Partial Transcript: Could you please first start off by telling me where you were born and where you grew up?
Segment Synopsis: Walker-Harps discusses her upbringing on a farm in the rural town of Glenville, Georgia with her mother, father, brother and grandmother.
Keywords: Educator; Georgia; Glenville; Griffin; Morris-Brown College; School System; Segregation; Spalding County; Teacher
Partial Transcript: So you lived there until approximately what age...
Segment Synopsis: Walker-Harps recounts her high school years and summer trips to New York to visit her mother's oldest sister and other extended family. She talks about her time spent at Brooklyn College, Morris Brown college and the many differences between living in rural, segregated Georgia and the big city of New York.
Keywords: Brooklyn College; High School; Morris-Brown College; New York; Segregated School; Segregation
Partial Transcript: So this brings us into the early 60's right?
Segment Synopsis: Walker-Harps discusses her move from Glenville to Griffin and her first job as a middle school teacher at the Fairmont School, a Rosenwald School under the principalship of C.W. Daniels. She discusses the application process to the Georgia School System, transitioning into her new position at a new school, and what it was like teaching in a segregated school in the early 1960's.
Keywords: Educator; Fairburn; Fairmont High School; Georgia; Griffin; Rosenwald School; School System; Segregated School; Segregation; Spalding County; Teacher; Y Club
Partial Transcript: I left there when the schools were integrated...
Segment Synopsis: Walker-Harps recounts being selected by the school district to be one of the only African-American teachers in the newly integrated Griffin-Spalding County School system. She talks about going back to graduate school and transitioning into her role as a Media Specialist at a newly integrated elementary school. Walker-Harps then discusses segregation in the South more generally and compares rural versus urban areas. She also shares the story of her relationship with an white administrator.
Keywords: Educator; Fairmont High School; Griffin; Integrated School; Integration; Media Specialist; Rosenwald School; School; Segregated School; Segregation; Spalding County; Teacher
Partial Transcript: Going back to your time at Fairmont junior high school...
Segment Synopsis: Walker-Harps talks about the differences between all-black segregated schools and integrated schools. She further discusses the effects integration had on the African-American community in Griffin.
Keywords: Educator; Fairmont High School; Griffin; High School; Integrated School; Integration; Rosenwald School; School System; Segregated School; Segregation; Spalding County; Teacher
Partial Transcript: Talk a little bit about just...
Segment Synopsis: Walker-Harps discusses social life in the African-American community of Griffin prior to integration. She talks the homecoming football games, school dances, and parades that were held in Griffin.
Keywords: American Legion; Fairmont High School; Fairmont High School Band; Griffin; High School; Homecoming; Integrated School; Integration; Rosenwald School; School System; Segregated School; Segregation; Spalding County; VFW; Veterans of Foreign Wars
Partial Transcript: How did integration come about in Griffin?
Segment Synopsis: Walker-Harps describes how integration became reality in Griffin and her early civil rights activism in the community. She talks about her involvement with the NAACP as a member and about her experience in different leadership roles in the organization.
Keywords: Civil Rights; Civil Rights Act; Educator; Fairmont High School; Griffin; High School; Integrated School; Integration; NAACP; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; Rosenwald School; School System; Segregated School; Segregation; Spalding County; Teacher; Thelma Davis
Partial Transcript: So how much have things changed since then? I mean is there still any of this?
Segment Synopsis: Walker-Harps discusses changes in Griffin since the segregated era and the effect those changes had on the Fairmont Community. She talks about the economic changes which occurred within the African-American community since that time and her outlook on the future.
Keywords: Black History Month; Civil Rights; Civil Rights Act; Educator; Fairmont High School; Griffin; High School; Integrated School; Integration; NAACP; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; Plessy v. Ferguson; Rosenwald School; School System; Segregated School; Segregation; Separate But Equal; Spalding County; Teacher
John Cruickshank:Okay. It's Thursday, July 30, 2015. It's eleven o'clock a.m. Myname is John Cruickshank, and I'm interviewing Jewell Walker-Harps. So could you please start off by telling me where you were born, where you grew up...
Jewell Walker-Harps:I'm Jewell Walker-Harps. I was born in 1939 in a small ruraltown called Glennville, Georgia, southeast Georgia. I was born and raised on a farm, so I've had all of the experiences that a farm girl would have in the country.
CRUICKSHANK:And so you grew up there, and how many years were you on this farm?How many years did you live there? 00:01:00
WALKER-HARPS:Well, I went to school there. At the time, that was different fromwhat it is now. And I'll tell you a little later about the experiences of growing up and attending school in a segregated era. I left there and went to Morris Brown College in Atlanta, Georgia, and from there, in 1961, I came to Griffin, and stayed for 35 years working as an educator in the Griffin-Spalding County School System.
CRUICKSHANK:And tell us a little bit about your family, now. I mean, did youhave any siblings? Where were your parents from? Did they grow up on that farm?
WALKER-HARPS:Yes. I had a brother. And I don't really know very much about wheremy parents grew up, except my paternal grandmother had a farm herself. As a matter of fact, she had many acres, and I can remember very vividly 00:02:00that she lived in this great big house with columns and a wraparound porch, surrounded by many pecan trees as well as live oaks, because it was in what we called at that time the low country. And the land was flat, and the vegetation indicated that you were in the palmettos. The vegetation indicated that you were in that part of the country. So I can remember very well playing in the yard under the trees, sitting on the porch in a rocking chair. And of course, we were near the highway, so often we would go down just in front of the house and sit beside the road, and watch the cars, and the buses, and what have you, pass. So that's all. I do also remember that she had lots and lots of good things in the yard to eat. She had fig trees, palm trees, and a a huge, about the 00:03:00side of a football field, grape arbor, muscadines. We called them grapes, but they were really muscadines. And of course, we had the same thing at home. We had a muscadine arbor, which was also about the size of a football field, so that the neighborhood children, and the neighborhood everybody, waited and looked forward to that time of the year, because it was open to not only family, but friends, as well, who would come back. And some of them would want to pick, and others would want us to pick. I mean, we were children. So we did it the old-fashioned way. I'm sure they would not do that today. My dad had a sheet made out of burlap, and we would spread it under a part of the grape arbor, and then we would shake the vine, and they would fall. Then we would just have a good time. So all was not bad. But a little while ago, I remember 00:04:00talking to a kid, asking her, what had she done while she was on her trip in Costa Rica? And she had said that one of the things was to milk cows. And I said, "Well, could you milk a cow?" And, of course, she said, "No." I said, "Well, I (couldn't?), but I grew up on a farm." And I had all of those experiences. I had to try to milk a cow. I never learned, but milking a cow. Killing hogs was a ritual. It was not just a family thing, but it was a community factor, so I know all about how you kill a hog, or how you put him up on the (gallisters?), and cut him open, and pull out the -- what you do with the, what we called intestines. And the finished product became chitlins. I can see my mom now as she takes a knife and pulls them apart, and run the water, push them down so that all of the waste would come out, and run them 00:05:00through the water, and what have you. And then we would take the thin ones and put (them on?) what we call a sausage machine, and stuff them, and they became sausage that we would hang in the smokehouse. And (laughs) they would drip and dry, and along with the lard. There was no problem in using lard when we were growing up. My grandmother grew up on fatback, and lard, and what have you, but she lived to be 96 years old. So we didn't have all of the cholesterol issues and what have you. I don't want to go on and on and on, so ask me something else.
CRUICKSHANK:So you lived there till approximately what age? When did you move togo away to take your courses in education?
WALKER-HARPS:I was an average student, I would say. I did not graduate early. Iwas just an average student. So I guess I would have been, I guess, 00:06:00about 17. But before that time, I had gone to New York for the summers. Yeah. Extended families were important back then. They may not be so important now, but you were practically raised by your aunts and your uncles. And especially if they lived elsewhere, it meant that you had an opportunity to have a summer vacation somewhere else. And that applied to me. My mom's oldest sister would always take me to New York for the summer. So I actually had an experience of attending school in Brooklyn, Brooklyn College. Of course, I didn't stay, because, as I said, I was from the country, and from a rural, segregated school. So the big city of New York did not have that appeal to me. In other words, it took me awhile to adjust. I enjoyed the recreational part, but I was not really academically prepared for going to school at Brooklyn College, so I 00:07:00came back home and went to Morris Brown.
CRUICKSHANK:So how long were you in New York when you did this?
WALKER-HARPS:Well, I went during the summers. I went several summers.
WALKER-HARPS:Yeah. So once I graduated from high school, I stayed until it wastime to go to college, and I started, and I didn't like it. So they started earlier than they did at home, so I rushed back home to get in school at Morris Brown.
BE'ATRICE CUNNINGHAM:Did you find any significant differences between how youwere raised in the South versus how things were when you went up north for the summers?
CUNNINGHAM:Can you share some of those differences?
WALKER-HARPS:Yes. Very, very different. The environment was different. Iremember traveling along the road, and I thought that the entire area from home to New York was going to simply be city, but then I discovered 00:08:00that there were rural areas someplace other than at my house. (laughs) So as I took the bus trip. But I had an opportunity to ride the subway. I'd never seen or been in a subway station. Nor had I ever been able to go outside and look up at all of the apartment housing. No yards, houses, and streets. And the most -- I lived in Harlem, so there were people on the streets. There were people hanging out on the walkways, and as you go -- on the steps as you go up. What we ate was different. I was accustomed to grits. They were accustomed to potatoes. Seasoning. I couldn't stand garlic, but everything that my aunt cooked in New York had garlic. And she said, "That's the only way you can eat the 00:09:00stuff here, is to season it well, because it's not as fresh as farm products are." So I learned to ride the subway. It was not as dangerous as it is now, so it was not difficult for me to ride alone at night. Then I had my first job. That is why my Social Security number is so different from others around here, because I got my Social Security card in New York. And worked at a -- it wasn't a fruit stand, but it was, kind of, in what we would call a farmer's market. It was a friend who took me under his wing, and taught me how to be a little salesperson. I was just (about a?) -- maybe a junior in high school. So the experiences were different. We traveled on weekends. My aunt and uncle belonged to a lot of activities, belonged to a lot of lodges and what 00:10:00have you, so every weekend, we had an opportunity to go to Asbury Park, Coney Island, or some recreational place, that I had not had -- that I had not been. So it was far. I just found that, academically, I was not as prepared. I did not have the study habits. I had not had the exposure that others had who had come from a much larger area. But, yes, it was an entirely different kind of life.
CRUICKSHANK:But it sounds like it was a very positive experience, though.
WALKER-HARPS:It was. It was. And I had not -- I guess that's why I'm so generousnow to my nieces and nephews, and to even non-family members, because I realize that I would never have had the experiences and the growth that I had 00:11:00if others had not contributed to my life.
CRUICKSHANK:So moving on, then, later, when you started your studies ineducation, right? It was education, right?
CRUICKSHANK:At Morriston, was it?
WALKER-HARPS:And that was because I was an African American Episcopal Churchmember. I grew up in the African American Episcopal Church, and Morris Brown was an African American Episcopal supported school, so that is why I went there rather than going somewhere else.
CRUICKSHANK:And then, let's see. You were there --
WALKER-HARPS:Yeah, I was there. I (didn't?) graduate early. And I didn't want toleave college. College was the best thing that had happened to me. (laughter) I did not -- I was anxious to graduate from high school, even though I 00:12:00had had a good high school experience. I was a queen one year, and, well, I was pretty popular, so -- but I didn't want to leave college. That was a great life.
CRUICKSHANK:So that was quite a change, quite a switch from your New York experience.
WALKER-HARPS:Yes, it was. Yeah. I didn't relate to that.
CRUICKSHANK:Sounds a lot more positive.
WALKER-HARPS:It was. It was. I could relate to that. (There?), there were otherchildren, many more children, who came from small places in Georgia, so -- and whose friendship I still maintain, matter of fact. My roommate now lives in California and comes about yearly to visit. But it was something that I could adapt to. And that's why it's so important that we keep those schools that made it possible for us to have an education, because I would have been lost, totally lost, had I had to go to a larger school. But that made education 00:13:00accessible to those of us who would not have had that opportunity.
CRUICKSHANK:So this brings us into the early '60s, is that right?
WALKER-HARPS:Well, yes, the early '60s. Nineteen sixty-one is when I came toGriffin. And my reason for coming to Griffin was the fact that one of my instructors, who had become a very good friend, was from Griffin, Samuel Dubois Cook. And he wanted me to come to Griffin. And I came to Griffin. The first place I saw was Spring Hill, so that was not very enticing. At that time, Spring Hill was a lot of blight and whatever. I said, well, everybody in Griffin could not live like they live on Spring Hill. But I applied also to Columbus Public School System, and I was accepted. Matter of fact, and I just accepted. They called me several times. They wanted to know why I did not -- I was not going to come, but I decided to stay in Griffin, unfortunately, and 00:14:00I'm still here.
CRUICKSHANK:Well, I don't understand. Why did you not go to Columbus?
WALKER-HARPS:I don't really know. Except maybe I thought it was more convenientto be near -- I really wanted to go work in Fairburn. But I had to compete with another girl who graduated from high school in Fairburn, and there were just the two of us at the top of the list, and of course, she had an edge on me. So my life would have been different had I gotten my first job at Fairburn and worked in Atlanta, because I lived in the city at that time. So I never would have had the experiences that I've had in Griffin. But that's why I did not go.
CRUICKSHANK:I'm just going to -- go ahead.
M1:Yeah. What was your first job here in Griffin?
WALKER-HARPS: My first job here in Griffin was a seventh or eighth grade teacherat Fairmont High School. Under the principalship of C. W. Daniels, 00:15:00who is now deceased. Yes.
M1:What (kind of?) school was it at that time?
WALKER-HARPS:Well, it was about the same size as it is now, except it's notFairmont. It's used -- the same building. That's the building that was there when I came to Griffin that's there now. They have had an addition to it. But my classroom was on the end right next to the garden. There were two of us. Felton Stringer, who is now deceased, and myself had that wing. And boy, did we not enjoy it, because it was away from everybody else. And (laughs) we did enjoy it. I was young, and my students were just about my age. They were maybe three or four years -- two, three, or four years older than I was. And they were bigger. They were big boys. And boy, was it tough. But interesting. 00:16:00
M1:Yeah. A lot of times, when you come into a new school system situation, youhave the academic courses that you teach, but you also have extracurricular activities that you do as a teacher.
WALKER-HARPS:Yes. We had the Y Club. I was a part of the Y Club. And somethingelse. I don't exactly remember what the others were. But I also remember that we had extracurricular activities that we had to supervise, like sports. Boy, that's why I don't go to football games or basketball games today, because I had no choice. When I worked in the segregated school, we all had to go. We all had to be on duty. You didn't have a choice. We also had to do home visits. All of my students got to know me -- got to introduce me to their parents, because my principal insisted that we go to visit students at home, and become a 00:17:00part of the community. So home and church, school, were all connected. My first principal, C. W. Daniels, was of the old school, sort of rigid but good. I was one of those teachers who left there and went to Kelsey. Now, Kelsey is the site of the Rosenwald school. We didn't know that at that time. But as I visit -- I -- when we were over there doing the garden, at the beginning, that was -- we found out that that's what it was. I had an opportunity to go back into my old classroom and get a feeling of having been there in the 1960s. I left there -- when the schools were integrated, there were certain teachers picked who were considered to be the best of the rest, you might say, and were sent 00:18:00to work in the schools that were white, and I was one of those teachers. Boy, did I hate to go. But the interesting thing about it, they didn't just pick me. Somebody came over to observe me. That was the demeaning part of it. They sent somebody from what was then Reiser to observe, (Ben Flanagan?), a great big guy. (laughter) I'll never forget. I stepped in the hall at the end of one my class periods, and there was this man standing beside my door. "What are you doing here?" He came to observe me. I remember that class period even to now. I can even remember some of the students who were in the class. And they did a good job for me. I guess he was satisfied. But anyway, my name was submitted to go to the middle school. I don't think it was called middle school then, but it was. And everybody just went all out of his way to make me feel 00:19:00comfortable. I'll never forget Russell Gray, who was then the principal. His daughter happened to have been in my class. But it was an experience, that transition was. The teachers and the principals all went out of their way to make you feel comfortable. And, believe it or not, I didn't have a problem with the students. It was not so bad, but I was scared to death. Not necessarily scared of the people, but scared of the unknown. And hated to leave where I was, because it had become a family, and I didn't want to break up with my friends, my staff people, and go to someplace that was totally knew, and not have anybody that I thought I could talk to. But it worked out, and I survived. 00:20:00
CRUICKSHANK:How long did it take you to start getting a certain comfort levelthere? You know, start feeling comfortable?
WALKER-HARPS:Well, not too long, because I was always comforted in myself. So itwas not -- had I been a (weakling?), it probably would have been different. But I would say that I adjusted quite well. But the help was there for us, as I said. It could have been more difficult had the principal been a different kind of person, because after staying there for a few years, I went back to graduate school and got another degree, and they were going -- there was a position open at one of the elementary schools for a media specialist, and I applied. Well, the principal did not want me. I was black, and she did not wish to have -- it was a new school, and of course, a black woman was not going to come in and occupy that school. She was just getting rid of the black lady who was there when the -- the first year that the school was open. This was the 00:21:00second year. And she did not wish to have me. So she (set me up?). Tommy Jones, who was the assistant superintendent, scheduled me for an interview, so at the time for me to go, she called and said I could not come. She had something else to do. I could not come. And she was supposed to call me back at another time. Well, she never did. Tommy Jones understood and realized what was happening. He said, "Well, she doesn't want her, but she's going to go anyway." I said, "But I don't want to go anyway." (laughter) But I went anyway. I went anyway. And that was my first blatant experience, I guess, with discrimination on the job. It was very obvious that she did not wish to have me, and it would probably have been different had I been a classroom teacher, but I was the media specialist, and that set me apart from everybody else, because I had an office. I had 00:22:00a place of my own, and I had an office.
CRUICKSHANK:So that made it bearable, anyway. Yeah, yeah.
WALKER-HARPS:Yes. But it was difficult to get janitorial service, because ofexpecting me to do it, to be my own (laughs) custodian. I had to fight to get the newspaper. The newspaper would come to the office, and she would make sure that she got it. They kept it in the office. And, well, being me, with the strength that I had, I insisted that it be where it was supposed to be, so I had to threaten to go downtown to Tommy Jones in order to get possession of the newspaper. So these were just little things that were -- but strangely enough, before she died, or before she retired, we became friends. She, for some reason or another, started to like me. And I don't know whether it was I proved to be, in her mind, competent, or whether the times were changing everywhere. 00:23:00
CRUICKSHANK:Was that a really rapid change, or did that just sort of --
CRUICKSHANK:Very gradual, over years?
WALKER-HARPS:Gradual over some years, yes. Over some years. Well, she was anolder lady, so it would have taken her some time.
CRUICKSHANK:Just set in her ways, and --
WALKER-HARPS:Yes, mm-hmm. Yes. I'll never forget the time that the tale wastold. It was not really a tale. It was true. We had an ice storm, and at her church, there was a black custodian. She slipped and fell on the ice, and he went to help her get up, and she, "Don't touch me, don't touch me, don't touch me! Get away from me!" (laughs) The fear. It was told in a jokingly way, but it was really a fact. It actually happened. But that was the attitude that existed during that period of time. We would have Christmas luncheons at the 00:24:00Holiday Inn. And there were maybe four or five who looked like me. And no other seats, except the seat beside one of us. So she preferred to walk around and eat, rather than to have a seat next to one of us. So these little things that you had to contend with.
CRUICKSHANK:And this would have been, what, by mid-'60s, now, we're talking?
WALKER-HARPS:Yes, yes. We're talking mid-'60s.
CRUICKSHANK:And did it get much better?
CRUICKSHANK:I mean, in the '70s, and -- yeah.
WALKER-HARPS:Yes, it did. It did. Well, people got to know people as people.
WALKER-HARPS:Yeah, it got much better. As you got to know the person, you sawthe inside of that person.
WALKER-HARPS:And even the most stanch-hearted segregationists had some humanityabout them, and, you know, you could eventually win them over. 00:25:00
CRUICKSHANK:But did it ever go beyond just being able to get along? Did it everprogress to a point so someone who you had, really, difficulty with, you actually became friends?
WALKER-HARPS:Yes. Yes. I had difficulty with her. And when I was sick, I was outfor six weeks because of surgery. She came to my house to visit me, and brought me food, and what have you, so I guess it did get to that point where one could look at the other and realize that that person was simply a human being.
CRUICKSHANK:So it sounds to me like a lot of the friction that goes on racially,maybe, is just a matter of just not knowing people. Is it that simple, do you think?
WALKER-HARPS:Oh, I agree. Not knowing people. And then, going back to families,parents, grandparents, great-great-grandparents, who lived in areas 00:26:00where people of color were submissive. It was a way of life, and a good way of life to many of them. Now, not all of them were wealthy, but they still considered themselves to be better than we were. It was even better in rural areas than in the more urban areas, because when I was growing up at home, we had lots of tobacco on our farm, so we all went to the tobacco fields to work. So when the truck came by to pick up, whosoever's on the route, the truck picked you up, and you hopped on the back of the truck. Whatever color you were, you hopped on the back of the truck. When it was time to have water or whatever, you drank from the same water, even though if you had gone into a city or town at that time, there was white water and black water, and you had to go 00:27:00to the black water fountain. But it was a little bit different in that area, more family-like. If something happened to you and your family, well, white folks came to your aid, too. It was not just --
CRUICKSHANK:So you're -- in the rural community, you're more a -- there are notas many artificial barriers that keep you apart.
CRUICKSHANK:You live together a bit more.
CRUICKSHANK:And you're closer --
CRUICKSHANK:-- and you get to know people better.
CUNNINGHAM:Going back to your time at Fairmont Junior High School, and as youtransitioned to the integrated high school -- or integrated school, what were the major differences you saw between the segregated school versus the integrated school?
WALKER-HARPS:The quality of teaching. The flexibility. Our principals00:28:00were much more rigid and much more by the book, and I guess they had to be, because they had to -- they were not given the same flexibility as the white principals, so they had to hold us to a different standard. Mainly. And resources were different. The availability of resources in that school were much different from the school that I had previously attended or worked. And what we did have, we had to struggle. We had to have strong principals, because there was always that need for that principal to be downtown fighting a battle for the rest of us in order to get the supplies and opportunities that we were entitled to. So kids today just assume that it's a natural thing, but it was a real struggle for us.
CUNNINGHAM:So when you talk about resources, can you be a little bit morespecific (overlapping dialogue)?
WALKER-HARPS: Books, audio-visual materials, even down to sports00:29:00items. It was -- what we had was often hand-me-down or nonexistent. So it was really different. But on the other hand, our children fared much better, because we knew their needs, and we were mommy, nurse, doctor, preacher. We were everything to those children. We didn't just look at teaching them numbers and letters, or what have you. We taught them life skills. We taught them discipline, or how to live in the world, which changed once the schools were integrated. So they benefited. The benefited tremendously from having teachers who looked like them, who knew their parents, who had the same values 00:30:00as their parents, and who took them as their children. You lost that personal touch once the schools were integrated. But see, we could even -- they just gave you -- at that time, black parents just -- they trusted you. Teachers were revered, you might say. There was nothing more important in a community than a teacher and a preacher. We were the top of the cream of the crop. So we set the standards. And we lost this when the schools integrated. Our children lost it.
M1:What's your sense -- and I don't know if you have data, but what's your senseof kids graduating when you had the segregated school versus after schools were integrated?
WALKER-HARPS:It was important. Nobody thought about not graduating from school,not continuing school. You didn't have teenage pregnancy as you have 00:31:00now, because there was a disgrace. You were ostracized if that happened to you. Mommy and Daddy hurriedly got you sent someplace. It was not (before today?), once the schools were integrated and we lost a sense of value of ourselves. This way of life became more acceptable. It's no longer frowned upon. But then, it was. Children wore socks, whereas children wear -- the same age level now wear hose, and tights, and leggings, and whatever. You were a child, and you remained a child. That's what it was about. So to go to school, it was important. I can remember when I was growing up on the farm, there were things that we had to do. My parents would schedule their farm activities around my tests at school. If you were having a test the next day, no matter what they had planned on to do on the farm and needed your help, you did not stay home and work. You 00:32:00went to school. It was a high value of importance. So yes, that's how it was different. You could say to children what you cannot say to them now. They had respect for you as an adult. And even when I came to work as an adult in Griffin, when I encounter the children now, today, who were with me at Fairmont, it is a different mindset. They are always very amenable. No matter what they are doing before I arrive, once I arrive, it's, Oh, Miss Walker -- because that's what I was then. That's what they know me as. Miss Walker. Yes, ma'am. No, ma'am. I can always tell a child who went to Fairmont, because that is their mannerism. No matter how bad they are, they still have that respect for you, because you were their teacher.
M1:Talk a little bit about just social -- how you socialized prior to00:33:00integration. There were -- you were off limits in restaurants.
M1:I often hear about parades that were held here in Griffin with, I guess, thehigh school. What was just the social situation?
WALKER-HARPS:It was phenomenal. (laughs) We looked forward to homecoming,especially our -- any of the games. Now, if you want to get -- bring somebody alive, you mention the Griffin -- you mention the football team or the band. The Fairmont band or the football team for Fairmont, it's still looked upon as being something of class. The majorettes. The whole community was involved when homecoming time came. The sports -- you didn't just have cars riding. 00:34:00We spent days putting together sports. But the joy of working together. Proms were held in the gym, and it was a big deal, because the fun was not necessarily in the dance at the end of the day, but what you did to make the preparations, and the interaction with each other. So as adults, in the adult community, we only had the VFW and the American Legion for social activities. There was a club when I came to Griffin called the Cavaliers, which all of the prominent men were a part of, and as a teacher, you would automatically get invited to the socials that the Cavaliers had, so that was an event to look forward to. Eating, dining out, well, you went to Atlanta that there were permanent -- well, prominent places in Atlanta. But here, we had -- Raymond Head -- well, we had 00:35:00(Triple H?). The Head brothers, Raymond Head, Otis Head, and Phillip Head, had a restaurant. Well, it was not really what you would call today a restaurant, but it was (an eat-in where?) everybody went to -- everybody went there. Then they had little places that you went to pick up stuff. They called them, what, hole-in-the-walls, or whatever, where you went to the back door. You paid the same amount of money, but you did not have the same dignity as others. You had to go to the back door and pick up through this little window, and pick up whatever it was that you ordered. But it was a close-knit community. As I said, you had private parties. We played cards a lot, those persons who played cards, at houses. And you drank your beer, or you did whatever you wanted to do. But social activity centered around, basically, the VFW and the American 00:36:00Legion. What else do you want to know? (laughter)
M1:How did integration come about in Griffin? Was that something that the stateimposed? Was it something that --
WALKER-HARPS:Volunteer. Yeah. We -- the plan was a volunteer plan. And I don'tknow exactly or not, I do have a part of it, but it was not one of those forced kind of things. It was a volunteer. Pressure, of course, because you knew you had to do it. But it was not like they came in and said, this is exactly how you must do it. I can remember when we were working on some kind of plan, and Thelma Davis, who was a very prominent educator, very, very prominent. Everybody knew -- everybody in Griffin and everybody in the state of Georgia knew Thelma Davis. William Walker was my principal. And I had not been going -- I had been going, but I didn't participate really as fully as she thought that I 00:37:00should, and she told -- she went to him and told him that whatever she wanted done, I didn't do it, or I was not performing the way she wanted me to perform. You know what he did? He pulled all of his -- he pulled everybody together. Said, "This is what we're going to do." And put whatever it was that she said she wanted, we put it together. He put it together as a staff. In other words, this is not going to happen to us. You're not going to be able to reflect negatively on any of us, because we will make it happen. He was hard on us. We had to really work. We couldn't say kids couldn't learn. Every child could learn. His expression was always, if a child does not learn, then you are not teaching. (laughs) So nobody wanted to be considered not teaching. He would walk through the hall and say, "What is that you have on the bulletin 00:38:00board? That's not a teaching board." I guess what I'm saying is, the interests of making sure that our children received the best that we possibly could give them at that time, we did. You didn't shuck and jive. You didn't fool around in the classroom. You produced.
CRUICKSHANK:So, now, recently, I mean in the past couple of decades, what haveyou been doing?
WALKER-HARPS:Taking care of everybody's business but mine. (laughter) So tospeak. Very community --
CRUICKSHANK:Now, you're currently head of the NAAC --
WALKER-HARPS:Griffin branch, NAACP.
WALKER-HARPS:And I have been there 20-plus years in a leadership role. I becameactive openly with the NAACP when no other professional in Griffin 00:39:00would dare. It was not the thing that you did, because you could be -- you experience retaliation. You did not do that. But I did. I became not just a card carrying member, but I became the secretary, and I actually ran it for -- well, early in my experience, because the president relied on me to be the secretary and the treasurer, and everything else. And when he was elected to a county commissioner, then that put me officially in charge of it. So others would say, Okay, I'll give you a donation, or I'll take a membership, but nobody knew that they did. I was the only one who was a professional person in Griffin who dared to step out and say, this is who I am, this is what I am, this is what I believe should be the case.
CRUICKSHANK:But now, you're talking about -- you said 20 years ago, so we'retalking, what, '95 or something? 00:40:00
WALKER-HARPS:Well, we're talking beyond -- I may have said 20 years, but beforethat time, I was a member, an active member. Yeah. Before I became leadership, I was --
CRUICKSHANK:So even, what, in the '80s, there was intimidation going on?
WALKER-HARPS:Oh, yes. Yes, if you had a job, you -- there were things that youdid to make sure that nobody had anything on you that could be used against you. You wanted promotions, and you wanted security, and you had to get loans, and whatever. You had to rely on the system, and those of us who did not -- that's why the ministers in our community were so very, very important. The ministers and those persons who were self-supporting, like the insurance men, the service station men, people who survived from our income, we put them -- set them apart, so to speak, so that they were more economically independent. So when 00:41:00we went to jail, then, they could afford to get us out and not have to worry about somebody pulling the rug out from under them, because they were not dependent upon the system.
CRUICKSHANK:So how much have things changed since then? I mean, is there stillany of this?
WALKER-HARPS:Much. Much. The dollar became more important. (laughs)
WALKER-HARPS:Much. And education had a lot to do with it, because even duringthe early days, there were those of us who succeeded. We had Dr. Reliford who is now deceased, graduated and went off to medical school. Well, he came back here, so when I came to Griffin in the '60s, he was my doctor. So we had a few successes. Well, not just a few. Other than athletics. We've always had a good football team. Griffin has been known for its athletic prowess, you might say. But there were lawyers. There were professors. Like I said, Dr. 00:42:00Samuel Dubois Cook, his entire family was a family centered around education. So we survived in spite -- not only did we survive, but we grew. We prospered. The community did not have the same appearance as it has now. The blight and the depravation that we experience now no longer existed. In the same neighborhood where the Rosenwald School is, that was the booming part of the city when I came to Griffin. The more affluent black people lived in that area. The yards were well kept. The houses were well kept. And it was just a more -- the most elite part for black people. And that's why we want to change it. We want to save it, and we're putting a lot of effort into restoring it. But as all the 00:43:00people died, and the younger people inherited or what have you, they had not the same interests. Integration had its good part, but it also had its negative, and that's where the negatives come in. The change in attitude and the lack of self-sufficiency. It was important to my parents that you have a roof over your head that nobody could put you out. It might have been meager, but it was yours. And that you worked. You had good work ethics. Nobody loafed. And we had truant officers. So if you didn't go to school, the truant officer got you. (laughs) So things were really, really different. So separate but equal -- separate and unequal, really, is what it was -- but you knew that you had to 00:44:00survive. And there was a great deal of faith in the black community. People went to church and believed, and that was a sustaining force for our families. You didn't run off and leave your wife and your four or five children to fare for themselves. That was your responsibility. So hard work, the church, all were significant parts of the African American family, at home, as well as here in Griffin.
M1:You mentioned the change in just the appearance, the physical appearance ofthe community. Do you attribute that to those changing values, or are 00:45:00there other...?
WALKER-HARPS:Very much so. The freedom to cross the line, so to speak, and theyounger people growing up with the lack of interest in the preservation of what their parents left. Businesses now, which were thriving businesses at that time, the children have no interest in the family business, so it's dissolved. And I attribute that to changing values that they subscribed to when they went to an integrated school. We had service stations. We had prominent embalmers, funeral home directors, beauty parlors, barbershops. Cleanwell Cleaners was a landmark in Griffin. The (boys?) had gone to Tuskegee, and they were tailors. 00:46:00So people from across color lines brought their clothes to Cleanwell for Raymond Head to alter. That business no longer -- they die. And their children did not see fit to maintain the business, so even the name is gone. So it's a difference. In other words, the need to have your own seems to have disappeared, because now I don't have to have my own. I can go to yours. Which is not such a good thing. Think of the funeral homes for an example. You could not use a white funeral home. There was no choice. Everybody went to the black funeral homes. There were two or three. And they were very prominent families, because, of course, they were dependent upon black bodies, so it didn't matter whether they ruffled the feathers of the establishment, because their income came 00:47:00from the black community. But now, we don't even have a sense of that, because a large number of black families now tend to find a value in going to -- using the white funeral homes, and taking the money out of the community. And that never would have happened in older days. They have no sense of history. That's another reason why it is so important that we do this oral history project, so that they can understand how they got where they are, and the struggles that their parents and grandparents and great-grandparents had to endure, in order for us to create our own, and to establish for ourselves. And to throw it away now is just terrible. It is unbelievable. But here again, there was a technique to that. You don't teach. You don't -- if we don't teach in our community, then it 00:48:00does not get taught, so our children are growing up not knowing. When I moved to the white school, we did not do Black History Month. Of course, the facts about black people were not taught in the textbooks, so you did not take that week or that month to emphasize it. It was not until Mr. (White?) came to our school that we were encouraged to do black history, to do bulletin boards or what have you. But then only black teachers did it. The white teachers did not comply. So if you went to a white teacher, you perhaps did not recognize Black History Month. I had a very, very diverse black collection in the media center. But once I left, the person who came behind me was no longer black, and saw fit to take out all of that stuff and throw it away. And of course, that grieved 00:49:00me, but there was nothing that I could do. Threw it away along with my -- somebody saw fit to throw away my portrait. When I retired, some of my friends and the school did a portrait of me to hang in the media center. Well, I thought I'd go back over there and look at it, and it was not there. It was not there, but nobody could account for where it was, or what had happened to it. But somebody had told me, "Well, your picture will never hang in this media center." And they were right. It never did. And that was (all?) right with me, but I did want it to bring home, but then it was never retrieved.
CRUICKSHANK:Do you see much hope for the future in getting back, you know, theteaching of black history and --
WALKER-HARPS:In this community --00:50:00
CRUICKSHANK:-- proper instruction in the schools?
WALKER-HARPS:In this community, I'm afraid, and I often wonder, and I think ifwe are going to self-destruct. We're doing it to ourselves. We are allowing the privilege. We're taking advantage of the privileges, and we are not assuming any responsibility. We are not accountable for what we are doing. And it has -- my thought is that it has deteriorated our cultural level here in this city, in terms of race, is not what it was at the time -- even during the '60s, even with the segregation. It's just not -- the crime level, the lack of interest in education -- particularly the lack of interest in education is going to make a difference. And as a result, we're going to lose much of what we 00:51:00spent years trying to instill in our young people and build up.
CRUICKSHANK:Surely someone's doing something. I mean, what can be done?
WALKER-HARPS:Well, we are. We are trying to. This is what we're doing here --
WALKER-HARPS:-- now. This is what we're doing with (EPI?), trying to remedy thaton a small scale, as large as we can. But the apathy which exists within the community is of such that it's very difficult. Those who have achieved are not willing to look back and say, this is where I've made it, this is how I've made it, so I'm going to give back. I'm going to be willing to reach down and help somebody else, bring somebody up, and share. That's what happened to me. I didn't make it on my own.
CRUICKSHANK:Do the teachers nowadays in the schools, African American teachers,do they not understand this?
WALKER-HARPS: No, apparently they don't. They retired to be retired,00:52:00and that's the extent of it. They have grandchildren or their lives. And I don't know. They just don't. For some reason or another, we seem to have lost hope.
CRUICKSHANK:Mm-hmmm. Well, I think it's just about time to wrap up for now. Isthere anything else you'd like to mention before we wrap it up?
WALKER-HARPS:No, I think we've covered a lot, and I probably gave you more thanyou wanted, but it was a joy to have had this experience, and thank you so much for inviting me to share my memories.
CRUICKSHANK:Well, I think this is a very good start, and I hope that we can getyou back here again soon to continue the story. So thank you very much for your --
WALKER-HARPS:Thank you, John.
CRUICKSHANK:-- valuable time. I enjoyed talking to you.
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