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  Martinsville High School Alumni
Class of 1970 Reply  |   Post Message  |   Message List
Race Relations at Mavahi in '70, '71 & '72 - 17
09/26/06     Anne (Dunn) Causey  (1972)      Adcinsc@aol.com
Hi Guys -

As you can see by the title, I need some input. I am on a message board that deals with Race Relations, Improving Race Relations and Avoiding Stereotypes - Share Positive Solutions for Resolution. Needless to say, there are many on there from all walks of life, all ages, all races, and a lot of racial slurs, bigotry, etc. which pretty much defeats the whole point of the board. DUH! After posting on there for almost 4 years, I've been pretty much told that "my view" of my growing up years, more specifically, integration and how our classes and educators handled it, is either a downright lie, or I lived in a bubble.

WITH THAT SAID, I'll offer my memories, and would ask that others, from all races, offer theirs. If I lived in a bubble, or am definitely a "true blonde", then please, I need your input.

What I remember most about the Fall of '68, was things changed for all of us and a lot of compromise. The old MHS kept the football/basketball team name, and the new Mavahi changed the school colors to Albert Harris'. At the Cleveland MHS, we could have a JV Football & Basketball team, but were told there would be no cheerleaders. I remember Paula Seagraves, Ann Shank, Kay Helms and quite a few others talking with Mr. Cumberledge and wanting to know why. We were told that a lot of changing was going on, and they didn't want to upset the apple cart anymore than necessary (a nicer way of saying that if too many white girls got on the squad, the black girls would get made, and vice versa). Although these weren't the exact words, but the educators were told "Give us a chance, and we'll prove you wrong." They did, and we did! I remember we were allowed a Homecoming Court, but NO Homecoming Queen - same reasons. If I'm not mistaken, it wasn't until the Class of '72 that we finally had our first Homecoming Queens. It seems we were always so busy fighting the "system" (i.e. educators, school board, etc.), that it formed a bond of sorts between the races - we had a common goal.

In all my years at Mavahi, I never recall a fight between a black guy and a white guy. I remember one almost happened outside of the library in '72, and Mr. Finley walked between the two guys and said, "This isn't going happen, now get to class.", and we all scattered like mice. LOL That's not to say that one couldn't have started in the boys locker room - but I wouldn't have been privy to that. I don't ever remember people calling each other racial slurs.

NOW, all these years later, racism and bigotry seems to be more alive than ever (at least on that board I referred to), and I'm sitting here scratching my head wondering what in the world happened . . . or was I simply very naive. So I'm back to - what were your memories or recollections during those years? I really would like different perspectives. I'm posting this same question on the Class of '70, '71 and '72 message boards, inasmuch as we all were there around the same time. Thanks ahead of time.
10/09/06     Denny Wade  (1969)      dwcamper@yahoo.com
Re: Race Relations at Mavahi in '70, '71 & '72
Rehashing events of over 30 years ago?! There is not a definitive answer to your question - everybody sees it differently, and they all would be right from their point of view. Any further schlorship on the subject is a waste of time.
10/17/06     Anne Causey  (1972)      Adcinsc@aol.com
Re: Race Relations at Mavahi in '70, '71 & '72
No . . . I wasn't saying the way I saw it was the right way. That was the purpose of asking. My point wasn't to rehash. I'm actually working on a paper of race relations in the late 60's, early 70's compared to today. There is change, positive and negative, but I wanted the paper to reflect more than one opinion in order to get a more accurate picture. But thanks for your response.
07/28/07     Gael Marshall Chaney  (1970)      gmchaney@sitestar.net
Re: Race Relations at Mavahi in '70, '71 & '72
I speak from the perspective of someone who was a white student in 1968-70 and now a long-time resident of Martinsville-Henry County. Martinsville High School's integration may very well have been unique. I found out many years later that there were community leaders on both sides, black and white, who worked very hard behind the scenes to make sure racial violence stayed out of the picture when the schools integrated.

I remember very well the junior class elections in 1968 (class of 1970). For each of the four offices there were three white candidates and one black. Everyone anticipated that the black candidates would win because the white vote would be split, but no one could persuade any of the white candidates to drop out of the race. When the black students were elected, the juniors all seemed to take it in stride, saying, "Well, we knew that's what would happen." The only complaints came from parents and others outside the school, but the students knew the outcome was fair.

I remember the band being upset that we couldn't have our traditional end-of-the-year picnic at Fairystone State Park. We were told that the administration was not worried about problems from the students but about problems when outsiders saw a racially mixed group on an outing.

It was hard for me to believe this but, when I helped chaperone my daughter's Carlisle School class field trip to the Barrier Island education center in South Carolina in the late 1990s, our racially mixed group of students was subjected to some racial slurs by some students from a South Carolina school visiting at the same time. The Carlisle teacher leading our group went to that class later and talked to them about how wrong they were to do such a thing. We were all, even the students, very proud of him. Martinsville-Henry County has been blessed over the years to have citizens who have really worked for good race relations in our community. Things aren't perfect, but they're better than in other parts of the south.
07/28/07     Anne Dunn Causey  (1972)      Adcinsc@aol.com
Re: Race Relations at Mavahi in '70, '71 & '72
Gael -

Gael Marshall as in "We skipped and went to Rumley's and got caught"??? LOL

I didn't know you were still living in Martinsville. Small world. Anyways, thanks for your input. If you guys had a look into the message board I'm posting on - you'd think the town I grew up in was Camelot, compared to how some have viewed my comments as outright lieds.

Oh well . . . good to hear from you.
09/22/08     Rittler Strachan  (1969)      rittler299@yahoo.com
Re: Race Relations at Mavahi in '70, '71 & '72
Well obviously I am a little late with this as I have just discovered it..People are confused about the interaction of different races..It is not hate based ..but fear based..Anybody who is a bigot has unreconciled fear..Their daddys had fear; they have fear..Its sign of weakness and I would not wish to live in their world. I was,of course,in the original integrated class in 69. As a child I had fear that translated into competativeness with the black kids and I and others restrained their ability to intergrate themselves into the mainstream in M'ville..Then came the senior year at MAVAHI and I discovered how lovely and wonderful all the Albert Harris kids were and I privately felt shame for any thoughts or actions that I ever represented in the name of interfering with the opportunity of anybody wishing to be more. Anybody I had respect for felt the same.Personally I thought that the whole project was a smashing success.I witnessed a fraction of the friction everyone predicted.Yes bigotry is alive and well. Here in S. Texas there is an undercurrent of dislike of "mexicans". Same stuff..Nobody wants to share their piece of the pie..especially to those of color.Its selfishness..its poor upbringing..its dishonesty..its whats behind bigotry..I dont trust bigots..or zealots..If one wants another piece of pie..try humble pie..You will grow faster and with a better foundation..Get over the delusion that the world owes you more than another..Love thy neighbor..On the other side of the coin..there are no longer clan members on the streets of Martinsville..there is progress...preserve the victories..strive for more..
11/16/08     Dawn Chappell Shank  (1969)      dshank51@msn.com
Re: Race Relations at Mavahi in '70, '71 & '72
Ritt told me about this discussion. Interesting that I should reply a few weeks after voting for the first "black" president of the US. As Ritt said, we were the first integrated class at the "new" high school in 1969. I made lots of new friends who had attended Albert Harris and especially enjoyed choir. One thing that I remember was meeting with a group of students from both schools the summer before at Mr. Harolds house. Those were life changing sessions and one reason there was a smooth transition.

What disturbs me 40 years later is that those ties for that single year unraveled. When we had our first class reunion, members of the class of 69 of both races attended. The next one, there were fewer blacks. At our 25th, 30th and 35th there were none. It may have been where we had them....at Forest Park, which was probably stupid on our part, but we didn't even think about the history behind all that....I've heard that the members of our class that went to Albert Harris have their own reunion and I don't blame them, but it makes me sad. I miss Cora, Pat, Joe, Gloria... I have old addresses for them and I plan to send them invitations to our upcoming 40th reunion. I hope some of them come or let me know what they're doing now.

Another memory I have is someone asking me out on a date. I can't even remember his name, but when I asked my mother what she thought about me dating a black guy, she said, "Would you go out with him if he was white?" I said no. She asked why I even asked then. My daughter dated a wonderful African American young man when she was in college. He invited us to attend a Christmas program at the church where is father was the minister -- a large church in Hampton close to Hampton University where his mother worked. We went. It was wonderful and people were welcoming, but I felt as students who entered Mavahi in 1969 must have felt. Out of place.

My father was one of two white students at an all black university during the early days of the Civil Rights Movement. When I think back to what that must have been like, it amazes and inspires me.

I remember when my son was in kindergarten. His two best friends were black. He talked about them all the time, but I had never seen them. One of the boys' mothers called me to invite him over to play. When I arrived at their house, his mother told me laughing that when she hung up the phone(knowing after she heard my voice that I was white), she commented to her son that he hadn't told her that Jon wasn't black. His comment was, "Well, he was yesterday." I think that color-blindness is what it's all about.
12/08/08     Joseph P Davis  (1970)      JLKISS@MSN.COM
Re: Race Relations at Mavahi in '70, '71 & '72
What I remember about these first two years at the new high school were the assemblies. The White kids would line up on one side to march in and the Black ones on the other side to march in.

Also, the co principals, Ralph Shank Sr. and Joe Finley. They were both fair to all. They would bust a white or black kids head just as quickly no matter which one of them was doing the busting.
12/22/08     Carol Cochran Beavers      carolscakes69@live.com
Re: Race Relations at Mavahi in '70, '71 & '72
I didn't know about this until Dawn Shank put it on the 69 messages. I'll tell you what I told Dawn. I don't remember there being any problems. I made many new friends from Carver when we combined the two schools and when we see each other we still talk about the class of '69 and about our lives today. If GOD doesn't see a difference why should we.If the color of ones skin makes us different then GOD would not have created us all equal. As far as I know we all have a head, 2 ears, 2 eyes, a nose and all the other body parts that make us human and if whites hate blacks so much why do we try to tan either in the sun or in tanning beds. There are always going to be good and bad people in all races, not because of their skin color but because they choose to be that way.If the Goverment would stay out of this and just have AMERICANS not Irish Americans or Black Americans or what ever other names people are called. If you live in America or were born somewhere else and come here and get your citizenship YOU ARE AN AMERICAN and one of GOD's Children and that's all that should matter. Thank you for letting me on my soapbox.
12/22/08     Anne  (1972)      Adcinsc@aol.com
Re: Race Relations at Mavahi in '70, '71 & '72
ROFL at Carol and her soapbox! LOL I've noticed that few black guys from any of my classes responded publicly, which leads me to believe there was more tension than many of us whites (myself included) thought. Maybe our view is more sheltered (I think someone said that earlier about me - and that much I do know is true, although I don't think my Dad sheltered me from racial issues). I have noticed that what doesn't seem like a big deal to whites, is a bigger deal to blacks. I didn't know about the Martinsville Seven. I doubt many white kids from our era did (who weren't born in Martinsville).
Guess I'll go back to the bubble I lived in LOL.

Merry Christmas to all . . . can't wait for a reunion . . . but guys . . . give me at least a years notice to go on a strict diet! LOL
Blessings to all
08/21/09     Rittler Strachan  (1969)      rittler299@yahoo.com
Re: Race Relations at Mavahi in '70, '71 & '72
Right next to my picture in the class annual is Hobart Strong..In all my travels I've not yet met a finer young man than I remember Hobart to be..I hope and pray that my classmate will find his way to the reunion this fall. I absolutely have no idea what it is like to be a minority(except being one of 3 male nurses in Tidewater,VA) and I have no idea that the young black men that I attended high school with were under such duress due to the intergration..Of course they were but I never ever heard one word spoken to me by a black student that this was precieved by them to be so intensely difficult. They must have been very brave to keep that game face on during those times. I was not a very threatening fellow so I certainly did not bring out the angst in people other than of course the teachers and principles! Still people,I have traveled far and wide in this country and have a deep experiance in the human condition and I want all of you ,white and black and rich and poor, to commend yourselves on making that project go as well there as any group anywhere could possibly boast. I could not possibly more strongly agree that the greatest debt by all of us is due to Mr Finley and Mr Ivey for forging a great peace in the great experiment. And I can only wonder where in Gods name they came up with the courage and wisdom to pull it all off..
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