High School Education

Navigating Segregated Schools

"Now the other school system across town where I couldn’t go, of course they had high school."

"We didn’t have a high school, we had tenth grade, and when you finished the tenth grade, that was the end of the line. Now the other school system across town where I couldn’t go, of course they had high school. So at the end of tenth grade, I was out of school. I dropped out for a whole year. Fortunately, the Board of Education saw fit to give us one more grade, and after staying that one year, I went back and I finished eleventh grade. So at my school, I never really finished high school there, I finished eleventh grade. Where did I finish high school? Well we went to the next county and in that county, we had high schools, so I went there and I got my high school training, I finished in Henry County, in Abbeville, Alabama.

What kind of student was I? [chuckles] Not bad, not bad. Actually, I was the valedictorian of the class.

My—my grandfather…I never heard him mention going to school at all, but he could read, and he could write his name. My grandmother could not read, could not write. And I—I didn’t think reading was a big deal, so I said, 'Grandma—Big Ma,' I called her, I said, 'I can show you how to read.' She said, 'Ain’t no little old boy goin’ show me how to read!' And of course, I didn’t. Later on, very much later on, she wished she had learned to read, but she never learned to read. My house…my—we talk about not having plumbing, but our house never had a newspaper, a newspaper never came to our house. But that was not a big deal because when I went to school, I went through a nice neighborhood and they would throw a newspaper on the sidewalk to each of the houses, and by the time I got to the end of the street, I would have read the newspaper by just walking along.

[When] I left Eufaula and I went to Henry County-- the president in those days, I think his name was Mr. Roosevelt, and he had a alphabet, you know the NRA, the NYA, and the CCC, well I became a part of NYA, National Youth Association. And somehow, they had some money and by going to that school and working, by cutting firewood or sweeping the floors, I made enough money to pay my way at the school in Henry County, paid my room and board there."