Southern Appalachian Digital Collections

Western Carolina University (20) View all

Interview with Lavonne Casey

items 1 of 2 items
Item
?

Item’s are ‘child’ level descriptions to ‘parent’ objects, (e.g. one page of a whole book).

  • Lavonne Casey discusses her experiences growing up in Haywood County, Western North Carolina, in the '60s and '70s during the Civil Rights Movement, the strange dichotomy of living in a mixed-race community where everyone was neighborly and children played together, yet attended separate schools, the work her parents did to advance the cause of school desegregation, and the effects of integration on the community.
  • Transcript: Lavonne Casey Interviewee: LC Lavonne Casey Interviewer: A W Ashley West Interview Date: October 21, 2014 Location: Waynesville, North Carolina Length: 20.24 START OF INTERVIEW 1 Ashley West: My name is Ashley West. I am interviewing Lavonne Casey on October 21st at her home in Waynesville, North Carolina. Ms. Casey for the record you are aware that you are being recorded and you consent to this? Lavonne Casey: I do. A W: If you could start by talking about your birth, your education, and your years in Haywood County. LC: Ok. I was born in the Haywood County hospital in May of 1957. Life-long resident of Haywood County until I moved to college at the University ofNorth Carolina at Chapel Hill--where I received my bachelor's degree there, and I went on to Knoxville. I received my master's in business there, and I lived in Atlanta for 25 years. Now I'm back here in Haywood County mostly because of my mom. AW: As a child-1 know you said you weren't born until1957-but growing up in the 60s and 70s how aware were you ofthe larger civil rights movement occurring in the nation and the state? What was going on nationally--? LC: Very aware. Even though I was a young kid. Growing up in the households and the community-because the community-this area actually was a huge black community. And also there were other places around town and everything-everybody resided throughout town. But this was known as the black community here. The schools were here, the churches were here, so we were all very aware ofthe segregation of the school system, but then we lived neighborhoods that may be integrated, and we played together and all that stuff. But we knew that the system for all other purposes was segregated. A W: Do you remember about the organization of SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and the NAACP? LC: Yea. My brother was older, he was 6 years old than I. My parents were pretty 2 involved in the community trying to push through advancements for all of us and then within the school system we were aware of what was going on-the area of civil rights and that kind of thing. They-this community-made sure that we were aware of what was going on in the general population. A W: You mentioned your parents would work towards advancements and stuff like that. Do you know-remember some things they might have done? LC: Specifically I know they worked towards trying to get the schools desegregated. The first year they were desegregated was an optional year. So we could have stayed in the all black school for the first year, or you could have opted to go to the integrated schools. Which my parents did, because both of the schools-the elementary school which I attended and the Waynesville High Township which my brother attended-were right there within a couple blocks from our house. So before that my mom was having to drive me here to Pigeon Street Elementary and my brother had to be bussed to Canton to attend school. So they were pretty active in getting it to where we could just get outside, walk to school, be there in our neighborhoods. [Inaudible mumbling trailing off] 3 AW: In the 1960s sit-ins began in Greensboro. Are you aware of any sit-ins that started in Haywood County-! know you talked about the activism with the school integration? LC: Not specifically sit-ins or anything like that around here. AW: Okay. LC: I think-my personal opinion is that it was not a large enough area to get that kind of concentration and the young people did not have that kind of-I don't want to say initiative­but they didn't have that kind of spirit, as we would see today. Possibly something may have been going on in Buncombe County but I'm not sure of that. A W: You talked about this area being a large black community-before the desegregation with the school system what were your interactions with the white community? I know you said you played with white kids? LC: Yeah that was pretty much the way it was. We grew up in-I grew up in a primarily-well it was a very mixed neighborhood-and the kids-you know we were just kids, we played with each other, pretty neighborly everyone was anyway. As Hilary Clinton says it takes a village, I feel like everybody was in my village. It didn't matter who. They all new the kids in the neighborhood and that type of thing. Even going back to when my parents were little kids. My father used to tell the story, my mother does too, the kids that they grew up with and played with, a lot ofthe kids were white kids in the community. But then they would wake up in the morning, on school mornings and go to separate schools. And then come back in the afternoons and play with each other. It just kind of boggles the mind. AW: Were racial lines ever crossed? And what happened when they were crossed? 4 LC: During my period? It was-it happened, but it wasn't really out in the open so much until probably the 70s. As the kids integrated in the 60s and high school and some ofthat, there was some interracial dating. But people just didn't do it out in the open, that didn't happen. AW: When you did have interracial couples like that dating, and in friendships, how did parents respond-how did teachers respond? LC: I think within the black community I know-I think a lot ofthe parents would take it upon themselves to try to-while they wanted to support their child-but try to make it an environment that would welcome the person that they were dating. My best friend dated a white girl, and his parents went through all the nuances of trying to make sure they were safe. The best way that they could do that was encourage them to be at their house. There was a way of dealing with it. It wasn't encouraged because I think people were in fear. AW: After the 1954 Brown decision for desegregation, Haywood County Board of Education-in my own research I found-responded by building the Pigeon street School. How did you, or how did your parents feel, about this local response to the Supreme Court ruling for desegregation? LC: Like I said they worked towards that. I think there were mixed emotions within the community period. Because as a result-while there were advancements being made, there was also-what it ended up doing was taking a sense of community away. Once we started getting in to integration and all of that, the community just did not sustain itself like it had before. Because before the schools, the businesses, everybody was kind of cohesive. And once the integration came in it had its pluses and it had its minuses. And I think that is one of the things, we lost a sense of community. AW: Ok. Actually that answers one of my later questions about the costs and gains of integration. One of the local histories that I stumbled upon in my own research of Waynesville and Haywood County remarks that when it came time for integration with the Better Schools Program it quoted the black community was mourning the loss of its school they did not want to integrate. Is that true? LC: I think in a lot of respects that is. I was a little kid, so it was third grade when I 5 integrated. And first and second grade, like I said, it was a cohesive community. It was-we knew each other and stayed together and we were all there. And then once we kind of got separated and everybody went their own ways we did lose that sense. And I think particularly the kids that were in high school it was really difficult because they had attended Reynolds High in Canton and there was a lot of pride associated with it and everything. And once schools were desegregated they either had to go to Tuscola or Pisgah and they were minority they were teenagers, the whole interracial dating thing, and all that came into play and I think they were the ones that suffered with that the most. A W: How did-I know when I talked with Ms. Magnolia yesterday about how most schools were composed of white teachers-how did the white teachers respond to the black students integrating? LC: It was interesting, some of them were-thank God when I was in first and second grade-and this was a woman who was throughout the community for many many years-she taught my parents as well. But Mrs. Marion Howell. And she would just instill in us that you have to have your self-identity, because once you go into the schools they are not going to care, they are really not going to care. Some of them you know are gonna-she would say sit you in a corner and label you dumb. That was her thing-they will sit you in the corner and label you 6 dumb. So you don't go in with that, you know yourself-you have a sense of self, and she affected a lot of people that way, and I think the educators did as well. Now when we moved in and there were white teachers and everything I like to tell the story-like I said the first year we went there was just a handful of us. My teacher-! was the only black in my third grade class. And she had a roll obviously, and she had the roll in alphabetical order, but my name was at the very end. My name started with "C." I personally asked her why is my name at the bottom of the roll? She stammered and said well because you weren't integrated into the class later-because of something with integration. But she changed it up--so she did change it. But I'm sure she wasn't expecting a little 3rd grade kid to confront her that way. But I knew what the sings were, and how they made me feel. I think we tried the best we could with our emotions and everything. And there were teachers that were supportive as well. The principal at the time, had known my grandfather, and he told me at any time if you have issues or whatever feel free to come to me. So he was very encouraging and very supportive. Mr. Rogers was his name. He was a good man, he was very supportive. It was an interesting time I think for all of us. The white kids, some of them, had never had that much interaction with black kids. My hair was different, I was different. But then once we got in there and just were students and kids, then I didn't feel it. AW: In an email that I shared with you, you said that you had many firsts as a black student integrating the schools in Haywood County. Can you talk a little about that? LC: Well like I said there was a handful of us that first year. I was the first one in the whole third grade class. I think my cousin may have been in the 6th grade class, but there were only about 2 or 3 of us there at the time. And then from each year, I was pretty much the only black student. So that was also-and then in terms of getting into high school and being involved in academia and music and everything I was first in many of those. First and only black student 7 in the stage band that was started in 74. I was the first black student who was senior class officer, I think-I'm not sure, so I'll leave that one alone. AW: Looking at your involvement in the band, and things like that-club wise. I was sin band myself, so I know you have opportunities for leadership, section leader, and stuff like that. Were you awarded the same opportunities to be a part of, and feel that those same opportunities were available to you? LC: Oh, absolutely. As a matter of fact my sophomore year I was third chair first part saxophone--alto sax. There was a senior in front of me and a junior in front of me. And the other upper classmen were behind me. So Mr. Crocker was our band director at the time and he was very inclusive of everyone and he was very fair. So there was always opportunity for that-my senior year as section leader-! was involved very heavily with band, so that was huge. In clubs and things like that-it would be probably too many to name actually-there would be one or two or a few of us in things. In that time it was the early 70s and things were always evolving we had kind of gotten past that bump in the 60s I think. And in the early 70s we were involved in so many of the same things, and still our relationships were evolving. So I like to think ofthe 70s as the evolving period. AW: I'll just go ahead and jump down to this question-- since you talk about the 70s as evolving-in your experience how has race relations improved or not improved since desegregation in 67 in this area? LC: Like I said the community I think-we lost community. And then also our parents encouraged us to leave the area to pursue our dreams, because there weren't that many opportunities around here. Now I think you can make a lot to what you want it to be. And I think there is black people in town that I don't know. Used to-now you have some people come in and you don't know who they are, and that's a really good thing because there for a while once everybody left there was a real void of black culture in this county. But now it seems to be picking back up. A W: In what ways? LC: I think everybody is becoming a bit more consciousness. Those of us who came 8 through the system and left, some of us are returning. And those that have remained here and grown into it have really-know the importance of remembering what we came from. I think that's a huge thing. All this effort to learn more and grasp the knowledge of our elders-because they are just dropping right and left. So we are trying to do that and maintain it and pass it on to the younger people. AW: What do you think the younger generation-what are the most important lessons the younger generation can learn from your experiences-you and your peers experiences coming through the system? LC: Well I think one of the things is that while they need to be aware of the history I think it needs to be in context of what they can do today. For instance the history was very segregated, but now as we see kids don't really go there these days. A lot ofthem don't really go there these days. And that's a good thing, because we're all a part of one and everything. And if you care about someone you should be able to be with them. Colored of the skin should have nothing to do with any of that. So I think young people seem to really get that lesson really true, and that is a really good thing. And I think what they could learn is not to just take their situations for granted. There was a lot of bloodshed and all this stuff to get where we are. And there's always room for more growth. But to know yes, historically these things happened, but I don't have to keep replaying in mind, or we don't have to keep repeating that history. We can move on and do better. So I think that's what's happening now. A W: Is there anything-any questions that I missed-or anything that you would like to add? LC: Let me see if I can think of something in particular that we didn't cover. I think that we covered mostly-most of it. I think it's fabulous what you guys are doing in terms of-I know it's a class project and stufflike that. But I think it's really helpful to have you do the research and find the information and everything. Like I said the more the younger people can know what happened and where it all comes from then the better we can do in the future and that's always good. 9 A W: One last question that I just thought of-going back to right when you first integrated the school system-how did your education experience change? Do you feel you were getting a better education at the Pigeon street School? Or do you feel like your education experience improved with integration. I think the school system at Pigeon Street was awesome-­there was a lot of one on one. And the teachers really really cared, because we were like their children. They knew us, they knew our parents, they knew what they wanted for us. So I think in that respect tlie education was far better there. And I think in life lessons the education was better there. Once we integrated schools I think the opportunities were bigger. It opened up more for us I think. I think that's what it did. AW: Well if there is nothing else that you can think ofthat I missed or anything­that's all the questions I have. LC: Okay. That's great. A W: Thank you so much. 10 END OF INTERVIEW
Object
?

Object’s are ‘parent’ level descriptions to ‘children’ items, (e.g. a book with pages).

  • Lavonne Casey discusses her experiences growing up in Haywood County, Western North Carolina, in the '60s and '70s during the Civil Rights Movement, the strange dichotomy of living in a mixed-race community where everyone was neighborly and children played together, yet attended separate schools, the work her parents did to advance the cause of school desegregation, and the effects of integration on the community.
  • Transcript: Lavonne Casey Interviewee: LC Lavonne Casey Interviewer: A W Ashley West Interview Date: October 21, 2014 Location: Waynesville, North Carolina Length: 20.24 START OF INTERVIEW 1 Ashley West: My name is Ashley West. I am interviewing Lavonne Casey on October 21st at her home in Waynesville, North Carolina. Ms. Casey for the record you are aware that you are being recorded and you consent to this? Lavonne Casey: I do. A W: If you could start by talking about your birth, your education, and your years in Haywood County. LC: Ok. I was born in the Haywood County hospital in May of 1957. Life-long resident of Haywood County until I moved to college at the University ofNorth Carolina at Chapel Hill--where I received my bachelor's degree there, and I went on to Knoxville. I received my master's in business there, and I lived in Atlanta for 25 years. Now I'm back here in Haywood County mostly because of my mom. AW: As a child-1 know you said you weren't born until1957-but growing up in the 60s and 70s how aware were you ofthe larger civil rights movement occurring in the nation and the state? What was going on nationally--? LC: Very aware. Even though I was a young kid. Growing up in the households and the community-because the community-this area actually was a huge black community. And also there were other places around town and everything-everybody resided throughout town. But this was known as the black community here. The schools were here, the churches were here, so we were all very aware ofthe segregation of the school system, but then we lived neighborhoods that may be integrated, and we played together and all that stuff. But we knew that the system for all other purposes was segregated. A W: Do you remember about the organization of SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and the NAACP? LC: Yea. My brother was older, he was 6 years old than I. My parents were pretty 2 involved in the community trying to push through advancements for all of us and then within the school system we were aware of what was going on-the area of civil rights and that kind of thing. They-this community-made sure that we were aware of what was going on in the general population. A W: You mentioned your parents would work towards advancements and stuff like that. Do you know-remember some things they might have done? LC: Specifically I know they worked towards trying to get the schools desegregated. The first year they were desegregated was an optional year. So we could have stayed in the all black school for the first year, or you could have opted to go to the integrated schools. Which my parents did, because both of the schools-the elementary school which I attended and the Waynesville High Township which my brother attended-were right there within a couple blocks from our house. So before that my mom was having to drive me here to Pigeon Street Elementary and my brother had to be bussed to Canton to attend school. So they were pretty active in getting it to where we could just get outside, walk to school, be there in our neighborhoods. [Inaudible mumbling trailing off] 3 AW: In the 1960s sit-ins began in Greensboro. Are you aware of any sit-ins that started in Haywood County-! know you talked about the activism with the school integration? LC: Not specifically sit-ins or anything like that around here. AW: Okay. LC: I think-my personal opinion is that it was not a large enough area to get that kind of concentration and the young people did not have that kind of-I don't want to say initiative­but they didn't have that kind of spirit, as we would see today. Possibly something may have been going on in Buncombe County but I'm not sure of that. A W: You talked about this area being a large black community-before the desegregation with the school system what were your interactions with the white community? I know you said you played with white kids? LC: Yeah that was pretty much the way it was. We grew up in-I grew up in a primarily-well it was a very mixed neighborhood-and the kids-you know we were just kids, we played with each other, pretty neighborly everyone was anyway. As Hilary Clinton says it takes a village, I feel like everybody was in my village. It didn't matter who. They all new the kids in the neighborhood and that type of thing. Even going back to when my parents were little kids. My father used to tell the story, my mother does too, the kids that they grew up with and played with, a lot ofthe kids were white kids in the community. But then they would wake up in the morning, on school mornings and go to separate schools. And then come back in the afternoons and play with each other. It just kind of boggles the mind. AW: Were racial lines ever crossed? And what happened when they were crossed? 4 LC: During my period? It was-it happened, but it wasn't really out in the open so much until probably the 70s. As the kids integrated in the 60s and high school and some ofthat, there was some interracial dating. But people just didn't do it out in the open, that didn't happen. AW: When you did have interracial couples like that dating, and in friendships, how did parents respond-how did teachers respond? LC: I think within the black community I know-I think a lot ofthe parents would take it upon themselves to try to-while they wanted to support their child-but try to make it an environment that would welcome the person that they were dating. My best friend dated a white girl, and his parents went through all the nuances of trying to make sure they were safe. The best way that they could do that was encourage them to be at their house. There was a way of dealing with it. It wasn't encouraged because I think people were in fear. AW: After the 1954 Brown decision for desegregation, Haywood County Board of Education-in my own research I found-responded by building the Pigeon street School. How did you, or how did your parents feel, about this local response to the Supreme Court ruling for desegregation? LC: Like I said they worked towards that. I think there were mixed emotions within the community period. Because as a result-while there were advancements being made, there was also-what it ended up doing was taking a sense of community away. Once we started getting in to integration and all of that, the community just did not sustain itself like it had before. Because before the schools, the businesses, everybody was kind of cohesive. And once the integration came in it had its pluses and it had its minuses. And I think that is one of the things, we lost a sense of community. AW: Ok. Actually that answers one of my later questions about the costs and gains of integration. One of the local histories that I stumbled upon in my own research of Waynesville and Haywood County remarks that when it came time for integration with the Better Schools Program it quoted the black community was mourning the loss of its school they did not want to integrate. Is that true? LC: I think in a lot of respects that is. I was a little kid, so it was third grade when I 5 integrated. And first and second grade, like I said, it was a cohesive community. It was-we knew each other and stayed together and we were all there. And then once we kind of got separated and everybody went their own ways we did lose that sense. And I think particularly the kids that were in high school it was really difficult because they had attended Reynolds High in Canton and there was a lot of pride associated with it and everything. And once schools were desegregated they either had to go to Tuscola or Pisgah and they were minority they were teenagers, the whole interracial dating thing, and all that came into play and I think they were the ones that suffered with that the most. A W: How did-I know when I talked with Ms. Magnolia yesterday about how most schools were composed of white teachers-how did the white teachers respond to the black students integrating? LC: It was interesting, some of them were-thank God when I was in first and second grade-and this was a woman who was throughout the community for many many years-she taught my parents as well. But Mrs. Marion Howell. And she would just instill in us that you have to have your self-identity, because once you go into the schools they are not going to care, they are really not going to care. Some of them you know are gonna-she would say sit you in a corner and label you dumb. That was her thing-they will sit you in the corner and label you 6 dumb. So you don't go in with that, you know yourself-you have a sense of self, and she affected a lot of people that way, and I think the educators did as well. Now when we moved in and there were white teachers and everything I like to tell the story-like I said the first year we went there was just a handful of us. My teacher-! was the only black in my third grade class. And she had a roll obviously, and she had the roll in alphabetical order, but my name was at the very end. My name started with "C." I personally asked her why is my name at the bottom of the roll? She stammered and said well because you weren't integrated into the class later-because of something with integration. But she changed it up--so she did change it. But I'm sure she wasn't expecting a little 3rd grade kid to confront her that way. But I knew what the sings were, and how they made me feel. I think we tried the best we could with our emotions and everything. And there were teachers that were supportive as well. The principal at the time, had known my grandfather, and he told me at any time if you have issues or whatever feel free to come to me. So he was very encouraging and very supportive. Mr. Rogers was his name. He was a good man, he was very supportive. It was an interesting time I think for all of us. The white kids, some of them, had never had that much interaction with black kids. My hair was different, I was different. But then once we got in there and just were students and kids, then I didn't feel it. AW: In an email that I shared with you, you said that you had many firsts as a black student integrating the schools in Haywood County. Can you talk a little about that? LC: Well like I said there was a handful of us that first year. I was the first one in the whole third grade class. I think my cousin may have been in the 6th grade class, but there were only about 2 or 3 of us there at the time. And then from each year, I was pretty much the only black student. So that was also-and then in terms of getting into high school and being involved in academia and music and everything I was first in many of those. First and only black student 7 in the stage band that was started in 74. I was the first black student who was senior class officer, I think-I'm not sure, so I'll leave that one alone. AW: Looking at your involvement in the band, and things like that-club wise. I was sin band myself, so I know you have opportunities for leadership, section leader, and stuff like that. Were you awarded the same opportunities to be a part of, and feel that those same opportunities were available to you? LC: Oh, absolutely. As a matter of fact my sophomore year I was third chair first part saxophone--alto sax. There was a senior in front of me and a junior in front of me. And the other upper classmen were behind me. So Mr. Crocker was our band director at the time and he was very inclusive of everyone and he was very fair. So there was always opportunity for that-my senior year as section leader-! was involved very heavily with band, so that was huge. In clubs and things like that-it would be probably too many to name actually-there would be one or two or a few of us in things. In that time it was the early 70s and things were always evolving we had kind of gotten past that bump in the 60s I think. And in the early 70s we were involved in so many of the same things, and still our relationships were evolving. So I like to think ofthe 70s as the evolving period. AW: I'll just go ahead and jump down to this question-- since you talk about the 70s as evolving-in your experience how has race relations improved or not improved since desegregation in 67 in this area? LC: Like I said the community I think-we lost community. And then also our parents encouraged us to leave the area to pursue our dreams, because there weren't that many opportunities around here. Now I think you can make a lot to what you want it to be. And I think there is black people in town that I don't know. Used to-now you have some people come in and you don't know who they are, and that's a really good thing because there for a while once everybody left there was a real void of black culture in this county. But now it seems to be picking back up. A W: In what ways? LC: I think everybody is becoming a bit more consciousness. Those of us who came 8 through the system and left, some of us are returning. And those that have remained here and grown into it have really-know the importance of remembering what we came from. I think that's a huge thing. All this effort to learn more and grasp the knowledge of our elders-because they are just dropping right and left. So we are trying to do that and maintain it and pass it on to the younger people. AW: What do you think the younger generation-what are the most important lessons the younger generation can learn from your experiences-you and your peers experiences coming through the system? LC: Well I think one of the things is that while they need to be aware of the history I think it needs to be in context of what they can do today. For instance the history was very segregated, but now as we see kids don't really go there these days. A lot ofthem don't really go there these days. And that's a good thing, because we're all a part of one and everything. And if you care about someone you should be able to be with them. Colored of the skin should have nothing to do with any of that. So I think young people seem to really get that lesson really true, and that is a really good thing. And I think what they could learn is not to just take their situations for granted. There was a lot of bloodshed and all this stuff to get where we are. And there's always room for more growth. But to know yes, historically these things happened, but I don't have to keep replaying in mind, or we don't have to keep repeating that history. We can move on and do better. So I think that's what's happening now. A W: Is there anything-any questions that I missed-or anything that you would like to add? LC: Let me see if I can think of something in particular that we didn't cover. I think that we covered mostly-most of it. I think it's fabulous what you guys are doing in terms of-I know it's a class project and stufflike that. But I think it's really helpful to have you do the research and find the information and everything. Like I said the more the younger people can know what happened and where it all comes from then the better we can do in the future and that's always good. 9 A W: One last question that I just thought of-going back to right when you first integrated the school system-how did your education experience change? Do you feel you were getting a better education at the Pigeon street School? Or do you feel like your education experience improved with integration. I think the school system at Pigeon Street was awesome-­there was a lot of one on one. And the teachers really really cared, because we were like their children. They knew us, they knew our parents, they knew what they wanted for us. So I think in that respect tlie education was far better there. And I think in life lessons the education was better there. Once we integrated schools I think the opportunities were bigger. It opened up more for us I think. I think that's what it did. AW: Well if there is nothing else that you can think ofthat I missed or anything­that's all the questions I have. LC: Okay. That's great. A W: Thank you so much. 10 END OF INTERVIEW