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Interview with Magnolia Thomas

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  • Magnolia Thomas relates her experiences living with her grandparents while her mother went to New York to find work, being arrested for participating in civil rights marches while attending Elizabeth City State University, moving to Haywood County to stay with her husband’s family while he served in Vietnam, and being unable to find a teaching job there despite having a college degree, and finally finding a job at a private school for Black girls in Buncombe County. Thomas also talks about relations between black and white communities in Western North Carolina, school integration and desegregation, and her other teaching jobs including working for 12 years with a County school in the Erwin district where she was the first Black teacher and working as an assistant principal in a Buncombe County High School.
  • Transcript: Magnolia Thomas Interviewee: MT Magnolia Thomas Interviewer: A W Ashley West Interview date: October 20,2014. Location: Canton, North Carolina Length: 47:50 START OF INTERIVEW Ashley West: My name is Ashley West, I am interviewing Magnolia Thomas. It's October 20, 2014 and we are interviewing in her home in Canton, North Carolina. Ms. Thomas are you aware that you are being record, and this will be used later on? Magnolia Thomas: I am. AW: If you could begin by telling about your birthplace, your education--. MT: I was born in Pitt Memorial Hospital in Greenville, North Carolina and-you want my birth date? AW: That is up to you, I won't press you for that. {laughter} MT: Well I don't care. I went to elementary through high school in Bethel North Carolina-which is about 15 miles from Greenville. After I graduated from high school-and I was second in my class in my high school AW: really? I was second in my class. MT: We were dirt poor. We were sharecroppers. And my mom went to New York-I think- to work as a live in maid. And I stayed with my grandparents. And so when I graduated from high school they thought I was smart, and I got to help me go to Elizabeth City state 1 university. Elizabeth City, North Carolina. My junior year there-that's where I met my husband my sophomore year-well my junior year there, we participated in marches because of the civil rights movement. We got some publicity at first, but we didn't get very much later because somebody thought that we we're getting too much publicity and they wanted to cut it out-in fact we were jailed and we just [laughter]-when a group of us were jailed, another group of us went downtown. So you just filled the jails to capacity. AW: And this is downtown Elizabeth City? MT: Downtown Elizabeth City. Yes. A W: These protests were--. MT: Nonviolent? AW: Yeah. MT: They were nonviolent. We just walked in the street to block traffic. But no fighting. A W: Peaceful. Was it is only African American students, or was it also white students participating? 2 MT: At that time, as far as I can remember there were few African-white -students at Elizabeth city. I think we had like 5 at that time. So I'm not sure they participated, I don't remember if they participated. It would have been okay if they had. A W: Do you remember-! know you said you would get shut down a lot-if the others were not in the jail, the other were out there. What was the community's response to it? MT: The black community, the black adults supported us behind the scenes. Because they were afraid oflosing their jobs or being harassed. So adults in the community did not participate in front to march with us, but we had support behind the scenes. In fact I lived about 3 100 miles from Elizabeth city and when we were at home-most of us didn't have cars, maybe one or two out of the whole [laughter] whole congregation had a car. So most of us rode the bus home, or to wherever we were going. Newport, Bethell, wherever. And when it happened-and of course there was a colored room for the black students, it was trashy and dirty and all that. And then there was the room for the white folks and of course it was kept up very well. So we decided-I can't think of the name of the fellow who was our student body leader-but we got together and decided we would not use the bus station any longer. So they got in touch with the bus company Trailway, and said these are the students, this is where we are going, or this is where we wanted to go-- but you need to come on campus and pick us up, because we are not using the bus station anymore. And they did. There would be a string of busses, and there would be a sign saying this bus is going there, and if you are going in this direction then you need to get on this bus. We bought tickets. They sold us tickets, the drivers did. It was exciting. I'm not sure I knew what I was doing. [laughter] AW: But you knew what was going on nationally? MT: I did know what was going on. Yes. AW: Roughly what years were you in college when you were doing the protests? MT: I was in college from 1964 to whatever 4 years later is. A W: When did you move to Haywood County? MT: I Moved to Haywood County when my husband and I had been married a little over a year. At first he was a soldier at Fort Lewis in Washington State. And we married before he went to Washington State. He was at Fort Bragg then went to Washington State. And he knew he was going to Vietnam. And he wanted me to come and stay at his home place until he got 4 back. So that's when I came to Haywood County. So I have been living in Haywood County 45 years now. AW: Did you-Was there a difference between race relations in eastern North Carolina and Western Carolina? MT: Some I guess. But I couldn't get a job in Haywood county. AW: Do you think it was because you were African American? MT: I-I-yes I do. I applied for a job. I had an A certificate. We had to take the national teacher exam then. I did very well on it. In fact, I was offered a job by Haywood County to work full time at halftime pay, and go back and work on my masters. So I said no, I'm not going to work full time and get half pay. I will not do that. But I did go back and get my masters. And I was in class with the young man who was teaching chemistry at Pisgah, and he said he didn't know what he was doing. He said he tried to quit, and they talked him out of quitting. Because he didn't know chemistry. I don't know what his major was, but it wasn't his--. AW: But you were able to get a job in Buncombe County? MT: I was able to get a job in Buncombe County. I started in Buncombe County at a private school, Allen High School-was a school for girls outside the country or outside the state-black girls. AW: Roughly what year was that? I know I'm asking years, I'm just trying to get the timeline of what's going on. MT: Let's see. My daughter was four years old I believe. And she was born in late '68. So-. AW: Early 70s? MT: Yeah. It was early 70s. yeah. 5 AW: So at your job in Buncombe County, how was it working in the school? MT: Well, I don't think I would have gotten a job in Buncombe County. Allen High School was a private school, so I worked there for like 3 years and they closed. So I applied for a job in Buncombe County. Erwin High School needed a chemistry teacher, and the principal of Allen High School-she was white, and she was [pause ]---oh gosh its been so long, I can't remember her name. But she recommended me to the principal at Erwin High School. And Erwin High School was having problems with a black family. [laughter] In fact, the woman, who was the mother of the family-! don't know where her dad was-was working for-in the courthouse-and I don't know she did it, but she had a baby and she would take the baby and sit it in the cradle next to her desk and work-which was very unusual. But anyway, the oldest child that she had was Nixa Jones, I will never forget that name. Nixa Jones. They-she-Erwin High school started in the 91h grade, and she was attending an elementary school in the district [inaudible] elementary I believe it was. And they asked the principal-my principal at Erwin High School if he would please-she was in the gth grade, 71 h grade-to please take her. Now they would have put her out of school for the rest of the year, and they didn't want her coming back to the school, and asked him if he would please take her [inaudible]-and they did. Oh gosh, I almost thought of the principal's name-he was a nice--. Anyway, he interviewed me and he offered me the job and he asked me-l remember this very cl-He said I was the first black teacher in the district, maybe in Buncombe county, but I don't-but in Erwin district I was the first black teacher. And he asked me what would I do if the students came in and saw that I was black and decided to walk out. I said well I'll just sit there and wait until somebody comes who wanted to learn chemistry. So [laughter] he was very nervous about. But he took me because he was having so much problems with those black kids, especially that family. I guess she was 6 instrumental in my getting the job. So she came over, and I tell you she was hell on wheels. A beautiful girl, if she could get rid of the scowl-wasn't big as a fly. But she just walked around-and I remember she was put in my home room, and I think that was on purpose too. And she came to me one day, and asked if I would say she had been with me at the home room, because she was late getting to the next class. She was in the hall whenever she wanted to be in the hall-and I said no I'm not gonna say that. So she decided she would take it out on me. For not saying-for not lying for her. So she would come by my door-any class she was in she would just go. She would come by and bang bang bang on my door. I tried to ignore it, I would turn her in-I don't know what they did with her really, but they did something. Next day she come again banging on my door, and I went to the principal I said this has got to-and if she got in trouble with other teachers I was called to the meeting that the principal had with her because I was black and she was black. I said that's not the issue, the issue is being respectful. That's the issue. So he would call me to his office and I would sit there-and I finally told him-Hall, Leon Hall was the principal's name. Leon Hall, he died. He died several years ago. Well he would call me-l said Mr. Hall I was hired to teach chemistry and that's what I'll do, I'm not coming down here again. So he was sending the secretary to watch my class while I went to his office to sit, to be sure I could say that he wasn't picking on her. It's awful, it was absolutely awful. But I remember the time before we put her out for good. All of her teachers were sitting there, and I was there because they wanted a black person there. And she would walk around the circle of us and lean over his shoulder and curse him out. I mean she was so-l got so upset that I started crying. I said I can't take this. Her mother came in and she acted like she was a pitiful picked on child. Oh mama they're picking on me-l don't know. Anyway, so she was put out of school for the rest of the year, her mother got a lawyer, and was taking the school system to court for 7 picking on her child. The lawyer called me. I don't know how he got my name or my num-I know how he got my name, but I don't know how he got my home number. I don't know, because my husband's name was in the phone book. And he asked me ifl would serve as a witness for her. I said wait a minute let me tell you what I have experienced. And I will tell it the way I have experienced it so you better listen carefully. I told her all that she had done. I said I can't support her in this, I couldn't support any child, I couldn't support my own child. But my own child [inaudible]. So he said what, and he listened. And they dropped the suit and moved to Texas [laughter]. The last I heard they were living in Texas, shortly there after. That was terrible-but the kids were good I mean when they came in [phone ringing] [recording pause, then restarted]. So anyway all the kids that I had were white and when they came in-they were kind of nervous about me at first. Because all through school they had always had white teachers, white principals, white-they were kind of nervous. And I really don't blame them-but I said I am here to teach chemistry, and that's what I am going to do. But I remember the first PTA meeting we had and of course all of us had to be there. A parent came in-and this girl, she's such a sweet girl, I can't remember her name. I'm terrible I can't remember names. But her mother came in and said I need to speak to Mrs. Thomas. I said well I'm Mrs. Thomas. She looked at me-she said your Mrs. Thomas? I said yes I'm Mrs. Thomas. She came in and she said let me have a seat-she said her daughter was always talking about chemistry and Mrs. Thomas. She said never once did she say you were black. Which says-you know kids they look at you-most kids black or white look at you for what you do and not for your color and that's really good. That's good. Even the man who had taught chemistry before me came back to get his job. [laughter] but he didn't get it. Because the kids who had gone off to college were coming back after I had taught for a year and they were talking to their brothers and sisters who were in high school saying you need to learn all you can, because I thought I knew chemistry but I didn't. But he was a fellow who sat on the desk and smoked a pipe [laugher]. So Mr. Hall made sure I kept my job. AW: How did the other teachers respond to Mr. Hall hiring you? 8 MT: You know they may have had issues, but they didn't discuss it with me. I mean I just didn't care, this was a job that I wanted and I had the job, I was going to do the job to the best of my abilities. And If anybody didn't like it they didn't say anything to me about it. Maybe they did to Mr. Hall, I don't know. I do know that the first observation-end of year observation-you have those-are you going to be a teacher? A W: Yes ma'm. I graduated from Campbell with my teaching licence. So I know all about those. MT: [laughter] So he had us to evaluate ourselves. And I went through thinking I'm really looking at me, I'm not looking at anybody else. And I checked out the things. I was acceptable-! didn't think I was unacceptable. I was acceptable here, and there is where I need to work on. So he called everybody in to talk about the observations. He said do you really think this? I said what are you talking about. He said I'm looking at your observation of yourself. I said well I do the best I can, I know I got to grow. He said my teachers are putting themselves at outstanding. Everybody were putting themselves at either outstanding-or what was the next one-the last two categories. He said and you really-! said yes I got a lot to learn. So he changed my markings on myself and gave me better ratings. He said well we all have some growing to do. He said but you're doing a very good job. I guess I-I don't know-looked at me-not at anybody else. He asked us to do an observation-an write up-of ourselves. So that's what I thought looking at myself, this is what I think, this is where I need to grow. 9 AW: How long did you work in the school system? MT: I was a chemistry teacher there for 12 years. I left Erwin when Buncombe County was a part of the career ladder process. Have you heard about that? A W: No I haven't. MT: It was a program that was using teachers to observe other teachers to see if they got everything acceptable or better. The first year they got a 5% raise, and if they got acceptable-no higher than acceptable or better-the next round they got a 10% raise in addition to the 5% raise. I think there were 16 units in North Carolina that participated-in Haywood county was one too-Haywood County, Buncombe County, and some others. We were the only two in Western North Carolina, but I know there were 16. So I did that for 5 years. I did my observation at Inca High School, and Inca Middle School, and then there was a community school that was for children who had special needs. So for 5 years I did observations there, [inaudible] teller was the principal at Inca High School when I went there. And we were-very good man, very good. He was-you know I thought the program-and I think it was intended to be-to help improve teaching and learning. We were trained over and over and over in workshops galore. Being trained on what to look for in how to help teachers grow. Well that had never happened to teachers before. And some of them didn't mind. The best teachers I observed didn't mind. They wanted it done. But those that weren't quite so good had issues with someone coming in-but they didn't have to participate. They had to sign a later saying that wanted to participate. But then they still resented people coming in and looking at them saying this is the kind of stuff you need to work on. I did that for five years at those schools. When I left there I became assistant principal at T.C. Robinson High School in Buncombe County. And I was there for 14 years [laughter]. A wonderful, wonderful, wonderful faculty. There were a couple of 10 teachers who had-I went to T.C. Robinson when the career ladder program ended. And so most of us who were evaluators did an impeccable job I think. To the best of our ability. Well the person who was at T.C. gave everybody outstanding. And there is no way, no way that happened. Especially for this particular lady. She wanted to act, she was a huge lady. If you've seen Mrs. Abercrombie in the Heat of the Night-if you ever see In the heat of the Night and you see Mrs. Abercrombie and her pigs-that's her. She missed almost 40 days of school, and she got 5s and 6s on her-there's no way that happened, there is just no way. But see some people, and this particular person-! don't know what she was after really-! don't really know what she was after. I guess she wanted to be liked. But it wasn't a do you like me thing. It was trying to improve education in Buncombe County. And I think we did a good job with that. Nobody's perfect, I'm not perfect. I decided I would look to see what kind of ratings had been given- ' cause I didn't know she had done this. And those who got the best ratings I observed, that were first, because they're doing a good job and they know that I'm going to be fair. Well the principal there-she was superintendent here in Haywood County for 4 years, Karen Campbell. Karen Campbell was the principal at T.C. Robinson then. And I did an observation, and this lady didn't do any teaching. She was an English teacher. An English teacher. She would call on this person to read and she-I could not believe it. So when I walked out I said you don't say anything to anybody you just take notes on what you see and hear. And you couldn't use a recorder, which would have been good-but we couldn't we had to script. So I went to Karen, and I said Dr. Campbell I just finished observing [Interviewee has asked to omit the teacher's name]. And she said what'd you see? And I described it-she just burst out laughing. She said I'm glad you observed her. When another person was doing the observation, Dr. Campbell was not the principal, somebody else was the principal. She said I was the principal last year of the 11 career ladder process and all these people got these outstanding and I just know that nobody-! mean the whole faculty-and what's wrong with acceptable. Anyway she just died laughing, she said I am so glad you went in-and she gave me the English department to observe because she wanted-there were two people in the English department that she wanted to have somebody to call to task and that was her and another lady that was afraid of kids. Afraid of kids, I mean afraid, I know she was afraid because she came to my office and asked me to come sit in her classroom so she could teach. Can you believe that? I couldn't believe it either [laughter]. And when she came to my office she was trembling. I think it was a 1 01h grade class. If you let kids know that you are afraid of them and you don't like them-and I don't think she liked kids, she has no business in the classroom, and she did not like kids. They don't care what you can do to them, as long as they can get ch' a. A W: It was 101h grade? MT: 1oth grade. Oh yeah. They don't know about getting scholarships and stuff­A W: They smell fear? MT: They smell fear. So I went in and I sat down. One fellow who wasn't even in the class, sat down and put his head on the desk, and wouldn't leave to go to his own class. And the bell rang, and she said you need to go to class. I walked up to him and said you need to go to your own class, he looked up and saw me and got up and left. I said don't ever do that again. But I should not have had to do that. It was her classroom, but I came to the conclusion that she did not like kids. And they knew it. Smart, she knew her subject, but she did not like kids, had no business in the classroom. And she ended up-she went someplace else out of Buncombe county and was a librarian. Which was better but she still had to run into kids. I don't think she should have been in education at all. A W: As principal at T.C. Robinson­MT: I was assistant principal--. 12 AW: Assistant principal, I'm sorry. Did you have any other African American teachers underneath of you? Or was it all white teachers? MT: There was one teacher, she's deceased now. [pause] I'm getting old. She was not a good teacher. They had her there because-and I think it was social studies she taught. But they had her there because she was black. And they needed a black teacher, because there were black students. AW: Do you know what year integration came to the schools in Buncombe County? I know in Haywood County it was '68. MT: Well that would have been before my time. Yeah, because I was working at Allen in the early 70s. So that would have been before my time. I don't really remember. No. A W: I'm just curious if it came later or earlier than Haywood County. MT: It may have. It may have. I do know that when I came to Buncombe County there were very few-in fact I can't think of another black teacher in Buncombe County at that time. There may have been some in the elementary school. But not in high school. AW: But they had already started integrating, because you had black--. MT: Yes, oh yes. I had black students, yes. I had one black student while I was at Erwin. And I don't know why she took-I think it was physical science. If I didn't have 5 chemistry classes I would pick up a physical science class. And she wanted to play softball, and she would come in and put her head on the desk. And I would walk over and [inaudible]. At that time we didn't have to make sure that kids were attentive. So I finally said why are you taking this class? She said she was taking softball and she needed the class. I said honey you are not 13 going to get a passing grade unless you earn it. And I really feel that we should not be hard on kids-you know I like kids. I think I would have left teaching a long time ago if I did not. But you can like them but not love them. Like I will let you do anything, that's not really caring. You can do whatever you want to do, honey you're ok. No that's not caring. So I like kids but I'm going to hold them accountable. This is what you need to learn-and you if ever go to C.J. Harris in Sylva. There's a Doctor Steven Queen, that I taught chemistry, he works out there. But he said I was responsible-his first year in college he took chemistry, and his math, and some others. And he said he had to do some remedial math and some other remedial, but he was ahead of the game in chemistry. And I wanted them. Most kids who go onto college, took chemistry. I wanted them to be ready. In fact I would tell them that if someone wakes you up in the middle of the night, and you're house is on fire, and its snowy and they ask you a chemistry question. I want you to be able to answer it. You know I really like kids. But I think they got to be ready. So if you're ever there, Dr. Steven Queen. He invited me, he has a beautiful house up on the mountain, and he invited me-he came by after he had found out my husband had died and took me out to dinner-! said you don't have to that. I've been up to his house there, and he takes me out to dinner a couple times. That makes you feel good, when you have done a job. And you didn't do it to get that kind of reaction. But you did a job to teach them what they needed to know so they'll be ready and they'll know-and I will tell you something else too. In high school they may not know that what they are getting is what they need. When you come into my classroom you don't come in with a lot of junk, you're not tardy, you are ready. And when I taught chemistry I would tell them be ready for a pop quiz on what you have studied thus far. Anyday be ready. Not the first month, let them settle in. Then I start giving them a pop quiz, and they wouldn't know that they would get the quiz. But that means you get it, so you got it in here. 14 And you study along. And then when you study along, and you work along it becomes a part of you. Sometimes I would just do the one that week, and then I would go pop. Skip a day. Pop. And then. Pop. Pop. To keep them off guard so they know they had to study. And they had to learn what we had done, and if they had any questions they could see me before school or after school. Whatever. But they had to learn it. But I will tell you Nixa Jones may have hit-I don't know if she would have or not. But I did tell her that if you come by my door again and knock on it, tell me where you want me to meet you off campus, and I'll meet ya. I said and then you'll have a chance to do what you think you can do to me. And I'll have my chance to do what I think I can do to you. That was it, no more knocking on my door. And she was a fiery little thing, she probably would have beat me-but I did. And I remember walking up the back steps at Erwin High School and two boys were fighting-two white boys were fighting-boom boom. I went what are you doing, and they stopped--come with me, come with me. So I guess you have to have, you can't show fear. You can show caring, but no fear. And you got to show I mean business, you will do this. Not even some parents will appreciate the fact that you are teaching their child well. I like seeing on TV when they have, this is a special teacher. That's good, that's good. If you are teaching them and holding them accountable. If you are teaching them and holding them accountable for their learning, and they may not like you or think they don't like you. Until they get out-like that man with the pipe. The kids loved him to death, but they found out when they got out that they weren't ready for no chemistry. But ifl had a kids who made a C or better they were ready. They were ready for college chemistry. And I was proud of that. I have a former student [inaudible name], wonderful girl. Well she's not a girl anymore. She'll always be a girl to me. She went to Davidson-got a scholarship to Davidson. Like me-l was the first in my family to go to college-she was the first in her family. She was an only child. She went to 15 Davison with a scholarship. All the way through school she had gotten A's on everything. And that was her goal to get those A's. Well her first year-and she took a national test on-I'm trying to think of the course-it wasn't chemist1y. And she scored in the 99 percentile on the national test for that course but she got a B in her first year at Davidson, and she was so upset that she would call-I said call me anytime-and she would call, she didn't want to disturb her parents. Well I think that was the best thing to happen to her, to get that B. And then she settled down. AW: I've done that before. MT: Nothing's wrong with a B. Nothing is wrong with it. Yeah you'd rather have an A, but nothing is wrong with a B. But she took-they wouldn't let her start in beginning chemistry at Davidson because they tested students to see-and she was taking chemistry 2. And she was taking it with a fellow who had gone to a private school. And he said you must have gone to a private school, because-and she said no I went to a public school. And they talked about it. I don't care if it's a private school or public school you need good teachers, and you need to be held accountable. AW: I assume that while you were teaching in Buncombe County you were still living in Haywood County? MT: Yes. AW: Was Haywood County in your experience living here-were you apart of anymore protests or anything going on around the community? MT: No. AW: Was it pretty calm? 16 MT: Well Haywood County was pretty calm. While Dr. Campbell was here-I'm sure she doesn't want anybody to know about it. She asked me to come to a board meeting. She said get some people from the community and come to a board meeting. She had told me [paused for interviewee to leave room]. I think that Dr. Campbell was unaware-! guess if you're white and you're ok, you're treated ok, you don't realize-so she asked me if I would come to Haywood County and be one of her assistant principals. I said no I better stay in Buncombe, I didn't really discuss with her why, but I kept my application on file, and I would renew it. So they couldn't say that they didn't have any black applicants, because they did-they had one I knew. What was that question again? A W: Were you aware of any protests-! know you said you moved in the 60s, were you aware of any incidents in the 60s for Haywood County for even Buncombe County? MT: I don't remember that. AW: I know that integration came in 67/68 to Haywood County-the public facilities, just going about your daily life in Haywood County-how were the facilities segregated? MT: I never had a problem with anybody. My daughter was born in 68. I taught for 1 year in Pitt County, North Carolina. And then when my husband, got orders for Vietnam that's when I came-no I went to Washington state first where he was stationed then I came here. So I guess that was the time when there might have been some unrest, but I was not aware of the unrest when I came here. AW: So you came here about 70/71? MT: Yeah. Except that the principal at Pisgah would not give me a job, and pretended that the man had changed his mind about it. I guess I was silly. I just took him at his word. AW: So living in Haywood County it was common to have interaction with the white community in your daily life? 17 MT: It was common, but I live in a black community. I'm not sure that we could have purchased a house outside-! don't know. I really don't know. I do know that in Buncombe County there were areas where we could not purchase a house. In fact I remember-! was teaching at Erwin. My husband he was a processing chemical engineer at American Inca. I was teaching at Erwin. We decided we would move to Buncombe County and move. A preacher who had a nice house not far from Erwin High School. His wife passed, and I think he was from Alabama, somewhere in Alabama. So he put the house up for sell. So we decided to try and buy it. And his son came when the man was showing us-the [inaudible name]. They were white, they told us Maggie this house is for sell why don't you and Robert come look at it. So we did, the son came and saw us there and called his dad and said-I guess I don't know what he said. But anyway the man decided to take it off the market because we were going to buy. There were issues I know. A W: Do you know of any violence that happened in Haywood County, if it was handled by authorities? MT: No. I think most people if you treat them as worthy individuals, most will do the same to you. Most people will do that. There are a few that would want to call you-but not to my face was I ever called a name to my face. They may have done it behind my back, I don't know, but not to my face. A W: In you experience living in Haywood County and Buncombe County through the 70s and I assume through the 80s and the 90s. How have you seen a difference in race relations in the white and black communities, have they changed? Or improved or not improved? 18 MT: I know very little about race relations in Haywood County. Because I would get up at 6 o'clock and get ready and go to Buncombe County. And if you had a faculty meeting, you were there-and when I came back, I came back and cooked dinner, watched TV and went to bed. I guess there were issues, but I didn't run into them. AW: Do you have anything else you want to add? Anything you think will be beneficial to the Life Every Voice Project? MT: I can't think of anything. I will tell you this-Ingels going right up Canton Hill before it moved out to where it is now I went into the store. But these two little boys-they were white, and the mom was white. You could tell that were pistols. They weren't mean, but they were very active. But one of them walked up to me and said are you black? I said yes. He said are your legs black. I said yes. Are your arms black? I could see the look of horror on the mother's face. I don't know if she got what she wanted, but she got her two kids and--. But he wasn't being mean, but he was curious and that's the way most kids reacted to me. It hasn't been a mean thing, but a curious thing. But the look on the mother's face. There were incidents, but I can't remember anything mean, I really can't. Let me show you a picture of my daughter. My husband's mother died when he was a few days old, and his dad blamed him. So he left him with the grandparents and he want to Michigan. [paused to walk into other room to see picture of daughter]. AW: How old is she? MT: Oh she is in her 40s now. I think she was in the 1oth grade there. My son was two years behind her. [come back into room talking about pictures] A W: I'm originally from Clinton, so I am familiar with Wilmington. MT: Oh ok. So if you're ever there and somebody wants to give you a ticket. Say I know Officer Robert Thomas. AW: Did both your kids attend school in Buncombe County or in Haywood County? MT: They attended in Buncombe. If you work in Buncombe your children could attend. My husband was at Inca, and I wanted to be close to them so if something happened. In fact they started at Emmanuel Lutheran until middle school. AW: Well thank you for you time. MT: Well thank you for coming. AW: Thank you for letting me interview you. END OF INTERIVEW 19
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  • Magnolia Thomas relates her experiences living with her grandparents while her mother went to New York to find work, being arrested for participating in civil rights marches while attending Elizabeth City State University, moving to Haywood County to stay with her husband’s family while he served in Vietnam, and being unable to find a teaching job there despite having a college degree, and finally finding a job at a private school for Black girls in Buncombe County. Thomas also talks about relations between black and white communities in Western North Carolina, school integration and desegregation, and her other teaching jobs including working for 12 years with a County school in the Erwin district where she was the first Black teacher and working as an assistant principal in a Buncombe County High School.
  • Transcript: Magnolia Thomas Interviewee: MT Magnolia Thomas Interviewer: A W Ashley West Interview date: October 20,2014. Location: Canton, North Carolina Length: 47:50 START OF INTERIVEW Ashley West: My name is Ashley West, I am interviewing Magnolia Thomas. It's October 20, 2014 and we are interviewing in her home in Canton, North Carolina. Ms. Thomas are you aware that you are being record, and this will be used later on? Magnolia Thomas: I am. AW: If you could begin by telling about your birthplace, your education--. MT: I was born in Pitt Memorial Hospital in Greenville, North Carolina and-you want my birth date? AW: That is up to you, I won't press you for that. {laughter} MT: Well I don't care. I went to elementary through high school in Bethel North Carolina-which is about 15 miles from Greenville. After I graduated from high school-and I was second in my class in my high school AW: really? I was second in my class. MT: We were dirt poor. We were sharecroppers. And my mom went to New York-I think- to work as a live in maid. And I stayed with my grandparents. And so when I graduated from high school they thought I was smart, and I got to help me go to Elizabeth City state 1 university. Elizabeth City, North Carolina. My junior year there-that's where I met my husband my sophomore year-well my junior year there, we participated in marches because of the civil rights movement. We got some publicity at first, but we didn't get very much later because somebody thought that we we're getting too much publicity and they wanted to cut it out-in fact we were jailed and we just [laughter]-when a group of us were jailed, another group of us went downtown. So you just filled the jails to capacity. AW: And this is downtown Elizabeth City? MT: Downtown Elizabeth City. Yes. A W: These protests were--. MT: Nonviolent? AW: Yeah. MT: They were nonviolent. We just walked in the street to block traffic. But no fighting. A W: Peaceful. Was it is only African American students, or was it also white students participating? 2 MT: At that time, as far as I can remember there were few African-white -students at Elizabeth city. I think we had like 5 at that time. So I'm not sure they participated, I don't remember if they participated. It would have been okay if they had. A W: Do you remember-! know you said you would get shut down a lot-if the others were not in the jail, the other were out there. What was the community's response to it? MT: The black community, the black adults supported us behind the scenes. Because they were afraid oflosing their jobs or being harassed. So adults in the community did not participate in front to march with us, but we had support behind the scenes. In fact I lived about 3 100 miles from Elizabeth city and when we were at home-most of us didn't have cars, maybe one or two out of the whole [laughter] whole congregation had a car. So most of us rode the bus home, or to wherever we were going. Newport, Bethell, wherever. And when it happened-and of course there was a colored room for the black students, it was trashy and dirty and all that. And then there was the room for the white folks and of course it was kept up very well. So we decided-I can't think of the name of the fellow who was our student body leader-but we got together and decided we would not use the bus station any longer. So they got in touch with the bus company Trailway, and said these are the students, this is where we are going, or this is where we wanted to go-- but you need to come on campus and pick us up, because we are not using the bus station anymore. And they did. There would be a string of busses, and there would be a sign saying this bus is going there, and if you are going in this direction then you need to get on this bus. We bought tickets. They sold us tickets, the drivers did. It was exciting. I'm not sure I knew what I was doing. [laughter] AW: But you knew what was going on nationally? MT: I did know what was going on. Yes. AW: Roughly what years were you in college when you were doing the protests? MT: I was in college from 1964 to whatever 4 years later is. A W: When did you move to Haywood County? MT: I Moved to Haywood County when my husband and I had been married a little over a year. At first he was a soldier at Fort Lewis in Washington State. And we married before he went to Washington State. He was at Fort Bragg then went to Washington State. And he knew he was going to Vietnam. And he wanted me to come and stay at his home place until he got 4 back. So that's when I came to Haywood County. So I have been living in Haywood County 45 years now. AW: Did you-Was there a difference between race relations in eastern North Carolina and Western Carolina? MT: Some I guess. But I couldn't get a job in Haywood county. AW: Do you think it was because you were African American? MT: I-I-yes I do. I applied for a job. I had an A certificate. We had to take the national teacher exam then. I did very well on it. In fact, I was offered a job by Haywood County to work full time at halftime pay, and go back and work on my masters. So I said no, I'm not going to work full time and get half pay. I will not do that. But I did go back and get my masters. And I was in class with the young man who was teaching chemistry at Pisgah, and he said he didn't know what he was doing. He said he tried to quit, and they talked him out of quitting. Because he didn't know chemistry. I don't know what his major was, but it wasn't his--. AW: But you were able to get a job in Buncombe County? MT: I was able to get a job in Buncombe County. I started in Buncombe County at a private school, Allen High School-was a school for girls outside the country or outside the state-black girls. AW: Roughly what year was that? I know I'm asking years, I'm just trying to get the timeline of what's going on. MT: Let's see. My daughter was four years old I believe. And she was born in late '68. So-. AW: Early 70s? MT: Yeah. It was early 70s. yeah. 5 AW: So at your job in Buncombe County, how was it working in the school? MT: Well, I don't think I would have gotten a job in Buncombe County. Allen High School was a private school, so I worked there for like 3 years and they closed. So I applied for a job in Buncombe County. Erwin High School needed a chemistry teacher, and the principal of Allen High School-she was white, and she was [pause ]---oh gosh its been so long, I can't remember her name. But she recommended me to the principal at Erwin High School. And Erwin High School was having problems with a black family. [laughter] In fact, the woman, who was the mother of the family-! don't know where her dad was-was working for-in the courthouse-and I don't know she did it, but she had a baby and she would take the baby and sit it in the cradle next to her desk and work-which was very unusual. But anyway, the oldest child that she had was Nixa Jones, I will never forget that name. Nixa Jones. They-she-Erwin High school started in the 91h grade, and she was attending an elementary school in the district [inaudible] elementary I believe it was. And they asked the principal-my principal at Erwin High School if he would please-she was in the gth grade, 71 h grade-to please take her. Now they would have put her out of school for the rest of the year, and they didn't want her coming back to the school, and asked him if he would please take her [inaudible]-and they did. Oh gosh, I almost thought of the principal's name-he was a nice--. Anyway, he interviewed me and he offered me the job and he asked me-l remember this very cl-He said I was the first black teacher in the district, maybe in Buncombe county, but I don't-but in Erwin district I was the first black teacher. And he asked me what would I do if the students came in and saw that I was black and decided to walk out. I said well I'll just sit there and wait until somebody comes who wanted to learn chemistry. So [laughter] he was very nervous about. But he took me because he was having so much problems with those black kids, especially that family. I guess she was 6 instrumental in my getting the job. So she came over, and I tell you she was hell on wheels. A beautiful girl, if she could get rid of the scowl-wasn't big as a fly. But she just walked around-and I remember she was put in my home room, and I think that was on purpose too. And she came to me one day, and asked if I would say she had been with me at the home room, because she was late getting to the next class. She was in the hall whenever she wanted to be in the hall-and I said no I'm not gonna say that. So she decided she would take it out on me. For not saying-for not lying for her. So she would come by my door-any class she was in she would just go. She would come by and bang bang bang on my door. I tried to ignore it, I would turn her in-I don't know what they did with her really, but they did something. Next day she come again banging on my door, and I went to the principal I said this has got to-and if she got in trouble with other teachers I was called to the meeting that the principal had with her because I was black and she was black. I said that's not the issue, the issue is being respectful. That's the issue. So he would call me to his office and I would sit there-and I finally told him-Hall, Leon Hall was the principal's name. Leon Hall, he died. He died several years ago. Well he would call me-l said Mr. Hall I was hired to teach chemistry and that's what I'll do, I'm not coming down here again. So he was sending the secretary to watch my class while I went to his office to sit, to be sure I could say that he wasn't picking on her. It's awful, it was absolutely awful. But I remember the time before we put her out for good. All of her teachers were sitting there, and I was there because they wanted a black person there. And she would walk around the circle of us and lean over his shoulder and curse him out. I mean she was so-l got so upset that I started crying. I said I can't take this. Her mother came in and she acted like she was a pitiful picked on child. Oh mama they're picking on me-l don't know. Anyway, so she was put out of school for the rest of the year, her mother got a lawyer, and was taking the school system to court for 7 picking on her child. The lawyer called me. I don't know how he got my name or my num-I know how he got my name, but I don't know how he got my home number. I don't know, because my husband's name was in the phone book. And he asked me ifl would serve as a witness for her. I said wait a minute let me tell you what I have experienced. And I will tell it the way I have experienced it so you better listen carefully. I told her all that she had done. I said I can't support her in this, I couldn't support any child, I couldn't support my own child. But my own child [inaudible]. So he said what, and he listened. And they dropped the suit and moved to Texas [laughter]. The last I heard they were living in Texas, shortly there after. That was terrible-but the kids were good I mean when they came in [phone ringing] [recording pause, then restarted]. So anyway all the kids that I had were white and when they came in-they were kind of nervous about me at first. Because all through school they had always had white teachers, white principals, white-they were kind of nervous. And I really don't blame them-but I said I am here to teach chemistry, and that's what I am going to do. But I remember the first PTA meeting we had and of course all of us had to be there. A parent came in-and this girl, she's such a sweet girl, I can't remember her name. I'm terrible I can't remember names. But her mother came in and said I need to speak to Mrs. Thomas. I said well I'm Mrs. Thomas. She looked at me-she said your Mrs. Thomas? I said yes I'm Mrs. Thomas. She came in and she said let me have a seat-she said her daughter was always talking about chemistry and Mrs. Thomas. She said never once did she say you were black. Which says-you know kids they look at you-most kids black or white look at you for what you do and not for your color and that's really good. That's good. Even the man who had taught chemistry before me came back to get his job. [laughter] but he didn't get it. Because the kids who had gone off to college were coming back after I had taught for a year and they were talking to their brothers and sisters who were in high school saying you need to learn all you can, because I thought I knew chemistry but I didn't. But he was a fellow who sat on the desk and smoked a pipe [laugher]. So Mr. Hall made sure I kept my job. AW: How did the other teachers respond to Mr. Hall hiring you? 8 MT: You know they may have had issues, but they didn't discuss it with me. I mean I just didn't care, this was a job that I wanted and I had the job, I was going to do the job to the best of my abilities. And If anybody didn't like it they didn't say anything to me about it. Maybe they did to Mr. Hall, I don't know. I do know that the first observation-end of year observation-you have those-are you going to be a teacher? A W: Yes ma'm. I graduated from Campbell with my teaching licence. So I know all about those. MT: [laughter] So he had us to evaluate ourselves. And I went through thinking I'm really looking at me, I'm not looking at anybody else. And I checked out the things. I was acceptable-! didn't think I was unacceptable. I was acceptable here, and there is where I need to work on. So he called everybody in to talk about the observations. He said do you really think this? I said what are you talking about. He said I'm looking at your observation of yourself. I said well I do the best I can, I know I got to grow. He said my teachers are putting themselves at outstanding. Everybody were putting themselves at either outstanding-or what was the next one-the last two categories. He said and you really-! said yes I got a lot to learn. So he changed my markings on myself and gave me better ratings. He said well we all have some growing to do. He said but you're doing a very good job. I guess I-I don't know-looked at me-not at anybody else. He asked us to do an observation-an write up-of ourselves. So that's what I thought looking at myself, this is what I think, this is where I need to grow. 9 AW: How long did you work in the school system? MT: I was a chemistry teacher there for 12 years. I left Erwin when Buncombe County was a part of the career ladder process. Have you heard about that? A W: No I haven't. MT: It was a program that was using teachers to observe other teachers to see if they got everything acceptable or better. The first year they got a 5% raise, and if they got acceptable-no higher than acceptable or better-the next round they got a 10% raise in addition to the 5% raise. I think there were 16 units in North Carolina that participated-in Haywood county was one too-Haywood County, Buncombe County, and some others. We were the only two in Western North Carolina, but I know there were 16. So I did that for 5 years. I did my observation at Inca High School, and Inca Middle School, and then there was a community school that was for children who had special needs. So for 5 years I did observations there, [inaudible] teller was the principal at Inca High School when I went there. And we were-very good man, very good. He was-you know I thought the program-and I think it was intended to be-to help improve teaching and learning. We were trained over and over and over in workshops galore. Being trained on what to look for in how to help teachers grow. Well that had never happened to teachers before. And some of them didn't mind. The best teachers I observed didn't mind. They wanted it done. But those that weren't quite so good had issues with someone coming in-but they didn't have to participate. They had to sign a later saying that wanted to participate. But then they still resented people coming in and looking at them saying this is the kind of stuff you need to work on. I did that for five years at those schools. When I left there I became assistant principal at T.C. Robinson High School in Buncombe County. And I was there for 14 years [laughter]. A wonderful, wonderful, wonderful faculty. There were a couple of 10 teachers who had-I went to T.C. Robinson when the career ladder program ended. And so most of us who were evaluators did an impeccable job I think. To the best of our ability. Well the person who was at T.C. gave everybody outstanding. And there is no way, no way that happened. Especially for this particular lady. She wanted to act, she was a huge lady. If you've seen Mrs. Abercrombie in the Heat of the Night-if you ever see In the heat of the Night and you see Mrs. Abercrombie and her pigs-that's her. She missed almost 40 days of school, and she got 5s and 6s on her-there's no way that happened, there is just no way. But see some people, and this particular person-! don't know what she was after really-! don't really know what she was after. I guess she wanted to be liked. But it wasn't a do you like me thing. It was trying to improve education in Buncombe County. And I think we did a good job with that. Nobody's perfect, I'm not perfect. I decided I would look to see what kind of ratings had been given- ' cause I didn't know she had done this. And those who got the best ratings I observed, that were first, because they're doing a good job and they know that I'm going to be fair. Well the principal there-she was superintendent here in Haywood County for 4 years, Karen Campbell. Karen Campbell was the principal at T.C. Robinson then. And I did an observation, and this lady didn't do any teaching. She was an English teacher. An English teacher. She would call on this person to read and she-I could not believe it. So when I walked out I said you don't say anything to anybody you just take notes on what you see and hear. And you couldn't use a recorder, which would have been good-but we couldn't we had to script. So I went to Karen, and I said Dr. Campbell I just finished observing [Interviewee has asked to omit the teacher's name]. And she said what'd you see? And I described it-she just burst out laughing. She said I'm glad you observed her. When another person was doing the observation, Dr. Campbell was not the principal, somebody else was the principal. She said I was the principal last year of the 11 career ladder process and all these people got these outstanding and I just know that nobody-! mean the whole faculty-and what's wrong with acceptable. Anyway she just died laughing, she said I am so glad you went in-and she gave me the English department to observe because she wanted-there were two people in the English department that she wanted to have somebody to call to task and that was her and another lady that was afraid of kids. Afraid of kids, I mean afraid, I know she was afraid because she came to my office and asked me to come sit in her classroom so she could teach. Can you believe that? I couldn't believe it either [laughter]. And when she came to my office she was trembling. I think it was a 1 01h grade class. If you let kids know that you are afraid of them and you don't like them-and I don't think she liked kids, she has no business in the classroom, and she did not like kids. They don't care what you can do to them, as long as they can get ch' a. A W: It was 101h grade? MT: 1oth grade. Oh yeah. They don't know about getting scholarships and stuff­A W: They smell fear? MT: They smell fear. So I went in and I sat down. One fellow who wasn't even in the class, sat down and put his head on the desk, and wouldn't leave to go to his own class. And the bell rang, and she said you need to go to class. I walked up to him and said you need to go to your own class, he looked up and saw me and got up and left. I said don't ever do that again. But I should not have had to do that. It was her classroom, but I came to the conclusion that she did not like kids. And they knew it. Smart, she knew her subject, but she did not like kids, had no business in the classroom. And she ended up-she went someplace else out of Buncombe county and was a librarian. Which was better but she still had to run into kids. I don't think she should have been in education at all. A W: As principal at T.C. Robinson­MT: I was assistant principal--. 12 AW: Assistant principal, I'm sorry. Did you have any other African American teachers underneath of you? Or was it all white teachers? MT: There was one teacher, she's deceased now. [pause] I'm getting old. She was not a good teacher. They had her there because-and I think it was social studies she taught. But they had her there because she was black. And they needed a black teacher, because there were black students. AW: Do you know what year integration came to the schools in Buncombe County? I know in Haywood County it was '68. MT: Well that would have been before my time. Yeah, because I was working at Allen in the early 70s. So that would have been before my time. I don't really remember. No. A W: I'm just curious if it came later or earlier than Haywood County. MT: It may have. It may have. I do know that when I came to Buncombe County there were very few-in fact I can't think of another black teacher in Buncombe County at that time. There may have been some in the elementary school. But not in high school. AW: But they had already started integrating, because you had black--. MT: Yes, oh yes. I had black students, yes. I had one black student while I was at Erwin. And I don't know why she took-I think it was physical science. If I didn't have 5 chemistry classes I would pick up a physical science class. And she wanted to play softball, and she would come in and put her head on the desk. And I would walk over and [inaudible]. At that time we didn't have to make sure that kids were attentive. So I finally said why are you taking this class? She said she was taking softball and she needed the class. I said honey you are not 13 going to get a passing grade unless you earn it. And I really feel that we should not be hard on kids-you know I like kids. I think I would have left teaching a long time ago if I did not. But you can like them but not love them. Like I will let you do anything, that's not really caring. You can do whatever you want to do, honey you're ok. No that's not caring. So I like kids but I'm going to hold them accountable. This is what you need to learn-and you if ever go to C.J. Harris in Sylva. There's a Doctor Steven Queen, that I taught chemistry, he works out there. But he said I was responsible-his first year in college he took chemistry, and his math, and some others. And he said he had to do some remedial math and some other remedial, but he was ahead of the game in chemistry. And I wanted them. Most kids who go onto college, took chemistry. I wanted them to be ready. In fact I would tell them that if someone wakes you up in the middle of the night, and you're house is on fire, and its snowy and they ask you a chemistry question. I want you to be able to answer it. You know I really like kids. But I think they got to be ready. So if you're ever there, Dr. Steven Queen. He invited me, he has a beautiful house up on the mountain, and he invited me-he came by after he had found out my husband had died and took me out to dinner-! said you don't have to that. I've been up to his house there, and he takes me out to dinner a couple times. That makes you feel good, when you have done a job. And you didn't do it to get that kind of reaction. But you did a job to teach them what they needed to know so they'll be ready and they'll know-and I will tell you something else too. In high school they may not know that what they are getting is what they need. When you come into my classroom you don't come in with a lot of junk, you're not tardy, you are ready. And when I taught chemistry I would tell them be ready for a pop quiz on what you have studied thus far. Anyday be ready. Not the first month, let them settle in. Then I start giving them a pop quiz, and they wouldn't know that they would get the quiz. But that means you get it, so you got it in here. 14 And you study along. And then when you study along, and you work along it becomes a part of you. Sometimes I would just do the one that week, and then I would go pop. Skip a day. Pop. And then. Pop. Pop. To keep them off guard so they know they had to study. And they had to learn what we had done, and if they had any questions they could see me before school or after school. Whatever. But they had to learn it. But I will tell you Nixa Jones may have hit-I don't know if she would have or not. But I did tell her that if you come by my door again and knock on it, tell me where you want me to meet you off campus, and I'll meet ya. I said and then you'll have a chance to do what you think you can do to me. And I'll have my chance to do what I think I can do to you. That was it, no more knocking on my door. And she was a fiery little thing, she probably would have beat me-but I did. And I remember walking up the back steps at Erwin High School and two boys were fighting-two white boys were fighting-boom boom. I went what are you doing, and they stopped--come with me, come with me. So I guess you have to have, you can't show fear. You can show caring, but no fear. And you got to show I mean business, you will do this. Not even some parents will appreciate the fact that you are teaching their child well. I like seeing on TV when they have, this is a special teacher. That's good, that's good. If you are teaching them and holding them accountable. If you are teaching them and holding them accountable for their learning, and they may not like you or think they don't like you. Until they get out-like that man with the pipe. The kids loved him to death, but they found out when they got out that they weren't ready for no chemistry. But ifl had a kids who made a C or better they were ready. They were ready for college chemistry. And I was proud of that. I have a former student [inaudible name], wonderful girl. Well she's not a girl anymore. She'll always be a girl to me. She went to Davidson-got a scholarship to Davidson. Like me-l was the first in my family to go to college-she was the first in her family. She was an only child. She went to 15 Davison with a scholarship. All the way through school she had gotten A's on everything. And that was her goal to get those A's. Well her first year-and she took a national test on-I'm trying to think of the course-it wasn't chemist1y. And she scored in the 99 percentile on the national test for that course but she got a B in her first year at Davidson, and she was so upset that she would call-I said call me anytime-and she would call, she didn't want to disturb her parents. Well I think that was the best thing to happen to her, to get that B. And then she settled down. AW: I've done that before. MT: Nothing's wrong with a B. Nothing is wrong with it. Yeah you'd rather have an A, but nothing is wrong with a B. But she took-they wouldn't let her start in beginning chemistry at Davidson because they tested students to see-and she was taking chemistry 2. And she was taking it with a fellow who had gone to a private school. And he said you must have gone to a private school, because-and she said no I went to a public school. And they talked about it. I don't care if it's a private school or public school you need good teachers, and you need to be held accountable. AW: I assume that while you were teaching in Buncombe County you were still living in Haywood County? MT: Yes. AW: Was Haywood County in your experience living here-were you apart of anymore protests or anything going on around the community? MT: No. AW: Was it pretty calm? 16 MT: Well Haywood County was pretty calm. While Dr. Campbell was here-I'm sure she doesn't want anybody to know about it. She asked me to come to a board meeting. She said get some people from the community and come to a board meeting. She had told me [paused for interviewee to leave room]. I think that Dr. Campbell was unaware-! guess if you're white and you're ok, you're treated ok, you don't realize-so she asked me if I would come to Haywood County and be one of her assistant principals. I said no I better stay in Buncombe, I didn't really discuss with her why, but I kept my application on file, and I would renew it. So they couldn't say that they didn't have any black applicants, because they did-they had one I knew. What was that question again? A W: Were you aware of any protests-! know you said you moved in the 60s, were you aware of any incidents in the 60s for Haywood County for even Buncombe County? MT: I don't remember that. AW: I know that integration came in 67/68 to Haywood County-the public facilities, just going about your daily life in Haywood County-how were the facilities segregated? MT: I never had a problem with anybody. My daughter was born in 68. I taught for 1 year in Pitt County, North Carolina. And then when my husband, got orders for Vietnam that's when I came-no I went to Washington state first where he was stationed then I came here. So I guess that was the time when there might have been some unrest, but I was not aware of the unrest when I came here. AW: So you came here about 70/71? MT: Yeah. Except that the principal at Pisgah would not give me a job, and pretended that the man had changed his mind about it. I guess I was silly. I just took him at his word. AW: So living in Haywood County it was common to have interaction with the white community in your daily life? 17 MT: It was common, but I live in a black community. I'm not sure that we could have purchased a house outside-! don't know. I really don't know. I do know that in Buncombe County there were areas where we could not purchase a house. In fact I remember-! was teaching at Erwin. My husband he was a processing chemical engineer at American Inca. I was teaching at Erwin. We decided we would move to Buncombe County and move. A preacher who had a nice house not far from Erwin High School. His wife passed, and I think he was from Alabama, somewhere in Alabama. So he put the house up for sell. So we decided to try and buy it. And his son came when the man was showing us-the [inaudible name]. They were white, they told us Maggie this house is for sell why don't you and Robert come look at it. So we did, the son came and saw us there and called his dad and said-I guess I don't know what he said. But anyway the man decided to take it off the market because we were going to buy. There were issues I know. A W: Do you know of any violence that happened in Haywood County, if it was handled by authorities? MT: No. I think most people if you treat them as worthy individuals, most will do the same to you. Most people will do that. There are a few that would want to call you-but not to my face was I ever called a name to my face. They may have done it behind my back, I don't know, but not to my face. A W: In you experience living in Haywood County and Buncombe County through the 70s and I assume through the 80s and the 90s. How have you seen a difference in race relations in the white and black communities, have they changed? Or improved or not improved? 18 MT: I know very little about race relations in Haywood County. Because I would get up at 6 o'clock and get ready and go to Buncombe County. And if you had a faculty meeting, you were there-and when I came back, I came back and cooked dinner, watched TV and went to bed. I guess there were issues, but I didn't run into them. AW: Do you have anything else you want to add? Anything you think will be beneficial to the Life Every Voice Project? MT: I can't think of anything. I will tell you this-Ingels going right up Canton Hill before it moved out to where it is now I went into the store. But these two little boys-they were white, and the mom was white. You could tell that were pistols. They weren't mean, but they were very active. But one of them walked up to me and said are you black? I said yes. He said are your legs black. I said yes. Are your arms black? I could see the look of horror on the mother's face. I don't know if she got what she wanted, but she got her two kids and--. But he wasn't being mean, but he was curious and that's the way most kids reacted to me. It hasn't been a mean thing, but a curious thing. But the look on the mother's face. There were incidents, but I can't remember anything mean, I really can't. Let me show you a picture of my daughter. My husband's mother died when he was a few days old, and his dad blamed him. So he left him with the grandparents and he want to Michigan. [paused to walk into other room to see picture of daughter]. AW: How old is she? MT: Oh she is in her 40s now. I think she was in the 1oth grade there. My son was two years behind her. [come back into room talking about pictures] A W: I'm originally from Clinton, so I am familiar with Wilmington. MT: Oh ok. So if you're ever there and somebody wants to give you a ticket. Say I know Officer Robert Thomas. AW: Did both your kids attend school in Buncombe County or in Haywood County? MT: They attended in Buncombe. If you work in Buncombe your children could attend. My husband was at Inca, and I wanted to be close to them so if something happened. In fact they started at Emmanuel Lutheran until middle school. AW: Well thank you for you time. MT: Well thank you for coming. AW: Thank you for letting me interview you. END OF INTERIVEW 19