DOVE is gathering personal stories about desegregation in Virginia. The day of our “School Desegregation: Learn, Preserve and Empower” in Melfa Va, Evelyn (Ames) Molder sent us this email:
Desegregation as I saw it in 1968 at Capeville Elementary School in Townsend Va. I was 9 years old at the time.
In fourth grade, the wheels of desegregation began. I’d heard family talk about it but I did not know what it meant so I just went about my business. When the day came, I was frightened by some of the white people who felt they were being punished in some fashion for having to bring their kids to this black school. That morning after getting off the bus to school there were station wagons everywhere with big white women on bullhorns calling us niggers and were just mad because their kids had to attend school with us. I was really confused because my parents never spoke that way about anybody I knew. Maybe it was because we were not around white people that much. All I felt was confusion. The police came and dispersed the crowd and school went on as usual. The thing that really got me thinking about how bad this would be was one day when I was on the swings and a white girl was on the one next to me. My mother had done my hair in a bun which meant that a lot of hair pins were there to stop my hair from falling. The girl asked me who put all those nigger pins in my hair. At first I said nothing because I really didn’t know how to react. Was it an insult? So she kept repeating it. I finally got sick of it and punched her off the swing. She ran crying to the principal’s office and even after explaining what happened I was kept after school and she waved good-bye to me while boarding the bus to go home. This type of treatment continued because no one wanted to take on the white parents of the kids causing the problems. I am thankful to the man who was raised with my mother who was a janitor at the school. He left work early and took me home. He said he didn’t want to upset my father who would have hit the roof. Not angry at me but at Mr. Arnold the principle of the school who made me stay after school. He was right. My dad would have gone to his home that night and punched him out. This incident was not the only time that black kids were suffering because of the problems that the white kids would start. Many kids suffered from the teachers as well.
There were many white kids who were very kind and did not disrespect the black kids. Many of those who had physical problems were treated badly by the white kids as well. They were mostly my friends. At that time in school there were bullies who chose not to associate with me as well. So us cast outs played together and talked over our problems. All we had was each other.
It wasn’t easy.