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Interview with Daisy S. Stroud

Stroud, Daisy S.
Desmarais, Melinda
Date of Interview: 
Stroud, Daisy S., 1921-; Charlotte, NC; Segregation; Race Relations; North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company; Occupations--African American; Housing; Intra-racial class relations; Poor whites; First Ward; Brooklyn neighborhood; The Charlotte Post; NAACP; Johnson C. Smith University; Education; School integration; Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, Black Power movement.
A native Charlottean, Daisy Spears Stroud discusses her life in the city. She relates early encounters and her feelings as a young girl about race relations, both interracial and intra-racial. Spears discusses predominantly African American neighborhoods in Charlotte, including her own First Ward. As a life-long teacher, Stroud took part in the initial desegregation of Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools. She tells of her experiences as a faculty member transferring to an integrated school and working with white parents and colleagues. She discusses what she sees as the successes and failures of the Swann decision and its impact on the African American community
Charlotte, 1920s-2001
NAACP Leadership
Interview Audio: 
MD (Melinda Desmarais): This is Melinda Desmarais, the interviewer. Today is June the 20th. The year is 2001, and I am here with Daisy Stroud at her home in Charlotte, North Carolina. I'm conducting this interview for the Digital Sound Archive Initiative for the Special Collections department at UNC Charlotte's Atkins Library. Mrs. Stroud, please state your full name.
DS (Daisy Stroud): My name is Daisy Spears Stroud.
MD: And what's your date of birth, Mrs. Stroud?
DS: I was born October 12th, 1921.
MD: And where were you born?
DS: I was born in Charlotte, North Carolina.
MD: So this is your hometown?
DS: Yes, this is my hometown.
MD: How about your parents? What were their names?
DS: My mother's name was Daisy Ancrum Spears and my father's name was Arthur Eugene Spears, Sr.
MD: And do you know their birthplaces?
DS: My mother was born in Kesh, South Carolina, and my father was born in Harrisburg, North Carolina.
MD: What brought them to Charlotte? Do you know?
DS: Yes. My father was a super salesman, so to speak. He, his line was selling.
MD: Um-hum
DS: And he was in the insurance business.
MD: Um-hum.
DS: And he had a job with the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company in Durham, North Carolina, the headquarters. And he started off as an agent, and then he was assigned to Charlotte to be the manager of the, of the, of the association that is here in Charlotte. So he was here under the auspices of North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company.
MD: And how about your mother? Did she work outside the home?
DS: No, my mother was very well qualified to work outside the home, but she believed that she should stay at home with her children. My mother was a certified teacher. She was a registered nurse, and--. But she preferred to just do her nursing like going from home to home, and she gave up her teaching job after her children, did, after her children came into the world.
MD: Um-hum.
DS: Right, so she did not work outside of the home. My mother was a, I guess the beginning probably of a liberated woman, because she always felt that she wanted to do something, so she developed the art of beauty-culture science. And because she said, if she had a beauty shop, she could have it in her home, take care of us, and still do. So she built a beauty shop attached to the home, and that was the work that she, she did.
MD: And was it unusual for a woman who was an African American woman during that time to be as well educated as she was?
DS: I would say that it was very unusual because most of our neighbors, the majority of our neighbors, did not have, say quote education like that. But my mother, being a very modest person, did not flaunt her education. Instead what she did, she used it to help people. And she was always about using her education to help, and so our home was just really recognized as a place where you could get help. And that was her mission, I think.
MD: Tell me where your home was here in Charlotte, where you grew up.
DS: I was born at 505 East Seventh Street
MD: Uh-huh.
DS: in First Ward, and I believe that the significant thing about being on Seventh Street is that all of my other brothers and sisters were born at other places because my father in his travels, wherever he would go he used to probably sell books at one time and all of his salesmanship. Then they, we would travel from place to place. So I was sort of the surprise baby my mother said, so she says "This is it." So that's how I got the name Daisy. But being born in First Ward was very interesting because of the section of First Ward that I lived in.
MD: Tell me a little bit about the section you lived in. What was it like?
DS: Well, the block that we lived in in First Ward had been inhabited by, by Caucasians originally, and the homes were, well, not typical of the homes of African Americans. But it so happens that there was a Tate, Mr. Tate of Tate-Brown. Mr. Tate had a son. Well, I won't say out of wedlock, but he had a son whose, who was, had some African American blood in them, so
MD: Um-hum.
DS: he proceeded to buy one of the homes in the neighborhood for his son, and then when the word spread I guess that an African American could move there, then my father applied. And when he was able to move there, then all of the Caucasians moved out. And when they moved out, then all of the African Americans moved in. So our home was not say typical of some of the African American homes. We had like twelve rooms, and
MD: Um-hum.
DS: Well it was a very--. We got it at a very--. My father got it at a very good price, because the persons that were there did not care to live in the same block with someone of African American descent. So that's how we happened to get that particular home, whereas maybe about two or three blocks from us, or maybe on the Eighth-the same block on Eighth Street-would be more typical of the homes of African Americans.
MD: And what would those have been like here in Charlotte?
DS: Well it was almost like sometimes we would call Eighth Street, some portions of Eighth Street, an alley.
MD: Um-hum.
DS: And that would mean that there would be in the back of each home there would be a stream that would run back, in the back of each one where a stream would go by, and it was not very desirable to live there and of course--. Well the homes were not of the same caliber that--. They were the homes that the African American people or the negro people, as we would call them, the negro people lived there that would work in the homes of the Caucasians.
MD: And they were mostly probably wooden shotgun type?
DS: Yeah, yeah. I don't know that we had exactly--. We had some shotgun, but they was typically shotgun but not exactly, as much--. Not as much as the shotguns in Second Ward, Brooklyn
MD: Um-hum.
DS: section. But, they were typical. Not anything like the homes that we enjoyed up in the 500 block on East Seveth.
MD: And in the 500 block up on East Seventh where you were in First Ward, were there more professional people who tended to live, or people who--.
DS: Yes.
MD: In your area who were African American?
DS: Yes. I lived--. The house on the corner was the parsonage for the African Little Rock AME Zion Church, which was a very nice building, and I lived next to the parsonage. And right next door to me was the presiding elder
MD: Um-hum.
DS: of the African American. And then a little farther down, I think we had maybe a barber or something. And I think that at that block there were more say I guess you would consider like professional people
MD: Um-hum.
DS: in this particular block because right across from me there was a principal of a black school, like that. So that particular block I think had a better concentration of , well, so- called well-to-do Negroes. Right.
MD: Um-hum. Did you have a lot of contact with the people who lived in Brooklyn or back a couple blocks behind you? Did you play with those children? You know, was there within the--. I mean there were several sort of African American communities
DS: Right.
MD: in Charlotte. There's just not one,
DS: Right.
MD: which I think we tend to some time say.
DS: Right.
MD: So was there interaction between groups who weren't as educated or people--. When you were a kid, did you play with people who, you know, lived in the other type houses? Who's parents were more in service economy than your parents?
MD: Right. Yes, yes, we did play with them. We were always taught that we were like no better than anyone else.
MD: Um-hum.
DS: And we were there to help everyone, and what would happen in when, happen when someone got sick, even though they happened to be in another area, my mother would always offer her services there, and she'd go everywhere. And then another avenue we had, we were the only persons, black, Negroes, I'll say Negroes, in the block that had a telephone. We were the only one. So everybody in the community used our telephone, so our door was open. We didn't lock doors. So whenever someone wanted to use the telephone, they would just come and maybe knock on the door or use it, or I was always a messenger. If someone would call, then my mother would say, go and tell you know whatever, give a message. So we knew our home was open, a very open home. We did not close, close our homes. Now as far as any say social activities, now we did gravitate toward each other, you know. Like my best friends where I would go to visit and spend the night with them, then they would be persons whose maybe parents were similar to my parents, you know.
MD: I see.
DS: You know. We did--. That was the sort of thing. We would--. I would visit with the, with my playmates on, maybe on Eighth Street, and we could go there. We were welcome to go there, but really as far as social activities? No, they had their social activities, and we had--. We did have ours. Right.
MD: Now your father and mother obviously were very active within the African American community and in lots of ways.
DS: Yes, yes.
MD: In terms of business, in terms of mutual aid and support
DS: Right.
MD: and all that. Were they politically active at all?
DS: Yes, my father was, was I guess you'd call politically activist as he could be. My father had a way with him that helped him to progress to such a way that he met no strangers, per se. And he gave the idea that he was not say quote better,
MD: Um-hum.
DS: but he gave the idea that you really needed to know him, you know. You, you--. He met no strangers. So in order for us to progress, Negroes to progress, we had to have the blessings of the Caucasians.
MD: Um-hum.
DS: We had to have the blessings in order for him to go up. Now, and they--. I got the idea afterwards that my father--. Well he quote maybe knew his so called place, but he always gave the Caucasian, the white race, the idea that he was no threat, but don't bother with him. You know, he was no threat to them, but, you know, don't, you know, don't, don't take advantage of him as such.
MD: Right.
DS: You know, that was the idea that he always, he always induced into us. That we were as good as anyone else but realizing the conditions that we had-that were prevalent at that time, we had to do what we had to do. And so he did, at one point--. I think I have some information somewhere that he's the first--. He ran for alderman, first black alderman in Charlotte, so that showed that he did have some sort of interest, you know, in the community.
MD: Um-hum. So he, when you say, you know, cooperating with whites, do you mean the sort of power structure in Charlotte?
DS: Yes, yes, yes.
MD: The people in business and politics and leadership.
DS: Yes, yes. That's right. With the mayor and whatever. Right. Right.
MD: Can you describe for me, just sort of expounding on that theme a little bit, what race relations were like here in Charlotte when you were young, when you were growing up. Your, your idea about, you know. Did you have an idea about race as you were growing up, and were there certain limitations that you saw placed upon you by others because of race? You know, what was race relations like here in Charlotte?
DS: All right. Well, I think during that time race relations were governed by what the order of the day was. It was just like in these times we do, we know what we can do and what we cannot do. We knew what we could do and what we could not do. And our parents, or my parents stressed upon, stressed upon us that although there were restrictions it had no bearing on what we are. But it was just that it was the law. And the law meant that we could do this. For instance, if I went to--. We would walk everywhere. We were close enough to walk. If I would go to say
MD: Um-hum.
DS: Ivey's or a store and if I wanted to go into the bathroom, then I knew that I could not go into the bathroom. And I mean, and I didn't say, "Well, Mama, why can't I go?" you know. It was just brought up, "You can't do that."
MD: Um-hum.
DS: You know, you were not to do that. On the streetcar. I knew it was, when I got on the streetcar, although there were seats in the front and maybe no seats in the back, I knew I could not sit at the front. And I just knew that, and then I went into the back. And so all those things I think has had a bearing on the way that I feel today, all those experiences that I had then. I think that really determined the kind of person I am today. I really think that it had a big, you know, bearing.
MD: In what way?
DS: Well, it has made me determined too, [pause] to not accept, what the limitations that have been placed upon me. I am just like more determined not to, not to accept that, and so I try to do it within what I can do. I'm not the type person to go out necessarily and march, you know. I've never had the desire to go out and hold a sign up and march. Although I admire those that do that, but I never have. But I have a feeling that there is power in the pen. And that's what I believe. I think there's power in the pen, so I prefer to write and that's what makes me a--. I have a very strong compulsion to write, and so that's why I try to write as much as I, as much as I can.
MD: Were the social sort of conventions that you mentioned, you know, that were about race here in Charlotte,
DS: Um-hum.
MD: say in the 30s and the 40s, were those--. Did most people who were African American sort of live within those limits as you say? Were there people pushing the envelope as early as the 30s and 40s in terms of civil rights? I mean although you weren't, didn't have a proclivity toward marching
DS: Yes. right, right.
MD: were there people who would do that early here in Charlotte?
DS: Oh yes, there was always someone. There was a man who's name was Tresbont Anderson. He used the power of the pen, and every time they, one of us, would step out that way, then they were branded as a radical or someone to watch, you know. But there was always, as long as I can remember, there was always someone who would always speak out, or not go with the status quo.
MD: And who was Mr. Anderson?
DS: Always. His name was Tresbont Anderson, and he was the first editor of the Charlotte Post,
MD: Um-hum.
DS: the Charlotte paper that was here. He was a--. And I just remember him. He was older than I was, but I just remember hearing his name spoken as someone that would dare to do things that others wouldn't do. And like he was like hated and, you know, it would say, "How does he get the nerve to say that?" You know that's what a lot of people would say, "Oh, did you hear what he said?"
MD: Um-hum. [laughter]
DS: They would say, "Oh, did you hear that?", you know, "That he had the nerve to say that?" And he would do that. My father, come to think about it, he was a master at saying what he had to say without being violent about it. He could get the point across, and he was quite different from Tresbont, because Tresbont, he was kind of would go wave something.
MD: Um-hum.
DS: But anyhow that's just the way. There's always someone that, because when you stop to think about it, it proves that all of us are human, you know. And we can take as much as we're supposed to take, and then the others. There's always rebelling. And then, you know, something that helped us is that, [Pause] you know, we never, we never wanted to be with white people. We never wanted--. We had--. You know, that was such a misconception.
MD: Um-hum.
DS: We never--. There was, I think, the conception was among white people that, "Oh, they would love to be with us!" But we never wanted to be with white people. We never did, you know. In fact, we would , "No, I don't want to be with them." We wanted what they had, you know. We didn't want to--. We wanted the opportunity to do. What we had--. If someone say, "Oh, I'm going to give you a present. I'm going to let you go to that house right there, and I'm going to let you eat with them and sleep with them. And I want you to live with them. "No! [laughter] I don't want to do that!"
MD: [laughter]Yeah.
DS: You know, so that is a sort, a misconception that I think that happens, you know, when we were growing up.
MD: Did black and whites here in Charlotte have a lot of contact with one another? I mean I know you say, you know, you talk about the misconception. You say we weren't interested in that contact.
DS: Right. Right.
MD: But did that contact occur?
DS: Well, there was one block, in on, one block on Seventh Street that was about the last to, last to change, and they was a block that was bounded between Brevard Street and Caldwell Street. That block was all white, but they were very poor whites. They could not afford to leave so they had to stay there.
MD: Um-hum.
DS: They avoided us like the plague, you know, so when we would--. It was so interesting now, our, the school that we would go, that I went to, Alexander Street School, and their school, First Ward Elementary, was as such as we had to pass each other, and so what would happen is I guess taking out our frustrations-and I guess I must have been a part of it. We would make--. When we had to pass, we'd make them walk in the street. And we walked on the sidewalk, you know, like we would say, because they really were afraid of us.
MD: Um-hum.
DS: You know, the, the conception of black people are like the ones that are noticed. Like they see black people drunk, you know, and they see black people dirty and cursing and then in their minds they say we're afraid of black people. You know they might bother us, so it was problem in getting them off the sidewalks. You could say, "No, get out in the streets!" [laughter] So then we'd walk up there, and that was always really--. And if they said anything, then we might--. I don't think I did. I don't remember doing it, but some of my friends would push them, you know, off
MD: Um-hum.
DS: you know. And so that, I think that strangely gave us some sort of satisfaction, you know, where at least we did make them, [laughter] you know, get out there. I think that probably did, so we had no, you know, desire to make friends with them, maybe because we assumed they didn't want to be with us. That's possible, too.
MD: Um-hum.
DS: But they were right with us, but no con--. Even when we would into the stores. There was a grocery store on the corner, and there was always a white man that owned it. And he slept in the back of the store, and so he could have been related to some of the others up there. But anyhow, when they were, the whites, when we were in there, and they would come to the door, if they would see us in there, then they would leave. They wouldn't come in. Or if they were in there and we would come in then, they would make haste to get out of the store. They didn't even want to be, you know, in the store with us.
MD: Um-hum.
DS: You know, there was so much, that much chasm between us that because--. I think, looking back on it, I think they were thinking here we are white, and we're living like we're living and there are some Negroes over there that are living well. And then they wouldn't like that, you know [laughter],
MD: Um-hum. Um-hum.
DS: You know they wouldn't like that at all, and I think that was what bothered them , upset them: that we had privileges, you know, that they didn't have and they were white, you know. So looking back on it, I guess that's why, you know, they felt the way they did.
MD: Was there a different type of experience say if you went to Ivey's for example with more wealthy whites. I mean did they treat you differently or?
DS: Well, when we got there with wealthy whites, they didn't see us, you know. It's as though we weren't there, you know. We were no threat to them. So, we were nothing and they would just be like nothing. We were just nothing, and if I'm waiting, if you're the clerk at Ivey's and I'm coming to buy something and I'm in the process of buying something, if someone of wealth would come up, the clerk would stop waiting on me. And she would say, "Oh, Mrs. so-and-so," as though I'm not there, you know.
MD: Um-hum.
DS: "Oh, Mrs. so-and-so, can I help you?" you know, that way as though I'm not even there. You know, I'm invisible. [laughter] And that's, that's just the way it was.
MD: How did that make you feel if that happened to you?
DS: Well it, it, it made me--. Well I guess I must have had a little rage inside of me, but it was a helpless sort of feeling. And then I guess I was hurt, and I guess I was hurt because I couldn't see what I had done, you know, what like, what have I done? You know, or if I go there to try on hats, some hats that I might want. I've been told that there are some hats that are there that plainly says for sale. "Not For Sale." They would say , "That's not for sale." Or if there's a hat, then they may think so-and-so that they had a special little cap that before I could try it on, they would want me to put on that cap. And I did that one time, and I told my mother about that and she got furious. She says, "Don't do that!" [laughter] I said I didn't know, you know.
MD: Um-hum.
DS: So she said no, if you can't try it on like, don't buy it, you know, like that. I don't know, it's just--. I got a lot of, I think, whatever I got from my mother. My mother was, I'm more like my mother than my father. Right. She would tell me, you know, regardless to what you see out there, you know, you are just as good or better, you know. So that's what she sort of bred in us.
MD: Um-hum.
DS: Right.
MD: I know in Charlotte there weren't major, you know, race riots that occurred like maybe in Atlanta or places like that, you know. And I know the civil rights push was sort of different here than it was in other places, and I've heard some people tell me that race relations were good here in Charlotte. Do you think they were?
DS: Well, I guess they were good according to the perspective of the establishment, and like for the records of Charlotte. I guess they were good because we did not have a unifying force in Charlotte. You know we--. I think in places where they have unions or they have a definite--textiles or something-- where people can all get together.
MD: Um-hum.
DS: But the only time that we saw each other in Charlotte was like at church or school. Our parents were doing different things, see most of the, most of our women's work was domestic work. And, well you could teach or domestic work where in the men's, men's jobs were preachers or ministers.
MD: Um-hum.
DS: And so the, there was as much, as I think about it, there was a definite, there were definite divisions in the black greater community that hindered us from really getting together.
MD: Um-hum.
DS: Because in the black community, there were classes in the black community, and so therefore there's no unity. In the class of Negroes that did not have as much certainly had to, not be necessarily jealous but not like those Negroes that had positions, you know. There was jealousy up there, so there was no meeting of the mind except that we were all black, you know. That was a given, you know.
MD: Um-hum.
DS: We were all black. But there was no thought of organizing you know there was no thought.
MD: How about groups like the NAACP?
DS: Well I think the reason END OF TAPE 1, SIDE 1. TAPE 1, SIDE 2.
DS: the NAACP did not flourish is that we were told by the white people that if our membership happened to be revealed, our jobs would be lost. So that was a hidden sort of thing; it was whispered.
MD: Um-hum.
DS: Like, you know, "Shush, shush, shush," you know. Everything was under cover, because we knew that the white man would take it out on us in our jobs, and we needed jobs. So therefore, you know, it could not--. We could not let anyone know that we belonged to the NAACP. That was hush-hush.
MD: Um-hum.
DS: And it was really taking a big chance. A lot of us did not have the--. Well, they were just too afraid for their families that they wouldn't join it, join the NAACP because they were afraid of their jobs.
MD: Um-hum.
DS: So that's just the way it is.
MD: So even though it wasn't an explicit threat, it was sort of an understood that that would result in--.
DS: Yes, that was something. I, I think what they would do is use an example of us in us.
MD: Oh, like one person or--.
DS: Yeah, you know. They would use an example, use one of us as an example and then the word would spread , you know. " Do you know what happened ? You know he belonged. They found out that he belonged to the NAACP, and they took his job," and then the word would, would spread and then our, our parents would say now we, I have to feed my family. I'm not going to do that. And so I think that's what--. And then we could always find out what was happening in the white community because we worked in their homes, so we knew a lot about them that they didn't know about us.
MD: Um-hum.
DS: We knew a whole lot about the white person that they didn't know about us.
MD: What sort of things did, you know, people glean from the white community that was helpful for people in the African American community?
DS: Well, you know I told you that we were invisible. So when we would go into the white homes we were invisible. We heard everything, everything, all their secrets. We knew everything because we were invisible [laughter] you know. We knew of any deals or everything. We knew everything about the white man, you know, and so it was just like we were--. We'd be hired, and we didn't see nothing, say nothing, hear nothing, do nothing. Whatever. [laughter] You know, and those were the kinds
MD: Um-hum.
DS: that, that they had no idea. It was, it was--. Can you imagine being so invisible that, and this happened I found out this happened with someone I know that was working in a hotel as a busboy or whatever. He was called--. I don't know whether they call it room service but anyhow, they made an order. An order was given to this black person, and when he went there and knocked on the door, this in a hotel, he was told to come in. The door was open. OK, and there, and he said that plenty times the occupants of the room would be having a sexual relationship and would not stop. They would continue as though he's not even there.
MD: Um-hum.
DS: [laughter] And they would be having a sexual relationship, and they would just say OK, put it on this dresser or something like that. That's true. It's as though you're not even there, and that's why I've thought that if black people really wanted to, they could be the source of a lot, [laughter] a lot. They really could, because they are invisible.
MD: And why did you think--. I mean this is just your impression of course, but why do you think you know? What kept the lid on here? I mean if African Americans knew so much and they. I mean apparently had some power, right? Because they knew. Why, why--. What about Charlotte or why, how did things kind of always--. You know, I know they were as you mentioned a lot of people were worried about their positions, their, you know. How are we going to be able to feed our families, or?
DS: Right.
MD: How do you think that balanced? Why was there a balance where people didn't take to the streets here to push for civil rights or to push for their own rights in that way?
DS: Right. Now I think during the times of my growing up it was--. I grew up right during the Depression, you know,
MD: Um-hum.
DS: and the times were hard times. And I think during the Depression the poor get poorer, and I think our parents realized that we could not afford. It would be useless to try to do whatever it is we could do. We could dream of it and put it in our children. Give our children the education, you know. We were the faith of our times, you know. My children will not go through this,
MD: Um-hum.
DS: You know, I will make sure my children will not go through this, so they put everything in education, you know. And make sure you get educated so you won't have to do this. This is an example of what will happen if you're not educated, so you go ahead and do that. We're going to work hard to make sure, you know, that you are, you are educated. And this was like the, that's the solution. That's what was given to me. Well if I'm educated, I'm going to get everything, you know, educated. So I think that was sort of thing and there. And there was in Charlotte, it's like the negro people, I can't say that they were spineless but they--. I don't know whether it's the times or the economy or the, or their methods of subsistence or something, but not very many would speak out. They were afraid to speak out something like, you know. Like oh, that's not the thing to do or whatever, so that's the only thing I could say, you know think of those times. Yet, they were good times I guess too. Right.
MD: As times changed for you, you know, say as, I know you were married in the 40s, and you continued to live here in Charlotte. Is that right?
DS: Yes, I stayed here. Yes.
MD: Did you see race relations changing? Did you see, you know, moving on forward say in the 40s and 50s did you see people speaking out? Did you see a change at all? Anybody coming to the, to the front to push for civil rights?
DS: I saw a lot of change I guess because we went through the, you know, the times of the civil rights and sit-ins and everything I think we went
MD: Um-hum.
DS: from there, but I don't think we would be in the forefront of the civil rights and everything. It was somewhere else and then it came to Charlotte you know, but--.
MD: Who took the leadership here in Charlotte?
DS: As far as civil rights?
MD: Um-hum.
DS: Well, Reginald Hawkins, you know, you've heard of him he?
MD: I've interviewed him.
DS: Oh yes, yeah. He, he, of course now it was from Johnson C. Smith University. I guess that was a focal part, Johnson C. Smith University. I guess it would really qualify as one of the focal parts of, and that would mean students coming from elsewhere.
MD: Um-hum.
DS: Or students being of the age that they are unwilling to take whatever it is, and so they would be more than I think just Charlotte people. That's what I think.
MD: Um-hum. Do you think the professors there were also sort of a vanguard or was it more the students?
DS: Well, I think one or two professors probably would, would probably be the vanguard, and McCrorey, Henry himself, Henry McCrorey himself was not, was not a firebrand. You know, he was not. He was more with the establishment.
MD: Right. Cooperation.
DS: Yeah, he was more cooperation, and he would be the one to speak out. But the students, I think, were very vocal in speaking out.
MD: Well let me ask you about your work, I know that you've taught for a long time.
DS: Yes.
MD: Had you always, did you always teach here in Charlotte?
DS: Well I started teaching in Rockingham, North Carolina, and I graduated from Fayetteville State Teachers College. I chose a teachers'college because I wanted to be a teacher. My two sisters were also teachers. They went--. They finished North Carolina Central or the University in Durham, it was then called North Carolina College for Negroes, but they were teachers, and so they had a job. Both of them taught at Second Ward High School when I graduated. They are some years older than I, and so they were teaching when I graduated. So when I went to apply, the superintendent here was Harry P. Harding, and the rule was that they would only hire--. They would hire no more than two in the same family, so I could not get a job here in Charlotte. So I had to go elsewhere. I 'd have preferred to teach here in Charlotte, but because I had two sisters in the public school system I could not get hired here in Charlotte. So I went to Rockingham, and in the interim my sister decided that she would leave Second Ward High School and go to Johnson C. Smith University, and that way there would be just one of us. So that way
MD: Um-hum.
DS: I came here and I got a job at Billingsville Elementary School.
MD: About what year? Do you remember that was?
DS: Oh let's see. That must have been, that must have been about like, May the 1956 or '57.
MD: OK, so after the Brown decision, which was '54.
DS: No, it wasn't that then. No. (Sound indicating negative response) I'm thinking otherwise. The reason--. What I was trying to do is-- When I had my children I decided that I would not go to work until my children were of age to go to school. So my youngest son, the youngest child I have was born in 1954. If he was born in '54 then I must have started in about like '56, but you said the Brown decision was what? When?
MD: '54.
DS: Was '54?
MD: It's OK. I mean close enough.
DS: Right, right.
MD: But it was in the 50s.
DS: It was in the 50s. Right.
MD: When you came to Billingsville?
DS: Right, right.
MD: What grade did you teach?
DS: First grade. Right.
MD: And obviously it wasn't an integrated school at that time?
DS: No, that's right. It wasn't.
MD: It was an all, all black school?
DS: All black school. That's right.
MD: What were the conditions like at Billingsville compared to other schools that were white schools or African American schools? I mean was there, you know--. I know there was an obvious difference, and I've heard about the use of hand-me-down text books and lack of supplies and that sort of thing. I mean was that your experience at Billingsville?
DS: It was my experience but I didn't think of it then as being hand-me-down. I thought of it then as that's the way the school was. I didn't--.
MD: Um-hum.
DS: In other words if I saw a book that if it said Myers Park Elementary in there, it didn't occur to me like "Oh!," like that. That never occurred to me.
MD: Um-hum.
DS: It was just--. I guess it was the status quo.
MD: What you had to work with?
DS: Yeah, that's what we had to work with, and I didn't feel any inferiority in working out there. In fact, I thought it was a pretty nice school. It was a campus type, you know, and we had a first elementary wing and a, then the grammar wing, and the office. And I though it was a pretty nice school so, I didn't look on it as you know, being deprived.
MD: Now were you here when Charlotte decided to do what you call voluntary school integration, when, and I know there were several other students who voluntarily integrated but one thinks of Dorothy Counts' experience.
DS: Right.
MD: And I know they were like I say several. Were there any at your school who experienced that? Or tell me, first of all if I can go back, tell me about--. Do you remember that sort of day or period of what they called voluntary school desegregation?
DS: Yes, I worked at Billingsville for a while and then, wanting to get closer to home-- we were then living at Biddleville out on the west section-- and I applied for Oaklawn Elementary, and it was a new school being built. And I was accepted, and so I taught at Oaklawn Elementary for two years under the segregation. And then my third year is when, I don't say that I volunteered but I was assigned to Oakdale Elementary School. This was my first experience going into a so-called white school and I was very upset [laughter] because I wanted to stay at Oaklawn, but anyhow I had to go. I wasn't voluntary. Now maybe there was a time before that it was voluntary, but I was assigned there.
MD: And were you, were there other African American teachers assigned as well to that school?
DS: Yes, yes they were assigned to different--. We integrated Oakdale I was one. I think there were three of us that integrated Oakdale.
MD: Faculty?
DS: Yes, the faculty.
MD: But is this before the students were integrating?
DS: And then the students came too. It was their first year too. They came in with us.
MD: Gosh, what was that experience like?
DS: Well, first I had to find out where Oakdale was. I had never heard of it [laughter] So we got in the car, and my husband and I found it. And it was a pretty nice school, and I decided a route to go there. And it had a white principal who's name was Hugh Howell and the majority of the faculty was white. And it was in an area, that, it was in a neighborhood-type school
MD: Um-hum.
DS: where I'm sure the occupants of the neighborhood never dreamed that one day their children would be, you know, integrated with blacks. I'm sure. So the schools--. The children from--. It was paired with Oaklawn Elementary, and Oaklawn Elementary had a fairly good, I guess you'd call it, standard of blacks there.
MD: Um-hum.
DS: So this is Oakdale that had maybe [phone rings] lower-middle class whites, and then Oaklawn Elementary then had sort of upper middle--.
MD: Sort of a middle, upper-class? Um-hum.
DS: So I guess that was the idea, that the ones, the blacks that they sent there would not be, blacks that would not be offensive.
MD: Sort of model?
DS: Yes. Yes.
MD: Yeah. Um-hum.
DS: As if to say now, they could not deal with the lower class, but as a reward or favor we're going to match you with a so-called, whatever upper class over here, because the students from Oaklawn came from an area where all the professors from Johnson C. Smith lived. It's called McCrorey Heights and it was--. You had to be--. There were professional people living in this area, this whole section, professional people. And they went to Oaklawn Elementary School so, and they had to be transported, bussed out to Oakdale.
MD: Um-hum.
DS: And anyhow, so it was, it was like when I first went there, my first experience at Oakdale was, I guess in addition to not being there, was traumatic because the former teacher, the person who had the room, neglected to clean out her desk. And when I opened her desk, there was a folder, a folder a program and it says, "Operettas," you know, operetta. And it says yearly operetta, you know. And I opened it did, and in the operetta at Oakdale School at the end of the year they had sort of a minstrel thing, and they did black face. And they had--. They would black face some of the white children and call them Sambo, It's true.
MD: And was this in the 60s?
DS: Yeah, whenever. Yeah, that's right. That's right. And it was like, "Oh, you lazy Sambo." And he, "Yes'r, boss." Like that. [laughter] That's true. And that's what I saw in there, and that's what they did.
MD: So this was sort of like, one of your first experiences
DS: Yeah, that's right.
MD: in the, in the school?
DS: And I saw that. I saw that in there, and I said wow. And so anyhow, what happened was to my experience was not too bad because as, let's see what do you call--. As a favor, the school admini--. The principal allowed the parents of these students from from Oaklawn Elementary to select the teachers of their children. So what they would do, they would ask them to say name the teachers. So then when they, the ones that knew me, and when they see Daisy Stroud on there, yeah it was Stroud, Daisy Stroud, then I got a lot of, as many as I could, it had to be divided, I got a very good group of these black students because they were requested to be in my room.
MD: Um-hum.
DS: They would say, " No I want, my child has to be in this room, Mrs. Stroud's room, like that, so I got just about who I would have had over there. But the other blacks that I got that they transferred there, they got them from-I guess if you consider worse conditions as far as poverty- the worst conditions. So we had--. I had some children, some black children that were so far behind that they would never--. You know, it would be impossible for them to catch up. No, no home or support or anything. It was just, that was the type child. Real poor, poor, poor children that were there, and so that was the experience that I had there. And I think I got along very well with the principal because I was very upfront with him,
MD: Um-hum.
DS: you know, so I got no--. I had no problem.
MD: How about from the other teachers who had not had to teach with
DS: Right.
MD: people who were different in terms of race. Did you have a good experience? What was that experience like?
DS: Well, I found that it was just like everywhere else. Some of them were willing and some were not. And some of them, you know, it was very traumatic for them and it was very evident, although they tried to hide it and everything, But some of them it was very disturbing that we were there. And some of the others, it was like, well I'm going to try it, you know.
MD: Um-hum.
DS: And then, you know, I believe that inside each person is the human heart, and some of them I think regardless to how they might have been brought up, they recognized me as another human being. And I really believe that. And then that's the way they treated me.
MD: And the ones who did not treat you, or you suspected did not feel a shared a sense of humanity if nothing else.
DS: Yes, right.
MD: Did those people evidence those feelings in any outward way or you just had the sense that that's how they felt, I mean?
DS: Well, their whole bearing was one of well, well like disapproval or like most of them tried to avoid me you know. They weren't confrontational, you know. They didn't try to confront me, but it was like this is a bitter pill, and I have to swallow it, you know.
MD: Um-hum.
DS: I have to work out here. It's a bitter pill, but I will not be drawn into it, you know. It was that way. No, I will not, you know, I will not change my way, you know, because, you know, I believe what I believe. And so therefore I have to be here, but I can pretend but, you know. I'm just, just, too uncomfortable.
MD: What about your white students and parents of those students?
DS: Well, I found out that parents, and it's interesting enough, I found out that--. I don't know how to put this, but I found out, a contradiction some time--. I found out that the white parents were most supportive if you helped their child. White parents seemed to love, I don't know whether it has to do--. I think the black parents love their children, but the white parents seem to have their children more at heart, and if you help my child, you help me. And so if they got the idea that you were helping their children, there was no problem. They would do anything if you helped my child. That's the experience I had, and it could be because of the experiences that they've had. They haven't had to bother, you know, about the racism and all these things and all these problems because after a while I think, you know, maybe black persons could finally get--. They may come to the conclusion that my child is holding me down, you know, if it were not maybe for my child,
MD: Um-hum.
DS: it's possible that they would say you're not--. A child's not an asset. [laughter]You know it's possible. I don't know.
MD: Right.
DS: It's just possible, I don't know, but I didn't find out.
MD: So you didn't like meet with like racial problems?
DS: After, no I didn't. There was a hesitation at first with some,
MD: Um-hum.
DS: But after they found that I helped their children, that was it. Because the children will not lie, you know. If you help a child, the child recognizes it, and the child evidences help. And so I think when--. That has really been, I think, my success. I'm there to help the children, and when they see that I am helping their children. I haven't had any problems. But initially I have had-especially when I was assigned to junior high for a couple of years-initially I have had some terrible problems with white parents. But I just thought they were disturbed themselves, you know. I did not take it personally.
MD: Um-hum. And do you think your experiences are indicative of how integration went over all Charlotte?
DS: Yes, I think so. Yeah, I think that it was like a comfort level, although it was not privileged, a comfort level that we had. We agreed to it because we thought that if we integrated, not that we would associate, but that we be, would have things better. That's all we wanted.
MD: Um-hum.
DS: We just wanted things to be better.
MD: And you mean the African American community by we?
DS: Yeah, yeah. That's what we. Yeah, that's what I think the African American community wanted, not to be, not the association, but we wanted the nice schools and nice books and the clean books and the clean surroundings and that was a, that was a piece of pie that we really wanted. And we couldn't understand why, you know, why we couldn't, couldn't get it, you know. That was a big mystery. Right.
MD: This is the end of minidisk one, for the continuation of the interview with Daisy Spears Stroud of June 20th 2001, please proceed to minidisk number two. END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B.
DS: Now would you like to have some water or something to drink like that? You're welcome.
MD: Oh, I'm fine for now, maybe when we're done.
MD: Thank you. I'll take you up on that when we are done.
DS: This is Melinda Desmarais, and I'm the interviewer, and this is the second minidisk of a total of two with my interview on June the 20th the year 2001 with Daisy Stroud at her home in Charlotte, so now we'll continue. I know you said as, as we were ending up that you felt like the experience of your teaching, sort of the relative smoothness with which it went, the transition, that you thought that was sort of indicative of Charlotte. Why do you think that smoothness happened, I mean I know why you said you thought it happened in the African American community that, you know, people wanted to have you know equal access and to have equal opportunity. Not necessarily the association of whites but the same level of opportunity in terms of resources and education and that kind of thing. Why do you, I mean do you think--. Did you see integration here in the school system as a smooth process overall?
DS: No, I don't think it was a smooth, because what we were so called fighting for and wishing for didn't happen; you know it just did not happen. What we thought would happen, you know, didn't happen, and that was very disturbing.
MD: And what, what did you hope would happen here you think?
DS: Well what we hoped was, as I said, we would have nice schools and we'll have the advantages and we'll have the things that we thought were forbidden to us, you know. There was a world out there,
MD: Um-hum.
DS: the white world, and they had things that we didn't have. We had the second-hand class things, and we were thinking that maybe integration is the route. If that's the route to get that, we'll get it. But we didn't want to give up what we gave up to get integration, you know. We didn't. In other words I think really if we had had a fast forward, you know, all blacks would, "No. I will not have integration." If we had a fast forward. What is happening now is nothing like what we thought we wanted. We didn't, we didn't want that. But since it happened that way, we just said, you know, not knowing, we went ahead with it, and then it slowly is dawning upon us that we still are at the lower end of the totem pole, you know, even then. You know, we still are not progressing as much as we should all though we made a lot of gains, and so that's why we rethink integration, the kind that we want. And that is why I believe that strangely enough, we had a better education in neighborhood schools. We were more comfortable in neighborhood schools. We were wanted in neighborhood schools. So then picture us being in court against [laughter] neighborhood schools. We're fighting neighborhood schools when all of our happiness was in a neighborhood school. It's such a--. It , it, it is just mind boggling to think that. And then we say, we've been had. That's what we say. A lot of us say, "Oh, well, we have been had." Really, and so but then progress comes a long and with progress in America, progress is known as integration. That's progress. Segregation is backward, but integration is progress. And that's not--. That's not what we--. We didn't think integration would be like this, and we had no idea that it would be like this, so--.
MD: Was there a sense though at the beginning here in Charlotte. I know for whites, for some whites there was a sense of hope but for some there was a sense of dread at this coming or at least that's what my impression in reading the newspapers.
DS: Right.
MD: Was there a sense of--. What was the mood of the African American community or the one that you feel like you can speak for?
DS: Right.
MD: I mean was there opposition during the Swann issues about integration then, or did people all see it a lot of African Americans or yourself,
DS: Um-hum.
MD: I know you can speak for yourself.
DS: Right.
MD: Do you see this hopeful early on?
DS: Well I think the idea of integration is what we were enamored with, the idea of it,
MD: Um-hum.
DS: something that was entirely different. And that is why, you know, we fought so much for whatever this pie in the sky it was. But early on there was an indication that this was not what it should be because how would you feel if you want to be at a certain school but you are told that you cannot stay there? In order for integration you have to go and I'll have to go, and we in the minority to go in this white world [laughter] out there, you know. And we're out there. We're always in the minority when we had always been in the majority, but we have to go out there knowing in our hearts that we're really not wanted. We're not wanted out there, because we had to go to court to get it.
MD: Um-hum.
DS: You know it's not voluntary, and look at how Chambers and the Swann had to--. Look at all they had to got through, the money to go through just to get us to go there. And then we got to go there, and we cannot all go together so we had to go two by two, whatever [laughter]. We had to go out there into that unknown world
MD: Um-hum.
DS: You know out there in the minority, so it was a traumatic, very traumatic experience for us. It really was. And then they separated, separated us so they put--. We had an excellent faculty, but two could go here and two, two, two like that. So it was traumatic I think. And there had been some terrible experiences that black people have gone through going into these, into these schools, white schools.
MD: Here in Charlotte?
DS: Yes, terrible experiences.
MD: Things that in no way mirrored what your experience was like? I mean--.
DS: Well we could have done this in the same way. Some of us probably that went there would say well I can take it, you know, you know. I can just deal with it.
MD: Um-hum.
DS: And then some of us, it would be the most frustrating things that have ever, ever happened. I know when I was teaching at Oakdale, my only salvation was the teaching I loved the teaching part. As long as I could go there and just in the classroom, I was happy. But I was ready to go home after that, you know. I wanted no--. I felt no need to, you know, how the faculty would get together? I felt no need, no compulsion to like get together with the faculty. If the faculty would have an affair or something, you know, I didn't want to go. I felt no need to do that. In fact they had the faculty the first year we were there, they had an annual faculty get together and it was at a fish house on the Buster Boyd Bridge
MD: Um-hum.
DS: OK, and it was a home that had been made into a place where this restaurant, you know, and everything and is probably family owned and everything. You know you'd go in, and it was family style. They had these long benches, and they would serve big servings, and you know and everybody would help yourself. It was real family style and everything. But when we walked in, right over on one corner was a huge Confederate flag. And so I walked in and I saw that Confederate flag, and I was so upset because I know what it represented to me. I was upset. So I went ahead with it, but I went to the principal. I got another black to go with me. And he said, he says, "Well I hadn't noticed it," he said. "But if it's that disturbing, I'll ask them to take it down." So they did, you know, take that down, but I'm sure they could have been other blacks that would do that, would not ask to do that but would rather just choose to--.
MD: Sort of internalize the?
DS: Yeah, internalize all of that. That's the sad part. All of that that has been internalized just because you're black. The only reason I could see.
MD: Did they give, did the principal that you worked with or do you know of other principals or the school system or whatever--. I mean did they give parents or especially teachers like you any kind of, I don't know if training is the right word, but any kind of advice on before you guys integrated the school system? "OK, this is how this is going to work," or, you know, I mean did they try to combat issues of racism or try to help make that a more smooth process, was there any kind of that going on?
DS: No, I didn't, didn't, I didn't get any of that. I found out--. Let's see we always got our notices in August, and I got mine in the mail. You are assigned to Oakdale School. That was--. I had never met the principal; he had never met me. I didn't know how to get there or anything, but I knew that my job was at Oakdale Elementary School. So what you're saying would have been excellent to have some sort of get together before, meeting the principal, and just talking in general about what might happen. We had nothing. We just went in there cold turkey, you know. That's the way we went in there.
MD: But you knew that some people would be reassigned obviously because of the students, you know.
DS: Oh, yeah. Yeah. We, we, we had the idea after the--. We knew that--. This was the year--.
MD: Like the Swann case and--. Uh-huh.
DS: Yeah, we knew.
MD: The year of the--.
DS: That's right. And we were just hoping. It seems to me that at the end of this year before I, I was transferred, it seems to me that the principal did ask if you, if anyone would volunteer. I believe that's true, and I don't know that. I can't remember whether or not. But then she, we were told if you don't volunteer, we would be assigned but they'll give you an opportunity to go if you really want to go. But then it had to happen.
MD: Um-hum.
DS: We were bound to integrate. So it was like, if you don't volunteer, you might get to have, you might have to go. I didn't know I had to go, but I would find out when I got my assignment. And so, but there was no--. But I think they, the principal, Mr. Howell, I think he tried, you know, to do. I think that he evidently had been told by the, his superintendent maybe in their meetings they had been briefed that this would happen and to do, you know, to keep a calm atmosphere and all of that. I think that I'm sure that must have been a subject because--. [phone Rings]
MD: Before you all came?
DS: Oh yes, I'm sure he, he knew that, and he might have known something about us. He might have known something about us, but it would have been nice to have met him before.
MD: And there was no conversation when the African American teachers joined the staff with the, you know, other teachers that--. What to do with your integrated class, what to do with your--.
DS: No, no. If it--. We didn't get it. I don't know whether they got it or not. We didn't have any idea.
MD: But nothing like, no workshops?
DS: No, no.
MD: Nothing formal right? OK, that's what I'm asking.
DS: No. Right.
MD: Let me ask you if I can, Mrs. Stroud, if you'll think back to what the sort of tenor of the community was at that time. I know we've talked about sort of white and African American kind of relationships early on.
DS: Right.
MD: And obviously there was a sense of tension in some ways here, a sense of cooperation maybe in other ways, or cooperation maybe not. Maybe hope in other ways on the cusp of , you know, the Swann decision and the integration, and I know there was some violence in the community as well over it. Does anything sort of stand out or what are your impressions about how--. What was the mood here in Charlotte then?
DS: You mean during the first integration?
MD: Uh-huh, say after Swann and, you know, kind of preparing to get this experiment going or whatever you want to call it.
DS: Well the mood--. Well, first I guess the Swann decision having won meant to us because we won. You know, that was like a victory.
MD: Um-hum.
DS: But the real case of letting us know what would happen was Dorothy Counts, her experience. Her experience--. Now I know you know of that. It was something, and that was sort of the bellwether of what was going to happen, you know. Because we knew in our hearts that as hard fought as it was on the school board. You know, we had school board members to sit up and just say, " No, we don't want them there," you know.
MD: Um-hum.
DS: You know, they were violently against us and everything, so we knew it was going to be a very traumatic experience. But we had to do it, because this was what we were fighting [laughter] for, so it was apprehension and fear. And it really, it really was not a pleasant time during integration. It really wasn't, because we didn't know what might happen. We've had so many examples of just marching in the street. If we just marched in the street, and they put the dogs on us. Beat us just marching the street. What will they do if we go into their schools, you know?
MD: Um-hum.
DS: So there was no, I don't think, real comfort level during the first days of integration. No comfort level. Yes, that's what I feel.
MD: Were your children bussed?
DS: No, my children were not bussed. They, they walked to school.
MD: So you didn't have to go through these changes with them?
DS: No, I didn't have to go through. No, I didn't have to. We were fortunate. We didn't have to. Didn't have to go through the bussing.
MD: Were there groups working here in Charlotte that were more militant kind of groups? I mean I know of course there was an NAACP. Am I right that you say it was your impression that they weren't really very strong?
MD: Um-hum.
DS: Well, I think they were strong maybe underground. That's what I would--. They were strong underground. I think--.
MD: To mobilize people and to?
DS: Yes, yes. I think they, there was a big help the NAACP although it was more underground. I really do.
MD: Versus them actually being out in the streets marching or pushing.
DS: Right. Right.
MD: It was just a quiet.
DS: It was quiet here because of that.
MD: Right.
DS: But then we would read about the court cases and the lawyers and all of that. We knew that they were for us, you know. That was the answer,
MD: Um-hum.
DS: the NAACP, you know. We have to stick together, and then we'll have lawyers and we'll go into courts. And we're going to fight it, you know.
MD: But your impression of the local NAACP. I mean that is the one you are saying is sort of underground and quiet?
DS: Yeah. We didn't go around and just say, just make an announcement: I'm a member of the NAACP.
MD: Even in the 50s, 60s, 70s, you know, as time kind of changes with Swann and integration? Did you see a change in, in attitudes?
DS: Yes, I could see a change because during that time the radicals really come out like Rapp Brown and all of that, you know, came out. That was a real time of protest.
MD: Was it radical here in Charlotte?
DS: Well I guess there were smidgens of it ever so often. There's always a few that would crop up and would stand out as, as being much more than it was, much more than it had been.
MD: Um-hum.
DS: I guess there was a change, a little change. We would marvel at, you know, some of the things that would happen. You know, "In Charlotte?" You know, like that, "What?" You know, like that. That's the way we would do.
MD: Are there--. Can you think of an example of any of those?
DS: In Charlotte?
MD: Yeah.
DS: Well, as I guess as I was telling you about Tresbont Anderson. I don't know about him, but I thought he really stood out as a real radical. He spoke his mind.
MD: Um-hum. And I know you mentioned Reginald Hawkins.
DS: And Reginald Hawkins. That was a little later on.
MD: Um-hum. And later on
DS: Right.
MD: I mean like say when the Black Power movement gained, you know, kind of and the Black Panther party and--.
DS: Right.
MD: You know, was that really evident here in Charlotte?
DS: (Sound indicating negative response)
MD: Like I think of places, you know, like Detroit... .
DS: Right, right. Well, no, I don't think we had evidence of that here. Have you ever heard of Charlie Jones? Well now he was very adamant about what he would do. You don't hear much about him, but he was someone. But the black people--.
MD: Tell me just a little about him.
DS: About him? Well he was not status quo. He was, I guess, maybe like we would consider like Black Panthers.
MD: Um-hum. He was more radical?
DS: Yeah, very radical, and--. Well, he was just most radical, and some black people could think, well now he's, some of them might have thought, now he's going too far, you know? It's possible.
MD: Um-hum.
DS: They might have thought because he would just speak his mind out, and he did not mind. He gave us the impression that he didn't mind what anyone would do to him.
MD: Um-hum.
DS: But he was bound to speak his mind.
MD: And what, what did he do for a living, I mean was he here in Charlotte?
DS: Well he was--. This happened when he was a student at Johnson C. Smith, that he was most vocal.
DS: His parents were educators and very prominent educators, and they had instilled in him the belief or the certainty that he was as good or better than anyone else. And he indicated it that way. But a lot of black people probably thought of him as strange.
MD: Um-hum. Because that wasn't the status quo even if people like
DS: [laughter]. Right.
MD: in, who were advocates for civil rights.
DS: Right, right. So they thought of him like strange. Most of the civil rights workers, workers that we have maybe worked through the law.
MD: Not through the streets?
DS: Yes, but he was of the streets. He was a militant. And some of us, I guess, some our parents, we were not quite ready for that, you know. [laughter] That's possible. But he, he would not hesitate, really.
MD: I know I read about the fact, for example, about West Charlotte and some other places, there were, you know--. We often hear or have read about, or I have in the newspaper, about white resistance to integration here in Charlotte in terms of like not citizens councils but parents councils coming together and trying to, you know, before the final Swann decision trying to block that decision, have political change so that integration did not occur. I also read about a Westside Parents Council of predominantly, I assume, predominantly African American parents, who were, you know, were trying to come together for the opposite effect. I mean did the push for integration and the Swann decision have any positive impacts? I know you've talked about sort of the two-by-two and negative
DS: Um-hum.
MD: impacts that you saw it having. Did it have any positive impacts on the African American community in general?
DS: Well, I think the positive effects--. One positive effect was that our children got a first rate education, you know. That was a real positive, they were exposed to so much more that they have never been exposed to in our schools. So now that was a real plus. That, that advantage really helped us, because it was just--. When they would come home, I guess, and tell the parents things that happened, it was just unbelievable the advantages
MD: Um-hum.
DS: that they got, that they did not get from our schools. And then I think that, that was a real plus. Right. So some of the parents would just probably grit their teeth and say, well my child is getting a better education
MD: Um-hum.
DS: out there, you know. And it's so much more advantages out there. They could get tennis out there or badminton, or whatever out there. But they would not get it there, you know, in the other schools that were not integrated.
MD: Did you personally feel the role of federal government here in Charlotte in terms of integration as being a positive thing or a negative thing? Did you see what was going on in the federal scene made a difference here in local scene or this was more of a local battle and a local story?
DS: Well, I think if it had not been for the intervention of the state or the federal, I don't think that it would have happened. I think that intervention is what promoted what happened. So, therefore I would say that with the help of the government or the state that we got what we got. Although it might not have been what we wanted, but [laughter] we got that. I think it was through their intervention. I don't think it would have happened otherwise. Why, why would it happen because who would give up, who would want to give up the comfort of having, of being the majority, you know? Who would want to give that up, you know? I don't want to give up my comfort, you know, even if that it might mean that, you know, somebody else would be helped. As long as it doesn't mean I don't have to be bothered with it, you know.
MD: Um-hum.
DS: So I think that was it. It was a fight to get it. It was a real fight, because I was there. I went to everyday to court, you know, when they had the trial, you know, trying to get the Swann decision. I didn't miss one day, and it was a definite fight that Julius Chambers and McMillan went through to get that over. So it was a--. It happened that way. Really.
MD: And some people argue that, you know, Charlotte was somewhat unique. You know I have heard people argue that in the civil rights, well in the school desegregation battle. It was unique seems. Some people say it was less violent, there weren't, you know--. There's a sense that although it was difficult and hard-fought that it was smooth in terms of the process, you know. That it wasn't--. People weren't turning over school busses kind of thing. Do you think that that was, that that sort of prevailing idea is accurate one?
DS: No, I don't think so. I really don't, I don't. Well I guess it's like compared to what, you know?
MD: What happened in other places?
DS: Maybe if I got the statistics of everything that happened to other places, then I would say yes. But not compared to anything, I don't think it was smooth at all. It was a rough, rough road. And my husband will tell you about the experience he had, because he had a definite experience because he was present at the first integration of West Charlotte. So he had experiences that would indicate that it was not peaceful at all [laughter].
MD: And even after the Swann decision?
DS: Yeah. After the Swann decision, it was not peaceful at all. Right. And even now, it's a lot's happening that's, you know.
MD: Um-hum. And do you mean that, not peaceful? So there weren't necessarily riots but you mean there were just other kind of undercurrents that were?
DS: There were undercurrents, and there were protests. There were protests.
MD: Mostly by whites?
DS: Whites. Um-hum. There were definite protests. Yes, and I don't know if, I don't know if published, I guess. I don't know whether it is published anywhere or not, but there were protests that maybe did not meet--. It might have met the paper, but maybe no one gave that much attention to it. But it was hard. It was hard, hard fought thing, I think.
MD: What do you think has been the most pivotal event that you were involved in here in Charlotte that made the biggest difference for Charlotte's history?
DS: The one that I was involved in?
MD: Um-hum. That impacted Charlotte's history the most.
DS: Well, I guess--. I guess maybe, maybe the integration of the schools. I guess that's--. END OF TAPE 2, SIDE 1 TAPE 2, SIDE 2
DS: Because it was because of the integration of schools that we got to find out something about each other. That was the, the key to our finally getting to meet each other.
MD: Um-hum.
DS: But I think that--. I don't know what this--. I wasn't involved in this but I think that the death of Martin Luther King was instrumental in the change, in a big change is the death, not his life, but his death is what really was the pivotal point of change in America. I really do. I think the death, his death, made all the difference in the world.
MD: Do you remember how people here in Charlotte--. You were living in Charlotte here at the time?
DS: Yes.
MD: What was the reaction here?
DS: It was as though we had lost our best friend. It was the deepest sense of loss coupled with anger. There was a lot of anger, [laughter] you know. And say it was like I knew it, you know. It was like--. Well, it's. We're, you know--. We've been told otherwise, but I knew it, you know. We knew that, you know. All that propaganda, isn't that true. They hate us, you know. You know all that's not true. There's no brotherhood of man. It's not that, you know. They hate us, you know, [laughter] so that to me was a pivotal part of the, to me as far as thinking anything about whether or not integration or whatever. I think that did it for me.
MD: What do you see, and this will be our final question.
MD: What do you see for Charlotte's future in terms of these issues?
DS: I see--. I see some hope in Charlotte. I see some hope, and the reason I see hope is that I think that we finally are coming to the conclusion that we live together or we die together. It's one or the other: we live together or we die together. And I think we are slowly coming to that realization regardless to how it may seem. Because there is within every person, the brotherhood of man. In every human being, there's a humanness, regardless to how much you might feel. But there is a humanness, and I think as we go along that that humanness is revealing itself and it's going to result in what we probably had thought was impossible. I really believe that that is going to happen. It's on the way. I do. [laughter].
MD: Well, thank you very much for the interview.
DS: I enjoyed it.
MD: Thank you.
DS: All right. .