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DAVID WOLFORD: This is David Wolford. It is the fourteenth of August, 2002. I am sitting here with Ms. Janice Newbern in Fulton, KY. And, uh, we are going to discuss school desegregation and segregated schools in the area. Uh, Ms. Newbern would you just state your name and tell me when you were born and where you grew up.

JANICE NEWBERN: My name is Janice Newbern and I was born, uh, January 18, 1940.

DW: Here in Fulton?

NEWBERN: Here in Fulton. I was born in Fulton and raised in Fulton.

DW: And where did you attend , uh, school as a young child?

NEWBERN: I attended Milton School, grade school. And then for high school I went to Weakley County Training School.

DW: And where is that?

NEWBERN: Martin, TN.

DW: What memories do you have of the Milton School? Can you tell me a little bit 1:00about that school?

NEWBERN: Well, we had a teacher that--- the principal was A.B. Tucker. And he was for integrated schools. And, because the white schools supplied Milton School, the black schools, with all there supplies like basketballs and books, which we'd get the tore up books. And the kids who were kindly smart, she would try to give the best books to them. And, uh, my brother played basketball at Milton School. And they had one time, the, uh, superintendent of th white school sent nothing but basketballs that were flat. You couldn't even bounce them. She 2:00got mad and she left the school, closed the school. And she went up to the white school and demanded that they give her better basketballs for the boys.

DW: How did they respond to that, uh, demand?

NEWBERN: They give her some basketballs. Uh-hmm.

DW: What was the school building like, Milton Elementary?

NEWBERN: It was a brand new school because the first school burned down.

DW: What?

NEWBERN: And they built another one.

DW: Was it, the first one, also known as Milton School?

NEWBERN: Yeah, uh-hmm.

DW: So would you say that the more recent Milton School was as good as a black school in terms of the school building?

NEWBERN: Yes, but…

DW: As good as a white school I mean, I'm sorry.

NEWBERN: No, because like we had one teacher that teached first, second and third, maybe the fourth. And one teacher that teach five, six and seven. And we had the principal and she could teach seventh and eighth grade. So I don't think 3:00so because we didn't have a, a lot of subjects or…I just don't think it was as good as the white school.

DW: Now you're basing that on the teaching schedule or the classes offered…

NEWBERN: Yes, uh-hmm…

DW: Not so much the physical building?

NEWBERN: Because they had to teach more than one grade. They had to teach mathematics or English, uh, they just had to teach the whole thing, those three people.

DW: Was the a…there were three teachers at Milton?

NEWBERN: We had three teachers, maybe four at Milton.

DW: But would you call the building itself a modern building…

NEWBERN: Yeah, it was modern…

DW:…the first time?

NEWBERN: The first, no, no the first room, time it didn't have but three rooms. It had three rooms the first time. And then the school burnt one morning and they built us another school. And it was more, nicer.


DW: Okay. Where did, uh, you know the teachers who taught at Milton Elementary were they from here in Fulton originally?

NEWBERN: One was from Mayfield. The rest of them were from Fulton.

DW: And what kind of a, you know how would you rank these teachers? Did they have teaching degrees?

NEWBERN: Yes, they did have teaching degrees. Miss Suther, she was the principal and she had, uh, more than the rest of them. But the rest of them had to go to school. They would go to school periodically every, when school was out. Hm-hmm. So they were, I think they had teaching degrees.

DW: And what kind of education overall do you think you got at Milton?

NEWBERN: I got a good story. The one of the least, she said nobody would leave school without learning how to write their names, so. But,


DW: When you were at Milton School, or perhaps you were, when you were attending Weakley Training Center over in Martin, uh, did you have an idea for what the white schools looked like on the inside?

NEWBERN: No. Because we never did go in there. We never could go, get to go in the white school. I know they had better basketballs and, books because their books were new and our books were old.

DW: Did you ever attend any sporting events that were held at the white schools back then?


DW: No?

NEWBERN: Uh-uhn.

DW: What kind of relationship do you think, uh, whites and blacks had , uh, in the early fifties in Fulton?

NEWBERN: Not too good.

DW: Explain what you mean.

NEWBERN: Well, when we would walk the street we would be called "nigger" and we would try to beat them up. There is an underpass downtown and sometimes the 6:00white kids would follow us and call us niggers and then when we would go under that underpass we would tell them to go under there and we'd beat them up. And I think that went on before, after, before me. I had an aunt that went to the same school. And, of course, she was older than me, but they used to do the same thing. When they were called niggers. They would get under that viaduct and invite them under there and beat them up.

DW: So there wasn't a great fear, you think, for the, of the white people by the black people? Was there not?

NEWBERN: No. I don't think there was a fear because they, uh, would call us niggers and think they could get away with it until we decided to do something to them.

DW: Was there ever any kind of violence in Fulton?


DW: No. Uh, how about in town, you know, how were things segregated in town?


NEWBERN: Yeah, we had a drugstore that you could not sit in and buy ice cream cones. Which every Sunday we would go, about seven of us, would go into this drugstore and set down. And she said, "Uh, we don't serve niggers here." We'd tell them, "We don't serve them." And we'd keep setting there until she decide, "Well, I'm going to call the police." And until she decided to call the police, and then we would leave.

DW: Would the…

NEWBERN: No, the police would never get there.

DW: If the police had gotten there would that have been a real problem?

NEWBERN: I don't think so. And we had to go in the back doors of different stores, uh, I mean restaurants. Like you couldn't go in and buy a hamburger, you'd have to come to the back door which I never did go. Because I wasn't going to nobody's back door.

DW: Hm-hmm. Uh, do you remember when the Supreme Court made the ruling, you were probably a young teenager. Do you remember when the Supreme Court made the Brown 8:00versus the Board of Education ruling that declared segregation illegal?

NEWBERN: Yes, I remember it vaguely. But I didn't really think about it too much. I remember though, uh, that I thought it was good.

DW: Hm-hmm. How did the black community of Fulton respond to this court ruling, to the Supreme Court ruling?

NEWBERN: They liked it. They said it should have come a long time before.

DW: Was, do you think black people in Fulton were anxious to be integrated with whites and to attend school with whites?

NEWBERN: No. No. Nobody was anxious. They just wanted our schools to be upgraded so they equal with the white schools. We didn't want to attend there because I had a good time at my school. It was all black.

DW: I see. What, after the Supreme Court had ruled, uh, that segregation was unconstitutional. What sorts of attempts to integrate schools occurred in Fulton?


NEWBERN: Well, uh, there was that would keep, uh, trying to get in. But they would turn them down until they just really forced it, you know, upon them.

DW: How did that happen? Like, what, can you describe the attempt by the black students to enroll in Fulton High School?

NEWBERN: No more than they would sit in cars and wait until they could come in because the, the head of the NAACP would leave us in the cars, until they said we could come in. And then if we go in and they, uh, said they could be integrated, but …uh, that's about all. It went, it went smoothly. Hm-hmm.

DW: Do you recall, uh, being take, you know you were talking about the NAACP and 10:00going to the high school, Fulton City High School. Can you describe more what it was like? One of the times where, when that attempt was made and the blacks were denied entrance into the high school?

NEWBERN: Yes, but , we just sat there. I mean, like, we didn't try to force our way in.

DW: Right.

NEWBERN: Uh, about all I can remember on that.

DW: How did the administration, you know the principals or superintendant, respond to…

NEWBERN: They would stand across…

DW:…to local attempts to integrate?

NEWBERN: They would stand across the door. Uh, so they, he could not enter into the building. He would stand across the door. I can see him now, standing across the door.

DW: Who is this that you are talking about?

NEWBERN: Holland. He was the one, the main one.

DW: What's his name?

NEWBERN: Holland.

DW: And, uh, why do you think that he was insistent? This is probably 1955, 56. 11:00Why was he so insistent upon not letting the blacks into the school?

NEWBERN: I just think he didn't want them to integrate.

DW: Do you think that was the community, the white community's preference, or was that his personal preference?

NEWBERN: If so, if so they kept it quiet. But, uh, he was the main one. I guess they felt like he would keep them out, keep blacks out.

DW: Uhm, were your parents involved in the…?

NEWBERN: Yeah, they were in the background. In the background, of the NAACP.

DW: Why do you think they were, uh, supportive of this endeavor? Why do you think they…?

NEWBERN: Because they wanted our schools to be, it wasn't so much that they wanted to be integrated. They just wanted our school to have brand new books. Just bring the school up to date with the white school and we could have all been happy.

DW: Uh, what do you think the position of the teachers, the white teachers, in 12:00Fulton City, were on this question?

NEWBERN: I don't think they wanted to teach black kids. But they didn't have no choice after the, you know, after they passed that law.

DW: Um-hmm. Let's talk a little about Weakley County Training Center, this was the high school you attended in Martin. Can you tell me a little bit about that building?

NEWBERN: It was brand new for one thing. We had new books and, uh… It was, they had, the boys had a nice gym to play sports in . And the teachers were nice. And we just had new books. That was one thing, we had new books. We had a library we could attend, because we couldn't even go into the library here. It 13:00was private.

DW: The public. You're talking about the city library?

NEWBERN: The public library. Yes.

DW: Did Weakley County Training Center serve as an all black school, right?


DW: Did it serve, it obviously served students outside Weakley county …


DW: …because you are from Fulton, KY attending that school. Uh, how far did students travel to go to Weakley County you think?

NEWBERN: Let's see… how far is Dresden from Norton? Dresden, Greenfield.

DW: Are these cities within…?

NEWBERN: Around, within Martin, uh, in a Weakley. They in Weakley County. Hm-hmm. I guess we had them…within 20 miles I would say. Yes.

DW: Did other KY blacks attend this besides those in Fulton? Did blacks come from…/

NEWBERN: Let me see. We might have had, uh, we were all from Fulton. I think 14:00they were all from Fulton. Because before me was, before I went there was…well, South Fulton, that was just right across the line. But…there was other blacks. Maybe a couple from Union City that came to our… I was just 13 miles from Martin.

DW: Now did, did --- I think that I've read that some students here in Fulton KY, some black students actually attended Riverview High over in Hickman…

NEWBERN: Yeah, they did.

DW: Now, why, was this an option? Could you go in either direction back then?

NEWBERN: Yes, you could go either direction. You could ride the raggedy school bus that the whites provided for you to go to Hickman or you could bus, be carried by car to Weakley County Training School. So the bus leaked in it. They 15:00said they had umbrellas in it. I never was on the bus. They said it was very bad.

DW: Is that why you chose to go to Weakley County?

NEWBERN: Yes, hm-hmm.

DW: Did the two schools compare at all? Were they…?

NEWBERN: No. Riverview was a, I think it had about three rooms. And they had a big gym. And that's about it.

DW: Do you know if Riverview High is still standing or not?

NEWBERN: Yes. They made a café out of it. But it still might be standing.

DW: Can you describe your, uh, you know your traveling to Weakley County? How was that done? You say there was a car pool going on?

NEWBERN: There was a car pool. Maybe there was about six or seven cars. We would leave about seven o'clock every morning going to school. And we'd get to Morton about fifteen or twenty minutes after seven according to how fast we'd drive.

DW: And, uh, how many students do you think were going down there from Fulton?


Newbern: Uhm, about twenty.

DW: The Paducah Sun-Democrat printed sometime ago that the Fulton Board of Education paid tuition, transportation for the students who were attending school in Martin. Now is that true?

NEWBERN: No! That is not true. Our parents helped, our parents paid the carpool. Whoever was driving got paid for the gas. Nobody paid nothing.

DW: What about tui…, was there any tuition paid in Weakley?

NEWBERN: No, TN, no, uhn-uh.

DW: That was just free…

NEWBERN: That was free.

DW: You could attend that school for free?

NEWBERN: You could attend that school for free. Hm-hmm.

DW: Okay. Uhm, your brother and some of your friends ended up attending Fulton 17:00City High. You were named as a plaintiff in the lawsuit against the school system. But by the time, it went to court and the judge rendered his decision you were already out of high school.

NEWBERN: I was already out of high school.

DW: You graduated from Weakley County ?


DW: First of all, how did you feel about that?

NEWBERN: Well, I felt good because I had a good time. I had a good high school. It was nice. Whereas I felt sorry for the kids who had to attend Fulton City. Because they had a hard time. And…that's about it.

DW: Can you explain that hard time? I know your brother was a little younger than you and went there.

NEWBERN: Yeah, yes, and they couldn't do anything. And, uh, they had to work hard for their---and, uh, the teachers were prejudice and they would give them--- "A" students, my brother was smart. And he would sometimes get a C and 18:00my parents would go up there to talk to talk to them about that because he was real smart. And they would just do that. They would give the kids that were smart bad grades. And parents would constantly go up there to check on their children. Was, we have to check on them now. It's integrated but we still check…to see if the teachers are treating them right.

DW: How did the other students respond to those blacks coming to Fulton High School?

NEWBERN: How did the…?

DW: The white students, how did they respond?

NEWBERN; They weren't nice at all. They called them "nigger." And, uh, they used that "n" word all the time. And my brother would chase one around the room. If he'd a, got his hands on him he says he would have killed him. But they just a had a hard time. It wasn't pleasant.

DW: And uh, you were discussing that there is still some concern for this today. 19:00You know, how would you describe relations between blacks and whites in modern times?

NEWBERN: Oh, it's great. All the white women have black men. We have lots of half-breeds here. I mean lots of white half-breeds.

DW: And that's accepted by the community?

NEWBERN: That's accepted by the community.

DW: Has it been for some time, you think?

NEWBERN: Yes, it's been accepted for some time. I think we have more than---all the little towns around here have them--- but I think we have more in Fulton.

DW: And that's, I think that is, that's a good sign of a, that it's okay.

NEWBERN: Yeah, um-hmm. Some of them are marrying them, but some of them are just having babies by them. And so they, we have a lot of white half babies.

DW: In closing would you like to make any final remarks about this experience? Or…


NEWBERN: Well, I hate because I missed that experience to go to the white school. Because I, I do have a temper and I probably would have got expelled for fighting. But…I missed that part, but I think I would have learned more there. Because, like I said, Weakley County was a nice school, but… things that the kids have today up at white school, I did not have. Like new math, modern math, we didn't have that. We just had ole plain Algebra or whatever. And arithmetic and you know…the teachers weren't…well, maybe they weren't qualified now I can say maybe up-to-date with the white teachers. But they offered more. But if they had just brought our school up we would have never wanted to integrate. They didn't bring our school up.

DW: So it was really more a result of the inequality….



DW: …more than a desire to attend with whites? I see.

NEWBERN: Yes, there was no desire to attend with whites.

DW: Did uhm, your parents ever receive, or you know any parents or families involved with that lawsuit, did they ever receive any pressure from the white community to cease the lawsuit?

NEWBERN: No, they didn't bother . No. Hm-hmm.

DW: Well, thanks a lot. I appreciate it.