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0:00 - Introduction / Growing up

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Partial Transcript: Tamara Kennelly: This is March 27th, 1999. My name is Tamara Kennelly and I’m here with Marva LeJeune Felder Carter Davis. We’re over at Virginia Tech in the media building.

4:35 - Switching from Richmond to Chesterfield County School System

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Partial Transcript: Kennelly: Now I'm not familiar with Chester. Is that a city?
Davis: It's a city. It's between Richmond and Petersburg Virginia. It's about 20 minutes south of Richmond.

11:13 - Teachers pushing students to be successful

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Partial Transcript: Davis: I had a few teachers who also challenged me and the Chester school system. And if you really, really got on my bad side as a teacher, that made me do even better.

16:13 - Social life in high school

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Partial Transcript: Kennelly: Well what about, you know, sixth grade is kind of when, maybe it starts earlier, but especially, you know, boy, girl things at parties and all that a kid would think, were you included in the social life with your, when you were in that, those ages prior to high school?

21:13 - Housing discrimination in Blacksburg

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Partial Transcript: Kennelly: When did it smack you in the face?
Davis: Umm... (pause) It was my junior year in Vet school.

24:03 - Racial & socioeconomic differences in Savannah Georgia

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Partial Transcript: Davis:'86. Going into '87. From there, racism slapped me in the face when I was living in Savannah, Georgia.
Kennelly: What happened there?

29:56 - Family social life influencing their children

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Partial Transcript: Kennelly: So what about your family's social life? What did that revolve around? Did you have... Did your parents have black and white friends?
Davis: Yes.

32:30 - Choosing to come to VT

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Partial Transcript: Kennelly: Why did you, when you came to Virginia Tech in 1979, why did you choose to come here?
Davis: Truthfully, I wanted,... There were two sides to the story that all kind of came together, and I tell them both.

38:17 - Racial climate at VT

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Partial Transcript: Kennelly: What was the racial climate at Virginia Tech when you were here?
Davis: There was an effort in--Calvin Jamison and Glen Valentine were instrumental in trying to make blacks students feel at home and very welcomed here.

42:57 - Roommates on campus

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Partial Transcript: Kennelly: Was your, were your roommates white or black?
Davis: My roommates were white.

46:19 - Receiving scholarships to come to VT

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Partial Transcript: Kennelly: Did you have scholarships here?
Davis: Yes. My first two years I had--if I recall correctly--I really left that to my parents. If I recall correctly, I had a partial scholarship from Tech the first year.

46:59 - Involvement in campus organizations

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Partial Transcript: Kennelly: You were involved with the Black Student Alliance when you were at Tech.
Davis: Yes.

Keywords: Black Student Alliance, Commission of Student Affairs, Budget Committee

48:32 - Separation by choice

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Partial Transcript: Kennelly: When you were a student, did the black students tend to sit together in the cafeteria or in the student union or did they...? Was it...?

51:39 - Homecoming Queen

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Partial Transcript: Kennelly: You were--you were chosen to be homecoming queen at Tech and, when you were here, and that would have been your senior year?
Davis: Right.

73:25 - Black is beautiful

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Partial Transcript: Kennelly: I wondered about... I'm not sure exactly how to ask the question, but I was kind of before the interview, I was thinking when the slogan like 'black was beautiful' got started.

77:42 - Coexisting / Seeing beyond color

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Partial Transcript: Kennelly: I think when you were a candidate, from what the yearbook says, you were the Black Student Alliance and the NAACP, kind of a joint candidate.
Davis: Yes.

84:13 - Being in the public eye

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Partial Transcript: Kennelly: So did you ever date any white guys?
Davis: Sure. I sure did. Umm, while I was in college here.

87:12 - Calvin Jamison & Overton Johnson as mentors

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Partial Transcript: Kennelly: When you were here, did you feel umm, it sounded like, when you mentioned Calvin Jamison came and spoke with you, was there mentoring with your professors? Did you have...


Tamara Kennelly: Where are you from?

Marva Lajeune Felder: I'm from Chester, Virginia.

Kennelly: And that's where you grew up?

Davis: Grew up in Chester, Virginia. Little bit of a military brat. Spent a little bit of time overseas as a very young child, but grew up in Chester, Virginia, the majority.

Kennelly: So your father was in the military?

Davis: Yes.

Kennelly: And where did you go over seas?

Davis: Germany.

Kennelly: What age was that?

Davis: Very young. I was, I left Germany at about three and a half.

Kennelly: That's really young.

Davis: Really young. Lot of memories still.

Kennelly: Memories of that? Like what kind of memories?

Davis: I remember my first bike ride without the training wheels. I remember my 1:00fall and the scar that I still have on my knee because of it on the first bike ride without the training wheels. I remember the apartment that we used to live in. We had a couple of German nannies that sat for us while my parents went to work. The playground that was behind the apartment complex that we lived in.

I remember my mother being pregnant with my younger sister, and going into the grocery store and how wide she was and just remembering she was full of baby.

I remember, I have a burn scar on my arm because I was toddling in places I wasn't supposed to, and the nanny went in the kitchen to do something and she had been outside in the family room ironing and watching me watch TV, and she went into the kitchen to get something, and I walked over to the ironing board which was, at that time seemed to be ten feet higher than me, and I lifted my arm on top the ironing board and was moving it around, and the iron fell on my arm, and I have a nice little iron scar that you can still see if look real close, but a lot of little memories.

We traveled to other countries, and I remember going into a market and buying our dutch shoes we wore around as kids. I used to carry a blanket around as my pacifier. And as we traveled on the express way in Germany, I lost one of my 2:00blankets there. Just little things.

Kennelly: That's a lot to remember. [Laughing by both]. Riding a bike without training wheels!

Davis: Yeah!

Kennelly: That's remarkable!

Davis: My dad had a white Ford, and he was out washing the car, and I had my bike with training wheels, and I asked if he would take the training wheels off, and he did, and he--you know how parents run with you down the side for a little bit--and I was riding the bike, and he let go of me, and I went a little bit further, fell down and scarred my knee. Got up and did it again! [Laughing]

Kennelly: Now you said you were an only child?

Davis: No, I'm one of four. My mother, I still have a younger sister also.

Kennelly: Four. Where are you in the family?

Davis: I'm the fourth of five.


Kennelly: And the fourth of five. Are they girls or boys?

Davis: All girls. No boys.

Kennelly: So, did your father stay in the military?

Davis: Yes. He did twenty years in the military. He--I believe he got out in 68, after he did his, he did a year tour in Vietnam and came back and retired after twenty years.

Kennelly: And what about your mother?

Davis: My mother was director of social work at the medical college of Virginia for twenty--well she was there as a social worker for 20 plus years, and the majority of it she was the director of social work.

Kennelly: So, when you grew up, you had a working mom, so she was working when you were--

Davis: Oh yes. I had working parents. My grandfather was a practicing physician, My grandmother, before I knew her was a librarian, and she worked in the office, my grandfather's office for the years that I knew her growing up, so everybody worked.

Kennelly: It's been so many, it sounds like in your family, I mean, education was..

Davis: Very important.

Kennelly: --very important, not starting with your generation but starting back.


Davis: That's correct. That's correct. My dad went to college. My mother, my dad's a Tuskegee graduate. My mother is a Fisk University graduate. My grandfather graduated from Harry Medical School. My grandmother graduated from Virginia State.

Kennelly: Now I'm not familiar with Chester. Is that a city?

Davis: It's a city. It's between Richmond and Petersburg Virginia. It's about 20 minutes south of Richmond.

Kennelly: And was that, when you were growing up, was that a well integrated place?

Davis: No, (pause) somewhat integrated, but not well integrated. It wasn't 50/50 at all. The student population in my junior high school and high school was maybe 20 percent black.

Kennelly: So how was that for you growing up?


Davis: A pleasant change, actually. Grew up in the Richmond public schools up until the middle of sixth grade, and that was a predominately black school, and then transferred to Chester, Virginia and finished my, from the sixth grade through graduation, through the 12th grade in Chester. It was a very big difference.

I told people my experiences in the Richmond schools at that time was.. not very pleasant. I had a lot of friends. I never felt like I really was challenged to learn in the Richmond public schools at that time. I don't recall, I don't recall studying at any point. My grades were okay. I had some very good teachers, and I remember some teachers challenging me a lot, but also I remember 6:00just not, it was, to go to school, not really to take, I don't remember bringing home homework to have to do.

Everything was done in the classroom. My science teacher was my math teacher, and our science class we had maybe twice a week where the math teacher would clear the front, put out long tables with the flasks and the burners and each flask had different colors, and you'd mix these two colors and poof! you know something would minorly blow up, and that was your science experiments.

Then I moved out to the Chesterfield County school system and had a very hard time my first grading period. My grades were very poor, especially in math. I was in the sixth grade, the middle of the sixth grade. My science grades were very poor. We went from that flask experience to learning definitions, memorizing scientific definition and so forth, and the concept of, that meant I really had to go home and study which was incredibly new to me. I was in a 7:00foreign language class, was taking French, and again I would have to go home and study was a foreign event for me. So my first semester, my first grading period, my grades were not that good. I learned how to math, my science teacher in Chester was very good in understanding and talked with my parents.

I wasn't on my best behavior when I was there because I, I was the only African-American in my class at that time. I didn't have very many friends. Everything was a little bit different, but I enjoyed it because I had another atmosphere at the same time.

When I was in the Richmond public schools, I had friends and I had people that 8:00didn't like me because I was attractive, or not that I thought I was, but that the guys thought I was, and I had people who because I had nice clothes, or what they considered nice clothes, my parents were perceived as being rich, so I was the pretty little rich kid with long hair which was enough for a lot of people to not like me or not want to like me or want to get to know me, so there were always those conflicts in the Richmond public schools. I moved out to Chester, and I never really had a problem with race, but I never had a problem with being a guy's friend and not having a girl care that he was a friend and only a friend, you know someone to talk to.

I, it's just the experience was very different, I learned how to study when I got into the county school systems. I had to learn how to study. And I remember in the Richmond public schools, which was predominantly black at that time, I remember learning my first, my first learning experience was I had two or three white students that came out of the private school into my classroom, and they 9:00were incredibly smart to me. They didn't have to study. They knew the answers. They got straight A's without even trying. And I equated at that early age that the reason for that was because they went to private school. And so from that age, which was very young, I always said my kids would go to private school 'cause that's where you really learn how to learn. They learned how to study and what things were important at that time, and I kept that opinion even up through college as a matter fact, and it didn't change until I was married and had moved to another area and learned that it isn't the school, it's the principal or how 10:00the principals run the schools. It's the superintendent and what there requirements are for curriculum and board members and so forth. And then down to the teacher themselves and what their expectations are going to be of the students.

But the Chester public schools--I befriended a white girl in the eighth grade, ninth grade who was considered a geek because she was very smart and got all A's, and we were put together in a science class to do a science project, and I thought that was going to be the worst experience of my life [laughing], and we did the science project together, and I got to know her, and she was a wonderful person. We were best friends all through high school and into college. We've lost touch since.

But she and that experience took me from a C average student to a B+ and A student from the ninth grade on. I learned to study. She became a positive means of competition to me to see who could get the better grade, and that, that was 11:00my drive in studying, not just to make good grades, but to get me into the habit of studying and learning to study. It was, she was my competition. She was a straight A student, and it was I can do this too. And I carried it on from there.

I had a few teachers who also challenged me and the Chester school system. And if you really, really got on my bad side as a teacher, that made me do even better. I had one teacher walk into my classroom and tell all of us there was no way we could get an A out of her class. Boom! That was all I needed. That was my drive.

Kennelly: That's what you mean getting on your bad side?

Davis: Yes. Yeah. Yeah. And that was, that was my drive. And when I, she would deliberate, she was an English teacher ,and English was not my forte. Math I enjoyed better. Science was an incredible challenge. I was always bored with basic science, but as I got into the higher science levels I really enjoyed 12:00that. When she walked in and told us there was no way we could get an A, especially on this one particular exam, and I remember slumping down in my seat and saying, "You watch." [Laughing by both].

And unfortunately the topic was--we were studying the writings of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, probably for me then the boringest subjects in the world, and I remember going home and just sitting down on my bed and saying, okay now what? We're studying Washington and his writings, studying Jefferson and his writings, what is she going to want to know about? This test--because part of it was multiple choice and part of it was essay, and what is this essay going to be about?

And something, I don't know where it came from, but I did open up both of those books and thinking about what we had gone through in class and said okay, hmm, let's contrast the writings of Washington and Jefferson. What are some of the 13:00difference here? Don't ask me where that thought came from, but I was determined to get this A, and I needed every angle that I could come up from, and I started listing, just writing down, doing some comparisons between the two--comparisons. Guess what my essay question was?

Kennelly: Oh my God! [Laughing]

Davis: Compare and contrast the writings of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. I said thank you, Lord! [Laughing]. I sat down and I didn't stop until that, that page--it was supposed to be a two page essay--it was done. I went back, proofread it, dotted all the i's, crossed every t, made sure every period's where it was supposed to be, every comma where it was most appropriate.

Came back later on that afternoon, and said, I can't, I can't remember the teacher's name at this point, but it's okay. You've got the grades right? Can 14:00you tell me what I've made? She looked and she says, 'Well you missed one.'

Okay, can I see my paper? So she showed me the paper. And I said umm, okay. She found some little grammatical error and she took off 3 or 4 points. And I said okay, I missed one. But this is still an A isn't it! That's all I want to know! This is an A! And I gave her the paper back and said, "I thought you said no one would do it. Have a nice day." [Laughing] And left

Kennelly: Did she save face?

Davis: No. You know what? She was not a bad teacher. I think that was her way to drive some of us, and I didn't even really realize then that that was, to tell me I can't do something was as motivating as it actually was. I really looked at it more from a high school mentality. Don't tell me what I can do. And it was more personality conflict over that issue, more than I'm going to prove you wrong. I never, until I got into college and got a little bit older, looked at 15:00it as her way of driving us to accomplish something.

She was the first person that taught me ignorant was, the definition of ignorant, because she came to the classroom and would tell us that we were ignorant frequently, and I was offended by that as were a lot of other people, and when she confronted with that we had to look up the definition of ignorance. It was not necessarily defined, nor could I could actually take it that way anymore as being dumb or as being derogatory, it is something that you don't know. To be ignorant is something that you don't know or that you don't 16:00understand. It does not explain why. Its just that you don't know. And she trying to teach us. And when I looked at it from that perspective, I said okay, I still don't like to be called ignorant [Laughing], but yeah, you're right. There are some things I don't know. That's why I'm here.

Kennelly: Well what about, you know, sixth grade is kind of when, maybe it starts earlier, but especially, you know, boy, girl things at parties and all that a kid would think, were you included in the social life with your, when you were in that, those ages prior to high school?

Davis: I had a lot of friends. I was not really included in a lot of social activities. I was, and I wasn't. I consider myself somewhat outgoing and talkative. I guess I've never been a shy person. But I had a very select group of friends that I did things with. I really only had three good friends in high school. It was a very cliquish environment.

I was the only black student in most of my classes. My girlfriend from the ninth 17:00grade, Naesha, was my best friend. I had another black girl that had, she and I became very good friends, Denise. And then a guy, he and I grew up like brothers from high school on. He was James. And James and I did everything together. Naesha and Denise would be in some different classes. James was in a few other classes. A lot of times I was the only black student in my classes. But in terms of extra-curricular activities, we did them based on what we were all doing. It was basically three of the four of us that would hang out together, but James and I did everything together.

So much so that we were always considered for the homecoming king and queen. We 18:00said you can't do that because we're not a couple. We're just together. We're just excellent friends. We're brothers and sisters. Our name got on the ballot every time [laughing] because no one could believe I guess that we were that close a friend and not really have that type of relationship.

And I didn't really have, I had some guys that I dated. I never really dated anyone in my school. Even here, I never really dated anyone in my school. That was too close. I never liked a lot of people in my personal business. But it was nice that I had a lot of white friends. We, just as friends, just socialize with during the day and talk to. Some of us, I never really, we never really went out. And I never looked at it as a racial problem or anything. It was just that I was more into my true friends, and we all did things together--went to concerts, do sleep-overs, things like that. But I didn't really go out a whole lot when I was in school. I was more of a homebody, just by choice for the most part.

Kennelly: Was James African-American?

Davis: Yes, he was African-American.

Kennelly: So, did you go to the school dances and things when you were in school?

Davis: With James.

Kennelly: With James. And you got nominated to be the..

Davis: Well yes, but we always cast it aside. We always declined because it was 19:00a couple situation, and it was meant for couples that were going together, and that's not the relationship that we had. We went to the junior and senior prom together. He was a football player. So we always go to the games and cheer him, you know, things like that. We would attend the activities, or I would go by myself, or Naesha and I would go. We'd all meet there for school activities and have a good time. That was about the extent of it.

Kennelly: And was that, was it in your high school, was that considered sort of groundbreaking, that you guys would be even, you know, that they would want you to run for homecoming king and queen? Where you the first African-American couple even though you weren't a couple that was..

Davis: Considered?

Kennelly:--considered for that?

Davis: To my knowledge I think so, but race was never an issue in my life. I knew about it, I know it existed, I knew racism existed, but I, I guess you, to a large extent I was taught to cast that aside and move on. So I presume that a 20:00lot of racial connotations or comments that might have been there that I heard just-- and I kept right on going which probably aggravated a lot of people who would have said them with intent to hurt.

But I wasn't confronted with racism actually till I got to Tech. I was in Vet school, and it smacked me in the face kind of hard. But we all just there, we were all just friends. I imagine that there were children who were raised not to like blacks. Well they weren't around me when I was in school, because they chose not be around me. We never had racial confrontations or anything in my school.

Kennelly: When did it smack you in the face?

Davis: Umm-- (pause) It was my junior year in Vet school. My roommate and I, who 21:00was black, had decided not to stay in Fox Ridge anymore but to look for another apartment because we were doing our fourth year rotations and were weren't going to be in Blacksburg the entire time, so maybe we could find something a little less expensive and not do a full year's lease. So I looked in the ads, and we found one. Perfect location. Close to school. The rent rate and size and everything seemed to be okay.

And I made a phone call to the agent. Which was.. we talked and I had references and so forth, and she asked all the basic questions, and everything sounded okay to her. I asked all the basic questions, and everything sounded okay to me. The next step was arrange to see the place. And she said well I don't see any 22:00problem at all. Come by, and lets, you know, we'll take you by there and have a look at it, and we can sign the contract and go from there. I said great. I don't see a problem at all unless they have a problem with me being black. And I really just said that to say it , and she stopped, and she said well actually the owner does have a problem. She doesn't want to rent it to anyone black. Well , I said excuse me. And she says it not my preference at all, but the owner did state that she does not want to rent it to a black person at all. And I was like, well okay, I guess that is a problem.

And I hung up, and I was a little set back from it. And then I got really angry. And then I got even angrier because the real estate was working for a prominent, well-known real estate agency, and I thought it was completely unethical for her 23:00to even have the property to try to rent out to someone. And I was a hairs breathe away from pursuing that legally. I didn't want to stay there, I was just going to pursue--

Kennelly: Right.

Davis: them choosing--

Kennelly: Principle.

Davis: Right. And I am a very principled person. I will go to the nth degree sometime just to prove a point. But after talking about it a little bit more I just decided, you know, it's going to be my fourth year in Vet school. Don't want this hassling headache. I think I called the owner of that firm back and made my comments to them, and I just left it.

Kennelly: Now what, around what year would that be then?

Davis:'86. Going into '87. From there, racism slapped me in the face when I was living in Savannah, Georgia.


Kennelly: What happened there?

Davis: My ex-husband was the superintendent of schools in Savannah, Savannah public school system. And when we moved down there, he and his predecessor and his boss at that time were involved in, very heavily involved in writing the desegregation plan for their school system. When their predecessor left, he took over as superintendent, and-- we were invited to attend a breakfast with one of the executive, one of the vice presidents of Dixie Crystal Sugar, and I was pregnant at that time, and it was a seven o-clock in the morning breakfast, so I 25:00passed, which I don't usually pass a lot because Savannah had some excellent restaurants, and this was one of them [laughing], you know.

And my ex-husband came back and told me about the breakfast and was a little distressed. What he told was that the gentleman he had breakfast with told him, Don't worry about trying to educate these blacks. Just teach them the difference between motor oil and antifreeze. They don't have the capacity to learn." And then patted my ex-husband on the arm and said, "Oh, but you're the exception, of course." Dixie Crystal Sugar. Till this day I have not bought Dixie Crystal Sugar. And I said you know there is a reason why I did not go to that breakfast that morning. God intended me not to go. Because I didn't turn down food at a good restaurant for any reason. Seven o'clock in the morning was not reason. So my ex-husband was a lit bit more passive than I was, and I said, "You know, its a real good thing because they would have been peeling me off of him from across that table."

That just infuriated me, and all my life I thought racism existed in the back 26:00woods. I thought--I knew it existed here. This was backwards for me. I never thought it existed from a highly educated and supposedly intelligent person who had made his way to one of the top executives at such a large facility. And it was living in Savannah where I learned and was exposed to a lot a racism. Not just with color, but with your socio-economic status as well. And I found that to be very insightful.

Savannah was a wonderful experience. Love to go there. A beautiful place to 27:00visit. There is a sign that says you're 20 miles away from 200 years ago. And we tell people that you have no idea how true that statement is. You have no idea. they did hold on to their culture, to their way of life almost too much. And there some wonderful people there as well. I left some very good friends, one of my best friends is still there. But it is extremely historical. And I told people, I said, "You know, I would go visit. I might even buy a house and retire there because its such a slow-paced community. But I'd never raise my family there.

I taught for a while, and I had white students who were old enough to be my parents come in, whose economic status was very low. But they were at a point in their life where they could finally go to college and wanted to go back and get their degree. And we sat in class after one of my sessions, and I don't know how we got on the subject, but I had a lot of older white women tell me that they 28:00were never taught to go to college. The concept was never about going to college, it was about learning a trade, for both blacks and low economic whites. It wasn't about going to college. And even when we got there, the push wasn't to go to college. The push was, if the push was to go to college at all, it was to go to the college that was there. It was never a big drive in the public schools to push their kids to go on to Yale or Clemson or Tech or Harvard. It was the local community college. And the antifreeze courses. Teach them how to take 29:00care of our cars and things. Yeah. So I learned that, I learned about it, or faced with it at an older age.

I didn't have a lot of confrontation in the high school. As a matter of fact, I always said I had it good in high school because I could go up to anybody that was a friend of mine and hug them and kiss them, kiss a guy and not be concerned with the girlfriend thinking that I was at all interested in him. The thought was never there. It was friendships that I was more interested in. Not having a sexual relationship with someone at that age. I guess my first real boyfriend wasn't until my senior year in high school. I just had friends. I just had a good time.

Kennelly: And what was your--is it like a suburban community?

Davis: Umm-hmm. It's.. yeah. It would be considered the suburbs of Richmond

Kennelly: So what about your family's social life? What did that revolve around? Did you have-- Did your parents have black and white friends?


Davis: Yes.

Kennelly: Yeah.

Davis: Yes. We split our lives between Richmond and Petersburg. We were smack in the middle between the two. Our church and all was in Petersburg and some of our friends were there. We had left Richmond, but my parents were very active in a lot of social clubs, sorority , fraternity. So we would be in Richmond sometimes, or they would be in Richmond sometimes. They both worked in Richmond at the Medical College of Virginia. They both commuted daily, back and forth. So our lives, our family lives existed around what I think is a 40 mile radius between Richmond and Petersburg

Kennelly: And so growing up there was never anything that felt like close? I mean, like including God. Those experiences that you were mentioning, but before that, anything that felt--

Davis: Racist?

Kennelly: Yeah.

Davis: No. No.

Kennelly: Now why did you-- Was your family active in NAACP or politically 31:00active or anything like that?

Davis: I don't know that they were members. I don't know that they were politically active, but they were very active. They expressed there concern in the organizations that they were in, the sororities, fraternities, cancer societies. I can't name all the organizations my parents were in. They were very active. And still are very active, even though they're retired. I think they've cut back some, but they're still very active in organizations. But not necessarily politically out there. Not in that respect.

Kennelly: It seems like you too were very, very active.

Davis: Sure. Sure.

Kennelly: That was something that sort of stands out when you look at all the different--when you were in college you engaged in many different kinds of organizations.


Davis: Tried to be.

Kennelly: But I kind of wondered--

Davis: Probably, probably because I flood downhill a little bit.

Kennelly: Maybe just how your family would approach life. I mean you'd do service or be involved.

Davis: My parents were never stagnant. I can't say that I was ever stagnant. There was a goal. There was a goal. Something that I believed in. Something that I wanted to be a part of--then I did it. Then they did it. And I guessed that's the way we were raised.

Kennelly: Why did you, when you came to Virginia Tech in 1979, why did you choose to come here?

Davis: Truthfully, I wanted,-- There were two sides to the story that all kind of came together, and I tell them both. One was parents nixed out-of-state schools, all private schools or all girls schools, all schools within a 20 minute distance from the house [laughing]. They didn't want me to go anywhere 33:00close, and did I say private? No private school either. So by the time you nixed the United States of America [laughing] for the most part, you were left with William and Mary, the University of Virginia, Madison, and Tech.

I did not like the University of Virginia at all. William and Mary was a thought. I wanted to go--outside of what they wanted--I wanted to go to a large school. It had to be a large school. I didn't want it to be a small private school, or a small school. I wanted the challenge to feel like I was out on my own, but yet still had a connection to home if I really needed it. I wanted to know that by the time I graduated from college, that I could make it on my own 34:00in the real world. I wanted my college experience to be that once I got my college diploma, I was comfortable going out and dealing with the real world. And so that took out Madison, because they were too small and left me with Tech. And my parents brought me up to Tech to look around. And they were telling my husband on the way over here yesterday, "Marva got to this point right here and said, 'This is the school I'm coming to.'" Of course I don't remember that [mild laughing]. So the decision was there.

Kennelly: Which point was it?

Davis: No. I turned. Oh, I forgot. What's the name of the main road over by the Vet school? As you turn into Tech?

Kennelly: Oh, 460?

Davis: Right. Turning off of 460 to get into Tech, right at the point of the map 35:00is of Tech, and I could see a couple of the tall buildings. I could see the stadium from a distance a little bit. She says they were, we were right there when I said, "This is the school." That was the deciding factor for me. There was really no other school that I-- I had applied to Tech for early decision and was accepted, so the rest was a moot point. I never put in another application anywhere else. If I hadn't been accepted to Tech, I did have an application to William and Mary, but I never sent it. And my parents, I remember thinking of applying. My dad really wanted me here. But my dad was never one to say you're going here because I want you to come here. I found out after the fact that he wanted with every fiber in his soul for me to come to this school.

I wanted to be a veterinarian all my life, and they never took that thought away 36:00from me. I always had another alternative should I not get accepted into vet school, but I always wanted to be a veterinarian, and so my father knowing that, and my parents both wanting me to do that, and they were never ones to push outwardly. It was all done secretly. My dad wanted me to come here because the vet school was here too, and the school was a good school.

So when I gave my thoughts about applying to William and Mary also, my dad made a very negative comment to me, and it really hurt my feelings. I couldn't understand why he would do that or say that. But my dad said to me at William and Mary, "Your English is not very good." My writing. "And they require a lot of writing. I don't think you're going to make it there." And boy, was I hurt when he said that. He just walked off. I was a like God, I'm not a straight A student, but I'm not a bad student either. But when I really didn't care about doing something I did get a little sloppy [laughing]. So I didn't apply because I thought my dad was may be right. I didn't care about William and Mary. It was just another school that would fit my needs, my criteria, if I didn't get accepted to Tech.

So when I applied for early decision and got accepted, it became a moot point. 37:00And when I was accepted, my mom came back and said, "That's why he said it. He didn't really want you to apply anywhere else. [laughing] He really wanted you to be here, but you had to do it yourself, and that was his way going about doing it. " I was like, "Okay. He could have come up with a little something different, but it worked."

Kennelly: Now, where did your sisters go?

Davis: My oldest sister, they are all older than me. My oldest sister is about 13, 14 years older than me. Yeah, there was a big gap in our family. But my oldest sister didn't go to college. She went to nursing school in New York. The one next to her went to Virginia Commonwealth University, and the one between her and myself did not go to college. She was a straight A student in high school, but just decided that she didn't want to go to college and never did. And then my youngest sister came to Tech for a couple of years and then 38:00transferred and graduated from Norfolk State.

Kennelly: What was the racial climate at Virginia Tech when you were here?

Davis: There was an effort in--Calvin Jamison and Glen Valentine were instrumental in trying to make blacks students feel at home and very welcomed here. As a matter of fact, my first day here when I met Calvin at orientation, he had actually taken the time to study the faces of every student that had been accepted. So that when I walked into Squires, he walked up to me and said, "Hi, Marva. How are you? I'm so glad you made it here."

I was blown away. I was also going in my mind, with a few explicatives, who are 39:00you? Why do you know who I am? What's going on here? [laughing] But it was very heart warming that he had taken the time to get to know who I was, and everyone else before we got here to make us feel very at home. I never again, I played a lot of it. If there was racism, I never really felt it by choice.

You had black organizations. I was a member of some of those. You had campus organizations. I joined some of those. There were white sororities. There were black sororities, by choice. But even in my sorority, it is not defined as a 40:00black sorority, but all that were there were black. If you go to some other areas, I have white sorors in my sorority as well. But here there was never a thought of me joining a white sorority. But then I had sorority that I grew up with. I had a heritage that I grew up with, that I was interested in continuing.

I had white friends. I lived in the dorms all four years. There were, there were always times when you knew people weren't really interested in getting to know you. They weren't interested in being your friend or socializing with you. People with the, you know, my floor. I never cared about that. You could say that some of it could have been racial. Some of it could have been you're just not my type. I never bothered to sit down and figure out which was which. If you don't want to get to know me, then I don't want to get to know you. That was fine.

I never had, I never felt like I had any racial conflicts or confrontations 41:00while I was here. What happened and things that I heard about were more related to off campus than on campus. Even my experience with Naesha, that was off campus, not things that were on campus. We were definitely the minority here. But then I equated that with this is what the real world is about. If I had gone to an all black college and stepped out into the world, the world was not all black. I didn't feel like I had a problem integrating myself into different activities and events here because I did it in high school, I did it in junior 42:00high school. I was already the minority learning to adapt and become a part of, and it was just a continuation when I got here. If you didn't want to get to know me, I could blow that off. It was not a big deal.

Again, I was not raised-- I knew what racism was about, I knew that it existed. I didn't know where it existed because I was never that close to it. And if I was that close to it, I could keep on going. I could step over it, and it wasn't an issue. So if someone said or did something to me that was meant to be a racial connotation or racial incident they were very disappointed because I could keep on going. And then they were left to sit back and figure out, did she know what I meant or did it really just not bother her? And they'll never have that answer. [laughing]. So you know.

Kennelly: Was your, were your roommates white or black?

Davis: My roommates were white.

Kennelly: And that was just fine?


Davis: I didn't care. Actually one of my roommates was one of my brides maids in my first wedding. As I, my senior year--and we got along beautifully. Actually we lived next door to each other, and we were supposed to become roommates, and then she decided to live off campus. I had a black roommate my junior year, and that was--unless somebody over there just finagled it that way. I didn't know anything about it. That's just the way it worked out. My other two roommates were white. And there were differences there.

I had another white roommate my senior year. She was a freshman, and we got along beautifully, beautifully. She was learning a lot, and her parents were 44:00kind of looking to me to kind of keep her to not be such a wild child in their definition. To get school work done. Set the priorities, and then she could go play and party. We got along very nicely.

My first two years, my roommates and I didn't get along. Very different personalities. I can't say that it was racial at all. In one instance, I was a spoiled child. Everybody is to some degree. And those areas conflicted being in such a small defined space. There was no real hatred or anything like that, you know. We did what we had to do to get along, and then we moved on.

There was one year where I didn't have a roommate for almost a whole semester because the girl quit or transferred that was originally assigned to me, and no one was assigned to me for the second semester. And the third semester, I had a mature young lady that was in the room. But again our lives were very different. 45:00Our social activities were very different. Our desires, our likes were very different. So we did okay in the room, and then we went our separate ways. We didn't socialize at all.

And then my third year, my junior year, I had a black girl as my roommate. She and I got along, but again, she had a different group that she would hang around with, more by age then anything else. She was a freshman, and I was a junior. We attended some things together. We did do some things together. Attended some functions together. But no one that I was really close to until my senior year. She and I, she and I shared a room next door. She and I were supposed to be roommates my senior year. My parents would never let me live off campus as long as I won the lottery, and so I wound up on campus in the same dorm all four years.

Kennelly: They wanted you on campus just for the--

Davis: Cheaper.


Kennelly: Cheaper. Yeah, I guess it would be cheaper.

Davis: Cheaper then is what they were saying. I was like, "But, but, but, if you look at it like this, and I'm working and you know, everywhere I try to look at is--" "No you stay on campus." Your tuition, room, and board were all paid for. You didn't have to worry about it once those fees were paid. They didn't want to have to deal with the rent and then groceries. I had a car here, but still transportation back and forth. They didn't want to have that headache. I lived on campus all four years, and then when I was in vet school, I lived off campus.

Kennelly: Did you have scholarships here?

Davis: Yes. My first two years I had--if I recall correctly--I really left that to my parents. If I recall correctly, I had a partial scholarship from Tech the first year. But I also had two scholarships from the Council of Higher Education, partial also.

Kennelly: Do you know if any of the scholarships had to do with the Rockefeller Foundation?

Davis: No. I don't know.


Kennelly: You don't know. That's just, we have the research here. It's sort of interesting.

Davis: No. I don't know. No.

Kennelly: You were involved with the Black Student Alliance when you were at Tech.

Davis: Yes.

Kennelly: Were there-- What were the concerns of this group at that time, if you happen to remember?

Davis: Becoming more involved in campus life, campus activities, having a voice and some of the decisions that were made, I think was the general desire of the group, as well finding an opportunity for the black students to come together socially, politically, educationally, and be able to succeed. Those, those to me--I didn't make it to every Black Student Alliance meeting that existed, but those to me were the, some of the basic goals that the organization was trying to accomplish.


Kennelly: Wasn't there something, I think it was a Black-- You were on the Commission--

Davis: Commission of Student Affairs.

Kennelly: Yeah, and--,

Davis: Budget Committee.

Kennelly: Right. Now as Commission of--Oh, it was the Black Organizations Council was added to the Commission of Student Affairs when you were a part of it. I wondered if that was considered a major--

Davis: Accomplishment?

Kennelly: Accomplishment? Step?

Davis: Yeah. Yeah. Sure. To become involved. Right.

Kennelly: -- A voice in the..

Davis: How the moneys were distributed. Right. Right.

Kennelly: When you were a student, did the black students tend to sit together in the cafeteria or in the student union or did they--? Was it--?

Davis: When there was segregation, there was segregation by choice. More 49:00because,-- Yes and no. Did it always happen? No. But you have to, you have to also look at a lot of the black students that came from the same area. They knew each other, and that was their means of holding on to something in coming to this big university and not knowing much of anybody.

So yes, you flocked in directions that you knew, and hopefully you would spread your wings and see what else was out there. So yes, we would do things together as a group, and some of us would sit together at lunch or at dinner in the cafeteria, or some of us would meet over at Squires for meetings or to socialize. You did not, you did not and should not lose contact with who you are and your heritage and your friends that you brought here, but you hopefully also learn more about what the campus is about, and you spread your wings and you get involved in a little bit of everything. So yeah, there wasn't designated area where this is where black people sit and eat, no.

Kennelly: And sometimes you might be sitting with white friends?

Davis: Sure. It was who was there at the time. Nobody went to the cafeteria for 50:00two hours to sit and eat. It was when you had the time, how your schedule would fit in. If everyone's schedule was the same, you'd all leave the dorm together and go over and eat. If not, you'd meet over there, you'd go in by yourself, see someone you know, haven't talked to in a while. You'd sit down with them, or someone else in your class that you needed to talk to. If you hadn't seen a white person, sit down and talk with them.

Kennelly: So it wasn't like uncomfortable or..

Davis: Not for me.

Kennelly: Yeah.

Davis: And I don't think to a lot of other blacks. Umm, I think, I know I had some, some black friends that were here that had a challenging time because they grew up in an all black school. AlI their friends were black. If the, you know, had I stayed in Richmond, I would have gone to an all black school with maybe one or two white students in the class. And then you come to this university where you were 600 out of 20,000. That's a lot to.. its a culture shock to some 51:00degree. And so you will cling to what you know, and you will hopefully have the confidence to be able to do what you need to do to learn what else is out there.

I did that in junior high school and high school. And started, I didn't--we had little cliques. We had little black cliques in high school. All the black students would meet in the center of the crosswalk in the hallway and chit chat for that five minutes and go our separate ways. You didn't see a lot of white students doing that. White students were walking in the halls, or they'd be standing by, you know, a room or something, but right there in the center of that T, in-between classes, a lot of black students would stop and stand and talk, even though we were the minority there, and then we'd break up and go their separate ways. I did it sometimes. But that wasn't my thing.

Kennelly: You were--you were chosen to be homecoming queen at Tech and, when you were here, and that would have been your senior year?


Davis: Right.

Kennelly: Seems like, the way people remember it, it just seems like, well I'd like for you to just talk about how that came about, and then what impact that had on the community here.

Davis: Mmm. (pause) I worked at Squires. I worked two jobs while I was here on campus. Not qualifying for, what is it? Student aid? Student..

Kennelly: Yeah, I think that's work study.

Davis: Work study. Right. Not qualifying for work study. So, my per hour was little of nothing, but it was better than nothing at all. So the more I worked, the more I made. So I worked a lot between the campus housing, working in mail room, and working over at Squires a lot.


Kennelly: What were you doing at Squires?

Davis: Everything, anything. I was working the front desk, or working the art gallery, or ushering for the movies, things like that. I, between that and the few organizations that I was in, I had a full schedule.

The Black Student Alliance had a meeting. They had asked me my junior year if I would consider running. I just said, you know, thanks, I appreciate it, that's really complimentary, but I'd really rather not. Although I'm an out-going person, I don't like being in the limelight a lot. I don't like the butterflies that you have to go through. You know. So I didn't mind doing things, but I liked to do things from behind the scenes, and you can stand out there and take all the accolades you want, and I will accomplish what I need to accomplish behind you.

So when they asked me to run my junior year, I just very politely declined, and that was the end of that. I didn't think that they would ask me again because I had declined the first time. And then my senior year, I was in Squires working the night that they had a meeting. And one of the guys came down and asked me 54:00if, if they nominated me, would I run. And I looked at him and said, "It doesn't have anything to do with the organization it's just--," and he said, "Would you please, please." I was like, "Okay. If there's no one else that really wants to do it, because I will support anyone else who wants to do it, I'll, I'll run. Okay. And in my mind I'm going, I really don't want to do this. Didn't have nothing to do with the commun--, the club, its just that my nerves. Would my nerves be able to take what we had to do for that?

So they came back down and two--when I said okay I'll do it, I said there is going to be someone else who really wants to do it, and it was time I know. There was someone else who wanted to do it last time. So this is not going to be 55:00an issue. And they'll do it with someone who is not going to be as nervous as I would be, and they'll come back down and tell me that was it. I said great. So they came back down and said, "You won." I'm like ohhh. [Laughing]. Ohhh my God. [Laughing]

And then we had to go through the pictures, taking the pictures to put out, and I was really, you know, I had taken modeling classes and stuff in junior high school. I did it, I guess behind my sister and my other one older than me barber's or modeling school and what not. So I learned how to be feminine, proper, and put my make up on, and how to model and when you walk up and down a runway and what not.

And I'd always thought about doing that. That's every girl's dream to do that for a little bit on the side. I had competed in a couple of pageants, the Miss Junior Miss pageant. I got talked into doing it from a modeling instructor, and my parents and I knew what those nerves were all about. I just didn't like that concept, butterflies in my stomach. But so we did the pictures here, and I 56:00remember, I mean my pictures were very casual. I didn't think that I was very photogenic at all.

Calvin looked at the pictures, and a couple of other people looked at the pictures, and they picked out the ones they said they looked great, they all looked great. They posted them all around the school. I remember walking past the pictures and saying, "Ugh. Well somebody won't have to worry about me because these are really yuck." [Laughing] the pictures. And everyone else was saying that they were really nice, but I just didn't think that I was very photogenic. I thought I had a big nose in the picture. I didn't think I was glamorous looking at all. Some of the other girls, I mean they really went out of their way with their pictures and had very glamorous looks, and I didn't think I had any of that, and I just didn't think it was going to really be an issue for me, for that, looking at,--

Kennelly: The students are voting?

Davis: Well, there was an interview, and there were votes. It was-- At that time it, if I recall correctly, 50 percent of decision was based on your interview. 57:00And your interview was a panel of faculty, I think a couple of students were there, and employees here. And then the other 50 percent came from student votes.

You were to advertise yourself quote, unquote. The girls would be escorted around the cafeteria. That's the other reason why I really didn't want to do it. I really hated when they escorted girls around the cafeteria. They come up to your table and say, "Hi, this is Mary Sue. She's our candidate for homecoming queen. Please vote for her." And then move on to the next table. You know. [Laughter]. And I remember, I used to look at those girls and say, duh. I couldn't do that. And they used to also sit there and eat and say, "I would really rather you not disturb me [laughing] while I'm eating. We have 15, 20 minutes before I have to get up and go." But I was never rude. Just kept on going.

So I wasn't real thrilled with the pictures, and then the day came when we had to go into the cafeteria. Oh, did I dread that. All I could think about was all the thoughts that I had those years when other girls were coming through. So the two gentleman that escorted me to the first couple of tables introduced me as their homecoming queen candidate, and we went from one table to the next. And by the time we got to about the third or the fourth table I was really feeling bad. I was really, I mean mentally, I was really just ugh, not liking that at all. And as I was going to each table, I was trying to assess what it was that I had 58:00a problem with. The problem was that I wasn't talking. [pause]

I felt like some little Barbie doll being escorted from one table to the next and having these guys introduce me and I'm not talking, and that's what bothered me. It took me that long to figure it out, but that's what bothered me about every, all those other years and the girls just coming to the table. I needed to do more than just try to look pretty. I just, I didn't like that.

So as we went to the next table. I stopped and said, "Guys, we're going to do this a little different. I'll talk. You just escort me. " And that's what we did. And I went around the tables and I introduced myself and who I was, and told them a little bit about myself, and I just kept talking and talking as I went from table to table to table to table, you know. By the end of the visit, I was hoarse.

But boy, I felt, you know, I still didn't really like the concept of, of advertising or politicking in the cafeteria for anything. But that was our mechanism at the time, so that's what we did. And I went through and talked, and 59:00after that first go around it was nothing. Felt very comfortable doing it then. Next time we had to go up there--not an issue. The guys just escorted me, and I introduced myself. And I was meeting and greeting people. And that was me. You know.

And it was funny. We all had to have our group pictures taken by the photographer. Had one session here in Squires. And we were all, several of us were in the bathroom freshening up and everything before the picture. And this very attractive young white girl came up to me who was being represented by one of the groups and asked me if I was Marva. I said yes. And she said, "I just wanted to come and tell you that I, I came behind you in the cafeteria, being 60:00introduced to the tables, and I just wanted to tell you that a lot of people were really impressed with you stopping and talking with them, that one table suggested that I come and introduce myself to you and find out what it was that you were doing that I needed to do to make myself--"

And I was [sigh] floored, floored. Floored for two reasons. One that it really made that big of a difference to people, and two, that she had enough in her to come to me and say that.

I told her, I said, "Well I'm really impressed with you that you would come and share that with me, and I really appreciate that." But I said, "You know what, the only thing I did was talk and have people get a chance to get to know who I was. So if they decided to vote for me they would know who they were voting for, not just what they voting for."

And then we had that--we had that, and on my interview. My interview was disastrous in the beginning. I went out and bought two dresses for the interview. One was for the interview, and one was for-- I can't remember what 61:00the other dress was for. But they were each for specific reasons during this event. So I'm getting myself dressed. Make up, prim-proper, everything, and I go to press my dress. Got my iron turned on everything, and it was uhh, oh, a very shear outer layer, and I put the iron down, and it melted my dress.

Kennelly: Ohhh.

Davis: I was horrified. Horrified. Horrified. I had to be over at my interview in 30 minutes. What am I going to do? I went through everything. I put that dress on and said umm. And said okay, wait a minute. Wait a minute. Where is, where is the interview going to be? Where are they going to be sitting? Where if I walk in the door, and they're sitting facing the door, I can walk straight in, 62:00sit at, because the burn was in the back. The hole was in the back of the dress. I could walk in. I could sit down. I could get up and I could back myself out [laughing] very nicely and they'd never notice it. But if they're on the side, I'll have to walk in and just kind of glaze on in this way, and then no one will see the hole in the back of my dress.

Because that was the interview dress. That was suppose to make the impression. The other dress was just an okay dress for something else we had to do. I was in tears and was like, this is it. This is it. There is a reason why this happened, and it was because there was no way I was ever going to win, okay. So I was left with wearing this other new dress which was a velour, just a basic velour long sleeve, scoop neck, straight dress. That was it. I said I've blown it. This is it. Okay. Whatever now. You know. It just didn't matter because my first impression was shot [laughing] as far as I was concerned.

So I got there and said, What are you going to do now? Go in and answer the questions to the best of your ability. You've already blown it with the dress, so have a good time. It was all I could do.


So I walked in, and Calvin Jamison was on the committee, and he was the only face. There was another face that I recognized that I can't remember who it was though. And I was like oh, CJ is here. Good. This is a good one. What are you going to do to embarrass me? I could see.. he would joke, we would joke a lot. I never really thought he would embarrass me, but I thought, what would he do to make me snicker, or something? And he really, he wasn't one to ask most of the questions.

There were other people asking questions, and fortunately, although I don't really remember all the questions that were asked, I do remember that they were all about things that I felt strongly about. That I had an opinion about. Not, oh well I never thought about that. And I was never a deep thinker as a person. I've always tried to keep my eyes open and see what was there, but never 64:00considered myself a deep thinker. And I answered all the questions, and we had a good time, and things just flowed. And that was it. It was an interview. It wasn't so much an interview as a let me get to know you. And then a few what is your opinion about questions.

And I know who I am. I know what I want. I know where I want it to go. I had strong desires and dreams, and I could relay that, and that was it. So I never made a whole lot of any of this because I'd never thought I'd win. It was I'm going to be the best representative I can be for the organization that asked me to do it and voted on me and that was it. At best I might make it to the court, but never expected anything past that. And if I didn't make it to the court it wasn't going to be any big surprise. So when I made it that far, and my parents came up for the football game--

Kennelly:Did they narrow it down to the people who were going to be in the--

Davis:Yeah there were a lot , there was a larger group, and then it was narrowed 65:00down. And I--

Kennelly: For the football game.

Davis: Yeah, for the football game. And others, if I recall correctly, there had been another black candidate that had made it to the smaller few. I think that was since I had been there, or right before I got there. One or the other. So that's what I said. I might, might make it that far, but that would be it. So I made it that far and got out on the football field, and they kind of told us the way things were going to go, and I was happy. Just happy to be there. Just happy to be the representative. Just having a good time, and that was it.

You know, my parents came up for the weekend. Some other people were there, but their kids were there. Excuse me, that I grew up with. We all walked out on the football field. I don't if this-- I don't know if that picture is in here. [pause, sound of papers ruffling]. No. There was another couple standing to our 66:00left, and I knew the guy who was escorting her because he was in Squires a lot. In a fraternity, in Squires doing things a lot.

And for some reason I had said, I had looked at all the girls and said, hmm, okay, who's going to win? This one's going to win right here. I'm sure she's going to win. So we were out there on the football field, and I had gone into another world. I mean this was just, we were just,.. to me at a point of, virtually this is the way things were going to go. They'll name the homecoming queen, she'll wave, and then we'll all go back to our seats, we'll congratulate her and then we'll all go back to our seats.

And then so, Billy and I are just standing there, and I remember Dr. Lavery 67:00coming down. And then, from then I just zoned out. I was doing something else. I was prepared to congratulate, you know, after everyone else congratulated, and then walk off and that was it. You know when you grow up your parents teach you never to frown when you don't win. You always smile and have a happy walk. I never planned on winning. I never thought in my wildest dreams it would ever happen. So it wasn't an issue. I was happy for whomever was going to win. I was happy that as the Black Student Alliance's representative that I had made it this far, and was content. So I had zoned out. I don't know where I was. I don't know what I was thinking about. But I remember they said, and the homecoming queen is-- And I was still zoned out because I knew I was going to hear another name. I just didn't even think about it.

And then it was like flashback. Everything happened all at once [snapping her fingers]. I saw Dr. Lavery coming to me. Billy literally nudged me [Interviewer laughing]. And it was his nudge that brought me back. And then I remember 68:00hearing Marva Felder on the-- I was like, and that's the pictures where my mouth was standing wide open. It's because, I really didn't [laughing], I really didn't expect it. And then Dr. Lavery comes over to give me a hug, and then the queen before came over to give me my crown. And that's when I'm like, oh my God. Oh my God. It was me. It's (laughing) really me. You know. And I didn't know what to do with myself. I was so incredibly overwhelmed. I did not like to cry in front of people, but the tears were kind of there. I was beside myself. I had no clue. My parents knew. Someone had told my parents. And that's why they were sitting down where they were.

Kennelly: What they knew..

Davis: Somebody, yeah. I think they told.. someone told, uhh, they didn't know for sure, someone told them that it was a very good possibility. And I don't know who it was. I didn't know anything about that until after the fact. But it 69:00is was oh, I was-- I can't tell you. I mean I was elated. I was, I never been more shocked in my life over anything. I was just, I was really--I didn't think Tech was ready for a black Miss Virginia Tech, or homecoming queen. I never thought it was going to happen. And when it did-- If someone had interviewed me right then and there, I would have been uhh, uhh, uhh, uhh, for the first time in my life, not a whole lot to say because that's not one that I had thought about or had ever been planned for. You asked me things that happened after homecoming queen. Yeah, yeah, now that you mention it. There were things that told me that Tech wasn't really ready.

Kennelly: That they weren't really ready?

Davis: Not all of Tech. But that year, whereas in years past, the homecoming 70:00queen was asked to participate in a few events. I was never called and asked to participate.

Kennelly: Never called?

Davis: No. and in retrospect, you know, in that respect, I considered it because I was the black homecoming queen.

Kennelly: Like what kind?

Davis: Again, most of them were off campus or, or community things that the homecoming queen might have been invited to participate in, and I wasn't invited. I really didn't function much on campus, or be invited to do much. But then the homecoming queen, I don't recall in years past, being invited to do--

As far as on campus, that was pretty much the same. But things that they were 71:00invited to do off campus. And I recall, I recall a couple. I just can't tell you what they were right now. It didn't hurt my feelings. It just stood out that, you know.

Kennelly: That it was happening, that it happened before. You probably would have heard, so and so, she had to do this. I mean, I'm supposed to be interested in what's going to be required, and you didn't call me to do that.

Davis: Right. That's exactly right. But then again, I didn't let it bother me, and I just went on. When I was asked to do something as homecoming queen, I did it. And then I, when it was time to hand the crown over the next year, I was there to participate in that. And then we went on.

Kennelly: Well it seems-- What two things-- How was it important to the black community beyond you?

Davis: I think it helped to have the black students stand out a little bit more. 72:00I think it helped them to accomplish the goal of becoming more involved in the community. To become more involved. To become more noticed on campus as a functioning entity, as a functioning group.

I think by sitting on the student council as well. But it wasn't just me. There was D.K. Brockett who was class president. Any African-American person that became involved in non-African-American events was an effort to help us as a group stand out and say, hey, we are a part of this. We want input and say. Not just as an organization, as every organization, but as we spread our wings too, there were other organizations. When we were looked upon, we stood out more 73:00because we were the minority. So when people like D.K. stood out because he was a minority who held a office, or because I became homecoming queen and gave us a group a chance to stand out a little bit more.

Kennelly: I wondered about-- I'm not sure exactly how to ask the question, but I was kind of before the interview, I was thinking when the slogan like 'black was beautiful' got started. I just wondered about the concept of beauty. If it was something that you thought about? You sort of touched on it a little bit when you were talking about your experience in Richmond, but I was wondering about the concept of beauty, being beautiful, is something when you were growing up, or if it.. you have ideas or thoughts about beauty--

Davis: I never thought, I think black is beautiful is a concept that came about because the previous years of racism and the efforts of our families to teach our children that there's nothing wrong with our color. And black then is how you define it. African-American is how we define it in this generation. My grandmother grew up with Negro, and it was acceptable then. But it was through 74:00the generations teaching our children that there's nothing wrong with our color. There's nothing wrong with black, with being black, with our skin being brown.

Someone once, I can't remember where that came from, but if you look up the definition of black, they talk about darkness. The negative side. It all has negative connotations to it whereas if you look up white, there is purity and so forth. And the more positive connotations with that. And I believe, I'm not a, I'm not well versed in the definitions, but my concept black is beautiful comes from us being taught that there is nothing wrong with our color. The rest comes beauty, comes from within. You can be as beautiful outside as you want to be, 75:00but if you have a negative personality, the beauty will diminish.

Kennelly: What, what about, you know you were talking a little bit earlier about in a way sometimes it was difficult meaning like when you were in the Richmond school because,..

Davis: It was difficult. The Richmond school.. Again I was in a predominantly black school, okay. And I don't think that has anything to do with black, I just think that has to do with individuals and their concepts of themselves.

If you were the most beautiful white person in your school, and you had guys flocking around you, you're going to have other white girls not like you because you think you're beautiful. It's not that you think your beautiful, it's that the guys they want to be with think you're beautiful. And that's what I had to deal with in the Richmond city schools.


I never, I never considered myself ugly. I never considered myself beautiful. There were people that looked much better than me, and there were people that I thought looked worse than me. You know, I never, I, I like myself. There are things that I don't like about myself that I'd like to improve upon, that I've spent time trying to improve upon. I haven't had make overs yet. I haven't had cosmetic surgery yet, but, you know, everybody has a little bit of attitude in themselves. But the experiences that I've referred to are based on lack of self-esteem of the other black girls that I couldn't be friends with a guy. I couldn't just be friends. I had to be wanted by that guy because I was a pretty little rich girl with long hair. But that wasn't, it wasn't how I perceived 77:00myself, it was how everyone else perceived me. And that had everything to do with how they felt about themselves.

Kennelly: Excuse me. I have to kind of go through what I have here.

Davis: No problem.

Kennelly: I think when you were a candidate, from what the yearbook says, you were the Black Student Alliance and the NAACP, kind of a joint candidate.

Davis: Yes.

Kennelly: And you were a member of the NAACP. And I wondered, when I looked in the Bugle, they said that what they were trying to do at that point was to make the university a better place, to promote harmony among all students.

Davis: Yes.

Kennelly: And I wondered if there was, how that they were trying to do this at that time if you remember at all? Anything special?

Davis: I don't think, no, I don't remember any special thing that they tried to 78:00do. I was a member of both organizations. My concept and everybody's is a little bit different. But I think the concept is, if you put this on a global scale, I don't think it's any different, it's teaching each other how to get along. There are white people out there that don't know black people, that never lived around or with or socialize, or had any, any interaction at all with black people. And there are some black people who grew up in a black environment and had very little, if anything to do with white people. And those people have to learn how to coexist and learn how to develop there own opinions about each other. And let go of things that weren't really true, but that they were taught to believe. And 79:00that's part of the, how to coexist.

I, I never felt like there were racial extremes here on campus. But there were some things, there are always things that you can change and improve so that things become more integrated. When you only have 600 to 800 black students here out of 20,000, there's going to be some segregation because you can't put all 600 people into the 20,000 and desegregate it and have all the blacks do what they want to do. You follow what I'm saying? So I think, were the effort to coexist when you can and get to know more of each other and what each other's races are, and cultures are all about. That's the way I look at it.

I have never been, I have political opinions about things, but I've, I, in 80:00joining the NAACP, it was not to be political, it was to be supportive of a lot of their activities, but not to get into the politics of racism and so forth. Like is done on a global environment. We have white members in the NAACP as well, but its to teach each other, what were about, and how we can exist together. And if you put the color aside, look at me for who I am, and you'll see that I'm no different from you. My cultures are a little bit different. Your 81:00cultures a little bit different. The Asian's cultures a little bit different. But look at what you can learn if you put all your heads together, and, and be better at what it is you want to do.

Kennelly: Do you think the fact that your father was in the military, do you think that gave you more of a, sort of a more ___________________ approach to life?

Davis: No because I was very young when I was in the military. I think it is the way my parents raised us. Umm, I have two wi.., well two, well, I had. I have umm, I had two white brother in-laws. My parents taught us to look at people for who they are, not the color of there skin, and then judge them, but judge them by who they are. And that's what we've always done. I don't always seek color. Umm, I think my opinion is a little bit different right now, having have raised a child, but they didn't care who we married, as long as-- they didn't care 82:00based on color who we married. Or ethnic background, or religious background. None of that mattered to them. It was look at who the person is. And if you can live with that person the rest of your life, then be with that person the rest of your life.

Kennelly: Now, you said that your opinion is different now that you've raised a child?

Davis: Umm, yes and no. I mean I would not be upset if my daughter married someone white or if she had a white boyfriend, or wanted to. Umm, I couldn't have a relationship with a white man. I, I could but would pass it aside, but only because I feel like its a little bit harder. I've got so much to do right now to raise my child, that I don't, I didn't want to have the issues of race enter into her being raised. Her father is black.

Kennelly: How old is she?


Davis: She's nine.

Kennelly: Nine.

Davis: She's Nine. Umm, although, if I found someone I was really in love with, I couldn't let that be an issue in the end. I have niece's that are half black and half white. And those questions will come up and have come up with my daughter to this point, and I've dealt with them. When I said that now and when I said it myself before, it was because life has been a challenge and I don't look for another challenge. I want a little peace and tranquillity and not have to deal with anymore roughness. But if I met, I don't, I'm not opposed to it. If I really met someone and he meant that much to me, it wouldn't be an issue. I never thought of dating a white guy until I got here. The thought never entered my mind, which is maybe why, I don't know, maybe why we got along in high school. I mean I could go up and hug someone and kiss a guy on the cheek and the thought was never there. I had never had a thought of really having a boyfriend. 84:00I was having too much fun just with friends. You know? But because the thought was never there, his girlfriend standing next to you never took issue with it. Had I done that in the Richmond public schools, okay. (Laughing by interviewer) It would have been, disastrous is putting it nicely (laughing by both).

Kennelly: Big trouble?

Davis: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Whole lot of trouble. So uhh..

Kennelly: So did you ever date any white guys?

Davis: Sure. I sure did. Umm, while I was in college here. Umm, not here. Well I did date, I saw a couple of guys a couple of times. Umm, but the relationship that I had, the relationships that I actually had were off campus. Out of state, actually (laughing). But I, when I lived on campus, living in the dorm, that's, that's your whole life, right there. You know, that's your whole house right 85:00there. And I really didn't like bringing guys up to my room because then I had no privacy, I had no private area. You know, when you have your house, you can bring them into the family room, the kitchen, and bedrooms and everything are off limits until you decide otherwise. You bring a guy into your dorm room, there's your bedroom, your kitchen, your living, you know. There's everything right there. I didn't like that. I also didn't like everybody being in my business. When I want my privacy, I want my privacy and I'll let you know when I want things to become public. The few occasions, and I mean very few where I dated someone on campus, everybody in the world knew. And then I just said, you know, we're just going to be really good friends and go out. I don't want a relationship when everybody knows what we're doing, when we're doing it, where we're doing it and why we're doing it. I, I, I'm in that respect, a very private 86:00person. And it was hard to have privacy on campus. If it wasn't the, if it wasn't the girls in the dorm on my floor, then it was, it would be with, umm, the friends or the people that knew me. If we were walking together, well there goes that rumor.

Kennelly: You were really in the public eye. It's like becoming..

Davis: Yeah.

Kennelly: A princess or something of the, of the school. Because we've had some researchers find, of course its further back in time, but still to find the first black women students in the school we had to do research. But everybody knew your name. (laughing by interviewee). It was for a reason.

Davis: Right.

Kennelly: But still it was, you know, interesting. Even that was the name. You know everyone knew that name.

Davis: It was out there. (laughing).

Kennelly: Well, so you're like a celebrity on, on campus, I suppose. That people would really be aware--

Davis: Yeah, I mean, I, I, more, more people knew me than I knew them. I knew 87:00more faces than I knew names. And that was the other, I guess that was a part of it too. Umm, because more people knew me than I knew them, I could never go anywhere, umm, with someone or hold hands, or be in a relationship with someone, without it getting back to me two or three days later, ohh so and so saw you with da-da-da. You know. And I just, I never like that. So what relationships I had were always with people somewhere else.

Kennelly: When you were here, did you feel umm, it sounded like, when you mentioned Calvin Jamison came and spoke with you, was there mentoring with your professors? Did you have--

Davis: Ohh, you better believe it. Umm, two in particular. Uhh, umm. Calvin was one. Calvin kept me here. I almost quit school. Umm, my uhh, sophomore year here.

Kennelly: You almost quit school?

Davis: Umm-hmm. I almost quit. Umm, Calvin, umm, talked me into staying. Umm, and Overton Johnson, Overton Johnson was my heart here. And when he died (long 88:00pause), (soft tone) he was like my dad. Do you have a tissue?

Kennelly: Sorry.

Davis: I don't talk about him much. I do-- I don't talk about him much. Umm, coming up here I was very spoiled and it was my first time away from home, and uhh, he took me under his arms, you know, anything I wanted, anything I needed, umm, he was always, do your, do your work first. He was a dad. Do what your supposed to do, and umm.. When I got here, I was a, (mild laugh). It was a 89:00culture shock a little bit too. When I got here to register, they put me in the college of Agriculture. Well I came up here planning to go to vet school and I don't know who, I keep blaming my parents for it, but someone told me that the Animal Science was dealing with you know, the rabbits, rodents, hamsters, guinea pigs, cats, dogs, the whole nine yards. Umm, so when I got up here, we're sitting in the room and we're signing up for these classes and these guys are coming in talking about what we're going to be doing our first year. Our first class. And all I'm hearing about were horses and pigs and cows. And I'm sitting in the front row, my parents are back behind and I am like, I am in the wrong department. We walked in the wrong room. I can not pull this out. Something's wrong here (laughing). So I was the last one to turn in my sheet. And I said, you know, I think I accidentally walked into the wrong room, because, I'm 90:00supposed to be in the room where the animals, not farm animals, but animals I'm supposed to be working with.

Kennelly: This is vet school then?

Davis: No, this is here. My first year..

Kennelly: First year.

Davis: My first year here. And umm, the guy comes and sits down next to me and talks me and tells me actually I was in the right room, just somebody gave me the wrong information. And I umm, Overton was in the agriculture department, and so they talked me into just going ahead and giving it a shot the first quarter and if I don't like it, you know, I can leave. So starting out in the department of Agriculture, and I would be in Overton's office about once every week or once every two weeks or he'd call me on the phone and make sure everything was okay. And I walked in and told Overton one day, I said I, I don't, I can't stay in here. This is not me. I'm a city girl. I knew nothing about cows, accept the ones in the state farm, at the state fair, that you go and pet, you know. My 91:00first class in animal science some girls came back across the hall and my mother remembers this and laughs till this day. They came back from the animal lab course with there high boots on, and the all-in-one jumpers and stuff. I said what you all do? And they said we made halters? I said you made halters? They said yeah, we made halters. I like going to class saying, they made halters. I said why am I going to animal science class to make halters? The only halter I knew about was the one your wore. (laughing) So I was telling my girlfriend as we're walking through Burruss, I don't need that. I can get my sewing machine and make a halter in my room (laughing). She fell out laughing.

[End of Interview]