parents died when you were quite young.
IH:That's right.
CW: But you were the oldest of six children.
IH: That's right.
CW: So, I don't know how old you were when they died, but do you have memories of that, the early community? Did you have a lot of family nearby? Did you live in the town?
IH: Didn't live in the town.
CW: Do you know what your parents did for a living?
IH: Well, my father was a, a cook on the train, things like that. He was, he was, he did that. And, to make a living.
CW:Did he travel a lot, then?
IH: Sure.
CW: He was gone a lot?
IH: Yes.
CW: Which, where did he go on the train? Up to New York, or -
IH: Well, he went to New York and then he went down in Georgia and all those places. I remember that.
CW: And he was a train chef.
IH: That's right.
CW: So your mom was busy looking after you all at home, I assume.
IH: Yeah, but my mother died so early. She didn't, she was, she didn't live long.
CW: Um-hum.
IH: She was, she didn't live long enough to see us do anything.
CW: Right. So you don't have many memories of your mom?
IH: No, ma'am.
CW: Um-hum. Did your grandparents raise you, do you think? Was your grandma around?
IH: My, my father 'bout raised us. [Laughter]
CW: Your father raised you?
IH: Yeah. He's the one that raised us.
CW: Was there family living around? Did you have an extended family, aunts and uncles, cousins, living -
IH: Yes, I had cousins and, and all those type of people.
CW: Um-hum. Now, you said you grew up in a lot of different places. So, from there, where did you, do you remember where you moved to?
IH: I moved to Georgia.
CW: You did?
IH: I moved to Georgia and, I can't remember all those places.
CW:That's OK.
IH: But I know it was Georgia. One of 'em was Georgia.
CW: Uh- huh. Is that where you went to school first, to elementary school, in Georgia?
IH: No. I went to elementary school in my, my town.
CW: In Gaffney.
IH: Gaffney.
CW: Can you tell me about that? What was it like, your elementary school? Was it far away from home?
IH: Not too far. Wasn't too far.
CW: Was it a, how big was the school? Was it one teacher, two teachers, three? Do you remember anything -
IH: Yes. From first grade on through -
CW: Seventh grade?
IH: [Pause] The lady that, that, that had the, first grade, she had some daughters, had a good many daughters, and they were very good. They could do anything they wanted to do. You know. They taught, too. [Laughter]
CW: Really? So, there was a lady and her daughters, and they ran the school?
IH: Yes. Well, they didn't say run the school, 'cause they had a man. I, but I'll tell you that [Laughter]
CW: So there was a man there?
IH: And they'd hit you in the head. [Laughter]
CW: Oh, really?
IH: I said -
CW: So there was a male principal at the school?
IH: Yes. ( )
CW: What, do you have any memories from that, sort of fun things you did, exciting things? You obviously got really interested in education.
IH: Yes, I did.
CW: So was it from that early period, do you think?
IH: Well, I just liked school. I, and I educated all my brothers, you know, saw that they was educated.
CW: So you became a teacher - before you became a formal teacher, you were teaching your brothers and sisters.
IH: Yes. Yes.
CW: And one of your brothers went on to be the first African-American to get a PhD in mathematics, I believe.
IH: That's right. That's right.
CW: That's amazing.
IH: That's right.
CW: So what do you think you liked about school? Which subjects did you like?
IH: I liked all the subjects I had to teach. Any one that I had to teach the subjects, I liked 'em.
CW: So there was nothing particular that drew your interest? You were an all-rounder?
IH: Yes.
CW: You liked the sciences and the arts just as much.
IH: Sure.
CW: Right.
IH: And I was able to teach with people, too, that knew a lot.
CW: Like -
IH: I had, had a, a, I was in Sumter, South Carolina, where we had a, a, a lady, she had finished in her hometown, which was up in the North. And she was a, they made her the over all the - you know, whatcha you call that?
CW: She was like a supervisor?
IH: A supervisor. That's right. I can't think. And, and she was really good. She was really good with the, was nice to you, put you in different places where you could go and, and teach, and she was just, she was a funny lady. [Laughter]
CW: Uh- huh. So that was when you were teaching. She was a great role model for you.
IH: Yes. Yes. I taught down in South Carolina, you see.
CW: Now, how - just to, to kind of bridge the gap between elementary school and your teaching career - from elementary school, did you go on to a high school, or did your elementary school go on through, was it elementary and high school? I guess you were in Georgia, too, weren't you? So, you must have been educated down there.
IH: No, I was in South Carolina.
CW: Right. Did, so, when you were saying you went to Georgia, was that just for a short period of time?
IH: Oh, that was for a short period of time.
CW: OK.
IH: My, my father carried us there. Short period of time.
CW: Right. What was your high school, then? Did, was it separate from your elementary school?
IH: My high school was, yes, it was separate. I went to high school - Did you say high school?
CW: Yeah. Was that in Gaffney?
IH: Yeah. That was in Gaffney. CW: Uh- huh.
IH: Uh-huh.
CW: Was it very different from the elementary school? Were there a lot of connections between them?
IH: It was a very good, do whatever they had to do. And, I mean, they were good teachers. They was real good teachers. Don't say a word about - That's where I learned a little something. [Laughter]
CW: Um-hum. Do you remember any particular teachers there, in high school?
IH: Yeah. Miss Littlejohn.
CW: Who is that?
IH: Aliyah Davis Littlejohn
CW: Lujah?
IH: Littlejohn. Littlejohn. Little John.
CW: Littlejohn. OK, right.
IH: I know her.
CW: I'm sorry. Littlejohn. And she - now, what was special about her?
IH: You, you'd get your lessons. You would learn. That's what it was. All of the people just taught us to learn. Wasn't that right, Elizabeth?
UN: Uh-huh.
CW: What was her subject?
IH: She, well, this lady, I'll talk about her so good. She was a first grade teacher.
CW: Oh, the first - so, that was elementary school.
IH: With the little children.
CW: Right.
IH: And then she taught B-2, what I was on, right there, you know.
CW: Uh huh.
IH: But going to school - I wanted to go to school and I taught, uh, you know, my brothers and sisters. My father died. My mother died.
CW: Do you know how old you would have been when your father died? Were you older than ten, do you think?
IH: Oh yes, I was older than ten.
CW: Yeah. Um hm. But you were still, obviously, young, and, but you took on the responsibility for helping to look after your family.
IH: That's right.
CW: Yeah.
IH: I liked to do that.
CW: Uh- huh.
IH: I wanted my brothers and sisters to go to school. See, I had been, and I did everything I could for them to go.
CW: Right.
IH: And they went into a boarding school, too.
CW: Oh, it was a boarding school.
IH: Yes. Boarding school.
CW: So you stayed at, you lived at school?
IH: Yes. No, I didn't live there.
CW: Oh, right. But they did.
IH: They did.
CW: Oh.
IH: See, I sent them.
CW: Right.
IH: I sent them. I didn't go there.
CW: Are you a lot older than your brothers and sisters?
IH: I was the oldest.
CW: Uh-huh.
IH: [Laughter] Lots of us. I was the oldest girl.
CW: Who, who were your brothers and sisters? Can you remember their names?
IH: Yes. My, one brother was named Clarence, Clarence.
CW: Clarence? And he became the PhD in mathematics and he's still living in New York.
IH: That's, that's, no.
CW: Is that right?
IH: He's living in, is that New York where he's living? I guess so. Yeah. I guess so. Guess so. I've, so much on my mind, I forget. [Laughter] And, I wanted my brothers and sisters to be really educated, and I was the one that put them right where they could be educated. See, they had a lot of schools that you could go to. And I sent them there. And they were there [doorbell ringing], knowing that they were having a good time.
UN: Excuse me.
IH: I had a good time.
CW: So, after high school, you, you went on to train to become a teacher?
IH: Yes.
CW: Where, I know you went to a lot of different colleges, including Nova - no, not, sorry - Barber Scotia and Johnson C. Smith and the University of Pittsburgh.
IH: Pittsburgh. That's right.
CW: Yeah.
IH: Oh.
CW: So, oh, we're ok. Mrs. Hunt, you told me that you helped to put your brothers and sisters through college.
IH: That's right.
CW: So I'm assuming that you were somewhat older than them and went ahead of them through, through college by, by a ways.
IH: That's right. Yes.
CW: Where did you go from high school? Was that when you went to Barber Scotia?
IH: I went to Barber Scotia, Johnson C. Smith, and I went up into - Lord, have mercy, I can't think of the -
CW: I know you were at the University of Pittsburgh -
IH: Yeah, that's what I'm trying -
CW: For your master's.
IH: Yes.
CW: Did you also say that you went to Winston-Salem for a while?
IH: No.
CW: No. OK. That was from when I talked to you before.
IH: Winston-Salem, I don't think.
CW: Right. I, I know that you were at Barber Scotia in 1929 and 1930, because you're, you're in, you know, the alumni book.
IH: Is it? ok.
CW: Uh huh. Yeah. Did you go straight to Johnson C. Smith from there?
IH: Umm, let's see.
CW: What do you remember about Johnson C. Smith? What was life like there?
IH: Oh, Johnson C. Smith was all right. That was a good school. My brothers went to that school, one of my brothers went to that school, too.
CW: Um-hum. Was, was there a lot of, did you live right here in this area when you were a student there?
IH: No. I didn't live, I didn't live, area that way.
CW: Nearer to the school? Or further away?
IH: Nearer to the school.
CW: Nearer to the school. Right. Were there any teachers there who really inspired you and made you want to become a teacher, or had you already decided?
IH: No, I, I wanted to be one myself. [Laughter]
CW: Uh- huh.
IH: I go on to be a teacher and I wanted my brothers and sisters and all to finish school. I just liked school.
CW: Uh-hum. So, right from the beginning, in college, you knew you wanted to teach. That was your destiny.
IH: Destiny.
CW: Yeah.
IH: That's what I was doing.
CW: Right. And you went from there straight on to do your master's in education?
IH: That's right.
CW: And at the University of Pittsburgh. What do you remember about being in Pittsburgh? Was it very different?
IH: Well, it was a fine, nice school. I enjoyed it so much because it was really good. Good teachers. And I just enjoyed that school. And I stayed there and my husband came there and said, I hear you talking about that school, I believe I'll go. [Laughter] And he did.
CW: Were you married when you went there? Or after you came back?
IH: Well, I was married but I went to the University of Pittsburgh.
CW: Right. And did you go and live there but he was still in Charlotte?
IH: Yes. He was still here 'cause, see, he's a minister. And he had his church, you know.
CW: Uh-huh. Did you meet him when you were at Johnson C. Smith University? Your husband?
IH: Well, I met him, yes. You know, he used to come over for ball games, you know. Charlotte always had ball games and he came over to the ball games, and that's where I met him, there.
CW: Right. And what was your husband's name?
IH: My husband was named, what? Done forgot, he been gone, dead so - oh, that's all right. You got it?
CW: Is it Alba?
IH: Huh?
CW: Was it Al-
IH: No, his name was - well, Lord, but I forget everything.
CW: Well, that's ok. It doesn't, it doesn't matter. What did your husband do?
IH: My husband was a minister.
CW: Um-hum. Which church was he the minister of?
IH: He was minister of the church in Monroe, North Carolina.
CW: Um-hum. Was that the Presbyterian Church?
IH: That's right.
CW: Right. And you inspired him to go up and do a, a degree, or a master's degree, up at Pittsburgh?
IH: No, he said he wanted to go.
CW: Oh.
IH: He says, I believe I'll go. I hear you talking 'bout that old school. [Laughter]
CW: Oh, but he -
IH: He, he, he volunteered to go, you know, 'cause he would hear me talking about it. How I was getting along and everything, so he wanted to go.
CW: So, did he go?
IH: Yeah. And finished it. And we got our picture sent out.
CW: Uh- huh. And then you came back south, obviously because he was still here, to teach, and you taught a while in Sumter, South Carolina. Was, was that before you went to Pittsburgh or was it after you got back from Pittsburgh?
IH: It was after I came back from Pittsburgh. 'Cause, see, Pittsburgh was way after.
CW: Yeah. Were you, in the school in Sumter, was it also a Rosenwald school?
IH: Well, it is a - well, no. One of the schools was a church school. A, a church had that school.
CW: Um-hum.
IH: In, in there. Um-hum.
CW: And you were not the principal. Were you a regular teacher there?
IH: No, not the principal, not there.
CW: Right.
IH: But I was the principal of the school in Charlotte.
CW: Yeah. Yeah. And that's the school that we're particularly interested in today because there are so many people from that school who were pupils when you were there -
IH: That's right.
CW: Who, you know, who we're going to talk to in our interviews.
IH: Oh, yeah.
CW: Yeah. So you, you went from Sumter and you came to, back to Charlotte, and you got the job at Rockwell Rosenwald School in Derita.
IH: That's right.
CW: Do you remember applying for that job and how you felt about it?
IH: And then I was in a school in - see, that was a small school. Then we had another school. Elizabeth?
UN: Yes?
IH: What was the name of that school, it was up on the hill there.
UN: Torrence Lytle.
IH: Yes, Torrence Lytle. That's the, Torrence Lytle. I was at, I was a teacher there.
CW: Right, right. Now, you were a principal and third and fourth grade teacher of Rockwell Rosenwald School -
IH: Yes.
CW: In the 1940s.
IH: That's right. I guess, yeah, that's right, if you got it.
CW: How did you feel about being principal?
IH: Well, you know, in those days, you didn't have to worry so much about being principal. I didn't. I just went on in and pretty soon I was the principal.
CW: Uh-huh. Now, what, what was different for the principal? Did you hire the other teachers?
IH:Oh, no. We didn't do that.
CW: You didn't.
IH: 'Cause we always had a person that's head of the school.
UN2: Superintendent.
IH: Yeah, yeah. That's right.
CW: So you weren't involved in any of those decisions?
IH: No, no. Didn't have to be.
CW: Did, did you help the teachers to learn how to be teachers when they came to the school? Did you, did you give, did you give them guidance?
IH: Well, I didn't give 'em guidance. Sometimes the principal would tell 'em to go and look at, come to my room if you wanted to know what to do, go to Mrs. Hunt's room. She knows everything. I said, no, I don't. [Laughter]
CW: Uh-huh. So the teachers sought you out.
IH: Uh- huh.
CW: As their guide.
IH: Yeah. They surely did. Everything.
CW: Did you have, did you go to principals' meetings during that time? Were there any meetings outside the school that other principals from other African-American schools attended?
IH: Yes. We went to -
CW: With the superintendent?
IH: Yes.
CW: Do you remember anything about those meetings?
IH: Well, it's just like anything else. You go there, they give you something to do, you come, you go and stay there you know and come back, just like, ( )....I enjoyed it.
CW: Do you remember any kind of things that you might have discussed at those meetings? About curriculum or, you know, methods of teaching?
IH: We had that, you know, sometimes when we had our own work at school. You know, the teacher, the principal calls the teachers in, and, you see, we'd do that.
CW: Um-hum. And you had, you were one of three teachers at the school, at Rockwell Rosenwald School, while you were there. Is that right?
IH: That's right.
CW: There were three teachers.
IH: Three.
CW: Do you, do you remember who the other teachers were when you were there?
IH: Yeah. I remember. I see her face but I can't call her name. I declare.
UN: [whispering]
IH: Huh?
UN: Was it Mamie King? Was Miss King there when you -
IH: Yeah, Miss King was there but she was in the first grade. Taught the first grade. Miss King was there. Woman is still living but she's not well, so. Let's see.
CW: Well, maybe you'll remember in a minute. That's OK. We, we don't have to have the names. Did, you did not live in Derita when you were teaching at Rockwell?
IH: No.
CW: Did you live here in Beatties Ford Road area?
IH: I lived here. Um-hum.
CW: And did the other teachers, did they live in Derita, or did they live further away?
IH: They all lived in Charlotte, lived in Charlotte. See, it's pretty close to Charlotte, you know.
CW: Oh yeah.
IH: And they'd just drive out there. They had their, they had their automobiles and they just drove.
CW: Right. So everybody would drive.
IH: Um-hum.
CW: Right. But, and the pupils, of course, would mainly be walking, and maybe some of them-
IH: Well, they lived right there in the little town.
CW: Right.
IH: Little town.
CW: Yeah. What was it like?
IH: Kinda like one day [Laughter]
CW: What was it like? What do you remember about the school and the town.
IH: The children came, the children was, Miss Hunt, those white children down there are spitting on us. You know, they had a white school right down there. I said, what? I went right down there.
CW: Good.
IH: To their principal. And told him I did not want his children spitting on mine. He said, now, we'll, I'll do that. If I find out, they will never do that again, Miss Hunt. I said, well, that's what they're doing.
CW: How did you, because there was this other school in town that was a white school, how did you feel about that, at the time?
IH: I felt all right. I was a teacher, and whenever they did anything about children, I always would look after that.
CW: Um-hum.
IH: I always would look after that.
CW: Did you talk to the principal of the other school very often?
IH: Oh, we didn't have to talk often. One little thing would come up and that's all it would be. He said, well, he would look after that. Never heard 'em talk more about it.
CW: Did you feel, how did you feel about what that school had, and what it was like, in comparison to the school that you were in? Did you feel that there was a disparity, that things weren't really fair? Or did -
IH: Oh, no, I didn't feel like that, but only when, if, if, when they got on my children, that's when I went down there to see him about it. I, I didn't bother about -
CW: Um-hum.
IH: But I sure did go down there and see him.
CW: Right. What was Rockwell School like when you were teaching there? How, how did it feel as a school?
IH: Felt all right.
CW: Was -
IH: Do you have a, a picture of that school?
CW: I've seen similar, I've been to see the school but, of course, it's not a school any more.
IH: No.
CW: It's, and the building is quite deteriorated.
IH: Yes.
CW: But I've seen similar kinds of schools.
IH: Oh, sure.
CW: Yeah. Yeah. How, how was it heated?
IH: By, by big sheets of, it's heated with coal.
CW: Um-hum.
IH: And, and big schools, you know, standing up in the school like that.
CW: You had stoves?
IH: Um-hum.
CW: Um-hum. Was it comfortable?
IH: Sure.
CW: Um-hum. Did you really, did you like that school? Do you have fond memories of it?
IH: Yes, I liked it.
CW: How did the day, how did your school day go? Do you remember, you know, like, the children came in in the morning. Did they play outside for a while and then you called them all in? And did you have a little assembly at the beginning of the day?
IH: There would be, if the children would come and they wanted to play, they could play out there a while before they come in the school, if the day was pretty good. And then, we would, during, during the other times, they would come directly in the school and we'd just have our, whatcha call, little -
CW: Beginning of the day? You would read something, the Lord's Prayer or something?
IH: Yeah, we had, we always had that. We always had the Lord's Prayer.
CW: Um-hum.
IH: But they'll still have five hours after we have our Lord's Prayer.
UN2: Pledge of Allegiance to the flag?
IH: Beg your pardon?
UN2: Pledge allegiance to the flag?
IH: Yes.
UN2: You have that?
IH: No.
UN2: No.
IH: No, I never had anything about that. Didn't have it.
CW: Did the children all have their own desks that they sat at?
IH: Well, they had the desks so maybe two children had to sit side by side.
CW: Um-hum.
IH: And that's the way it was in the school. Isn't that the way it was, Elizabeth?
UN: Yes, ma'am.
IH: Um-hum.
CW: Did the children, how did you teach? Did they move around very much or did they tend to stay in their seats and you told them things and they wrote them down? Did you have a lot of memory things for the children to do?
IH: Yes, we had a lot of things to, plenty of things to do. We had to go to school and they'll have to have, first things you have, you have, in the morning, first thing you do, you would call - Lord, I done forgot all about the schools. But, we had -
UN: Devotions.
IH: Devotion. That's right. [Laughter] I done forgot. Devotion, see, we'd have that for the children. And then after that, then we'd get all our lessons.
CW: Um-hum. What do you remember teaching the children? The lessons.
IH: Arithmetic. Reading. Sometimes the books would come in and we'd have certain things. What was it, Elizabeth?
UN: Geography.
IH: Geography, yeah. What else?
UN: Spelling.
IH: Spelling. That's right. Lord, I, I was so good -
UN: Penmanship.
IH: Yes. Oh, I'm glad you're here. 'Cause I had forgotten all of that.
CW: Did you teach much History?
IH: Yes, I have taught a good bit of History.
CW: Did it include African-American history?
IH: Yes.
CW: What happened at recess?
IH: Children'd go out and play if it's, sun was shining. And if it was raining, they could stay in the school building.
CW: Did you get a break? Or did you have to stay with the children?
IH: Yeah, I stayed with the children mostly.
CW: Do you remember what the bathrooms were like in the school?
IH: Well, in those times, we -
CW: This is going back to Rockwell. That was your early -
IH: Yeah, yeah. Say what? What did you ask me?
CW: The bathrooms in the school.
IH: We didn't have no bathrooms in the school. Unless you talking about a toilet.
CW: Um-hum, yeah.
IH: That's what you're talking about?
CW: I am, yeah.
IH: Oh, yeah. Well, that's different. A toilet is different from a bathroom. [Laughter]
CW: That's true.
IH: [Laughter] We get all mixed up here, don't we? Talk about a toilet. Oh well. We'll get straightened out now.
CW: Did, now you, the, the toilet was obviously separate from the school. And was that ever a problem? Or did you -
IH: Seems that at our school, it wasn't separate, was it? Elizabeth? You know what, see what she's talking about.
UN: We had toilets on the outside. Had two, one for the boys, one for the girls.
IH: Yeah, that's right. That's right. That's right.
UN: And we could use them during recess.
IH: Um-hum. Um-hum. Thank you.
CW: Then it doesn't seem as if there was any problem with that.
IH: No.
CW: I was thinking that the school down the road probably had some indoor toilets and they were probably more comfortable. It's, it's one of those things that was not very equal about the schools. But it doesn't seem as though -
IH: Oh, no. It's, it's, no, it's, black people, it's not like that. But you can go to some schools where it is.
CW: Um-hum.
IH: And they have some, and they have, now they have put a black principal over a big school. And you see, he runs that school, see. And he runs it just like the white folks out there running it. We had. 'Course, all that's done away with now.
CW: Of course, yeah. Were you, were you teaching at Torrence Lytle School when the Brown versus Board of Education was, suit was brought and, in the 1950s, 1954? Were you still there at Rockwell or had you moved by then, to Torrence Lytle? You maybe had moved. Do you remember when that, when that lawsuit was, was brought and, you know, the schools were supposed to be integrated, but then really Charlotte did not integrate the schools. Do you remember what the feelings were like, and whether people - you were right in the middle of that, as an educator.
IH: Oh, I don't know about that. I really don't know what you're talking about.
CW: Ok. That's ok.
IH: Not while I was teaching.
CW: Right. It took a long time for Charlotte to actually integrate the schools. But, during that period, were you trying to get the schools integrated? As an educator?
IH: I was just doing what the, what the -
CW: Doing your job.
IH: On the job there. I don't know about all that. And I was getting along all right. I wasn't worrying about a thing. Children learning. And I was happy.
CW: Um-hum.
IH: Some of those children went on to college just like I did.
CW: Yeah. We've got one here today, haven't we?
IH: [Laughter] I know. I know. I know.
CW: Yeah.
IH: What I say. We just went right on working. I did. My school.
CW: What delighted you about teaching, do you, would you say? What were your greatest joys?
IH: My greatest joy is when the children would learn. I love when the children learn. Um-hum. Come to school and learn. Ain't that right?
UN: That's right.
IH: [Laughter] Teaching those so that they could go, you know, when, when they left that school and they wanted to go to another one. Like I did. Had to go, I went to all these schools, you see. I went to school in Virginia, summer school. What do you say, learn, learned there, and then, this, this, this was just fine. We just get along fine, the schools, like I did. I did.
CW: Do you think boys and girls were treated the same in school when you were teaching?
IH: Well, sometimes the boys were treated better.
CW: Oh really?
IH: [Laughter]
CW: How was that?
IH: 'Cause they were doing better. Sometimes. Yeah. I had a, a, what they call partners. They was on the, you know, side by side. They were good in their work and everything. That, that same boy got out of school, went to Davidson College.
CW: Um-hum.
IH: It was called a white school. And finished it. And invited me to come, and I said, Lord, I'll be there. I'll be there. Lord, I'll be there. And when the, the people was watching in, watching 'em coming in, to look at him. Had the picture of that. I had that somewhere.
CW: I've seen that picture.
IH: Have you?
CW: I've seen it. You showed it to me when I was here before.
IH: Did I?
CW: Yeah. That was a student from Shamrock Gardens, when you were teaching at Shamrock.
IH: Um-hum.
CW: Is that right? I think you taught him at Shamrock.
IH: Shamrock No.
CW: No?
IH: Uh-huh. I, I was -
CW: Was he from Torrence Lytle, then?
IH: You see, this school was the school where [pause] Freddie Black went. 'Cause this boy sat side-by-side with the white fellow. They both, you know, we - I just wished I had the, this straight.
CW: We could look for it later.
IH: Uh-huh.
CW: Yeah.
IH: They did get along fine in this school. Just as nice as they could be. Had no trouble with 'em.
CW: Did you sometimes need to discipline children at school?
IH: I never did do too much of that, did I, Elizabeth?
UN: No, ma'am.
IH: No, I didn't have to do that. I didn't have to do that. I was good to the children. And they were nice in my classroom. I didn't have to do too much of that.
CW: Why do you think that was? That you didn't have to discipline children much? It seems as if people are always having to discipline children today.
IH: That they are. You just have got to have faith.
CW: You were saying that you thought maybe it was because you were a good teacher. You kept them busy?
IH: Yeah. Kept 'em busy. I tried to be a good teacher. I'll tell you that. [Laughter] I tried to be a good teacher.
CW: Do you think the children came to school wanting to learn?
IH: Some, some. Oh, and some would be kinda, well, some children it's kinda hard for them to learn right now. You have to drill them.
CW: How did you motivate them? How did you give them that desire to learn?
IH: Well, I would talk to them, tell them about, you know, you gotta do this, and don't you want mama and papa to know you're coming to school and you're doing the right thing? And they get, and I would help them some.
CW: Um-hum. Would you think the parents were very important?
IH: Oh, yeah. They were good to the children and they were very important.
CW: Were they very involved in school?
IH: Yes, they'd come to the, to the, you know, you have -
CW: PTA?
IH: PTA meeting. They would come, and that's one thing they'd do. They would come.
CW: Would all the parents come? You'd see them all?
IH: Most of 'em.
CW: Did you ever visit with parents and the children in their home?
IH: Yeah. I visited. See, what I, what I was teaching were the white children. I went to their homes, they invited me to their homes, and they invited me, and for dinner, and all like that. I did it, right there. I would do the best I could. They knew I was a good teacher.
CW: Um-hum.
IH: I, it'd be always that, How's so-and-so doing, you know. I'd say, doing fine, he's doing fine. And I taught white children. I taught white children.
CW: Yeah.
IH: Um-hum.
CW: Did the parents, and this is going back to Rockwell, but did the parents at Rockwell make a big difference to the school? Did they help to get equipment and things for the school? Like a PTA? You know, PTAs often raise money and support schools. Was there a lot of support from the Rockwell parents?
IH: Yes. Yes, yes. I thought we had support.
CW: What about the church? The AME Zion church, right next to the school? How was it connected with the school?
IH: Well, that church at the time, as far as I thought about it, they were sticking to their business up there at the church and we had our school through the week. We didn't bother about it.
CW: So you didn't have a big connection between the church and the school?
IH: No.
CW: Right. Right. Now, do you remember stories, when you came to teach at Rockwell, of the older school that used to be there, in the late nineteenth century? Did you ever hear about that? There was an old, there was a school at Rockwell back in the 1870s. Did people talk about that? [pause] Maybe not.
IH: I don't know whether they did or not.
UN: No.
CW: And did they talk about the school building, the Rosenwald school building you were in, did they talk about how it had had a second story that had gotten knocked down by a tornado?
IH: No, not in my school. Not the school I was in.
CW: Well, it was ten years before you started teaching, probably, or round about.
IH: Yes.
CW: Yeah. But some of the older students remember that. Remember from, you know, the stories about that. That was in 1935. But they didn't talk about it, really, when -
IH: Uh-huh.
CW: Was the Rosenwald designation of the school important or not? Did you, did you have a Rosenwald Day at school when you were there?
IH: How we gonna have a Rosenwald Day? Why you have to have a Rosenwald Day?
CW: Well, they used to. The, the old Rosenwald schools used to have a Rosenwald Day, but it seems as if it just disappeared as a - it was a little, just a celebration.
IH: Oh. It's disappeared?
CW: But it was a long time. I mean, you were there in the 1940s and the school was built in 1919. So it was a long time, in the early period.
IH: Oh, I see.
CW: Well, Mrs. Hunt, I think we're going to finish for today.
IH: Um-hum.
CW: But you've gone back through a lot of memories there, so -
IH: [Laughter]
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