Tamara Kennelly: Are you from Virginia Beach, originally?
Marguerite Laurette Harper Scott: That's correct.
Kennelly: Did you grow up there?
Scott: Yes. Well I was born in Norfolk, and I lived in Norfolk until I was about seven, and then we moved to Virginia Beach which is just over the line. Yeah, no big move.
Kennelly: Where are your parents from?
Scott: My mother is from Clarksville, Virginia, and my father was originally from Essex, North Carolina, and as a young child, he moved to Norfolk. So for all practical purposes he considered themselves from Norfolk--a native.
Kennelly: What did your father do?
Scott: My father was (at his retirement) a postal manager. Prior to that, my father was a first also. He was the first black postal window clerk in Norfolk, and he was the first supervisor of a station (black person) in Norfolk, Virginia.1:00
Kennelly: Can you give me some dates about when those things happened?
Scott: Let's see. I guess the clerk had to be early 60s, late 50s maybe. Maybe early 50s. I don't know. It's just he was always a clerk as far as I could remember; so I would imagine that that had occurred in the early 50s. And he had become a supervisor, I guess, by the time I was at least in high school and maybe prior to that. I really don't have the dates in my mind.
Kennelly: Well did it seem, for you as a person growing up, were you really conscious of it?
Scott: I was not that conscious of it. In fact, my father belonged to a black self-help type organization. That's the oldest organization of its type, I think, left in the United States, as a social slash beneficial kind of organization that was formed after the Civil War in which blacks couldn't get loans, blacks couldn't get insurance, and those kinds of things. So this was one of those kinds of organizations, and he was a member of that organization, and they wrote their history, and I read this in his history, their little history book. That's when I really became cognizant of what my father had done. I mean it was not like something he came home and said, I am the first black person to get this. I was not that cognizant of it.2:00
Kennelly: And it wasn't like something that was a tense--
Scott: It was tense for him. Oh yes, it was tense for him. But again, I was a child, and so one assumed that adult kinds of things were tense anyway. So I really didn't know that he was doing anything particularly special.3:00
Kennelly: What was the name of that self-help group?
Scott: The Hiawatha, and they still exist. Social and beneficial.
Kennelly: Is that kind of a printed history that you're talking about?
Scott: Yes, that they did themselves.
Kennelly: I wonder if we could get a copy of that. Is that possible to order a copy of that?
Scott: I'm sure that's something that the membership have for themselves, but there's a possibility. William Robinson, who's in the General Assembly, is a member, and Gerald Jones. Both are members of the General Assembly, and they're both members of the organization. They're easy kinds of people I figure you can contact for that kind of information.
Kennelly: So just to clarify, when your father was a postal clerk, was that in the station--it had white clerks and black clerks--was that one he was working?4:00
Scott: Initially? As far as I can remember, he was at first at the Fleet Post Office on the naval base, and so that was mostly white commanders, captains, you know, white naval people coming in. So, there would have been a mixed group there. And his immediate supervisor was a white man when he was a clerk.
Kennelly: It wasn't like he was the only person in the station?
Scott: All by himself? Oh, no.
Kennelly: And then the same thing when he was supervisor, he was supervising black people and white people?
Scott: That is correct.
Kennelly: Did your mother work?
Scott: Not until I was in high school, and she was a substitute teacher.
Kennelly: When you went to high school, she started doing that?5:00
Kennelly: So had she gone to college?
Scott: She had gone to college for two years, and at that time she went to Virginia State College. And after two years, you could come out and teach, which she did initially. Then she got married, and that was the end of that. So she became a homemaker. And my father attended Virginia State College, too, but he never finished either. He went three years and up to the last month, and he tried to do something I believe to get out of having to go to war, World War II, and it ended up what he did just made it just grand for him to go. It didn't work. He dropped out of school to get a job in the post office, thinking that that would keep him out of the Armed Forces, but it didn't. It didn't work. So he and friend--that was their grand scheme. The scheme didn't work, and they both ended up in World War II. My father in the Pacific theater of the war.6:00
Kennelly: He served for several years over there?
Scott: That's correct.
Kennelly: Do you have brothers and sisters?
Scott: I have a sister.
Kennelly: Is she older or younger?
Scott: She's younger. She's eleven years younger.
Kennelly: So you were the oldest of just two girls?
Scott: That's right.
Kennelly: Where did you go to elementary school?
Scott: For the first grade and part of the second grade, I went to John T. West Elementary School in Norfolk, Virginia. When we moved to Virginia Beach, I went to a school whose name was Princess Anne County Training School. And that was the black school in Virginia Beach for all the black children. I believe there were two other elementary schools, but this was the one that was kind of centrally located, and it was a grade one through twelve school. So I went to that school for the rest of my career until college. But it changed its name. At a certain point, they finally got rid of the elementary school part, and it was just a high school, and it was called Union Kempsville High School.7:00
Kennelly: So you mean at a certain point it just changed to all high school?
Scott: All high school, yes.
Kennelly: Now that first school you went to, was that an integrated school?
Scott: No, that was segregated as well.
Kennelly: How big was your school?
Scott: Well, my graduation--I can tell you about high school. I have no recollection of elementary school. My high school class, I believe, was 270 strong.
Kennelly: That must have been a huge school.
Scott: It was pretty big. Well, it was for all black kids.
Kennelly: First through twelve--that's amazing. Was that convenient for you? Was it close to your home?8:00
Scott: Well, after schools were desegregated, that was the closest high school for me. There was one other closer that had just opened, but it didn't have a senior class. It didn't open until my senior year in high school. So I was not going to repeat the junior year just to go there. [Laughs] So that was the closest one for me.
Kennelly: So was race much of an issue for you when you were growing up? Did you feel very conscious of it?
Scott: Yes, most definitely.
Kennelly: Could you talk a little bit about some of your feelings you might have had or ways it was affecting your life?
Scott: Well, it affected my life in terms of always not being able to do certain things. There were places that were off limits. Things that again you reflect upon in old age and realize what was happening. When my parents would take me to my grandmother's in Clarksville, Virginia, why we had to stop on the side of the road for me to go to the bathroom. Things of that nature. Because there were no places for us to go. Depending on filling stations, they didn't have bathrooms for black people. There was one in Emporia that was run by a black man, and I believe his son came to Virginia Tech. He finished Virginia Tech, I think, in 1958. But that was the only user-friendly filling station that you could stop and go to the bathroom. So in terms of that, and I remember things like going into downtown Norfolk and not being able to go to the movie theaters and things of that nature, because in a big city there were separate kinds of facilities for black people. So in some places where there might have been a side entrance or something like that, I was never cognizant of those in those movie theaters in Norfolk. There were always movie theaters for black people to go to. You knew you couldn't go to those places, and there were times when maybe a Walt Disney movie was showing or something like that, and I wanted to go, and my mother would tell me I couldn't go there. And there were lunch room counters, like in Woolworth's, you couldn't sit down at those places. So yes, I was always rather cognizant of race.10:009:00
Kennelly: Was the place where you were living--were you living right in the city?
Scott: When I lived in Norfolk, we lived in the city, and a major thoroughfare came through my neighborhood and wiped out half the houses, and that was very soon after that that we moved. Tidewater Drive came right through my neighborhood. And so we moved to Virginia Beach. Then we lived in the suburbs. Initially, there were two houses in the middle of the woods, and then a whole development was created. But it was a black development. It was built by a black developer at the time for people who were upwardly mobile to move into the suburbs.11:00
Kennelly: So did you have much contact with white people?
Scott: I had none. I can't think of any contact with white people, except for a Y teen camp that was held outside of Richmond. Even the Y's were segregated, and for whatever reason--I was in high school then, either a junior or senior--there was this camp that was going to be held, and it was going to be integrated. That was my first contact, really, sitting down and actually talking to anybody white.12:00
Kennelly: You were in high school? You said a junior in high school by then?
Kennelly: So did it seem odd? Could you remember what went on?
Scott: No, it was an exciting kind of thing because we knew it was going to be something different. The odd thing was they acted just like we did. They were interested in the same kinds of things: boys and looking at American Bandstand. There wasn't any great difference between any of us it seemed. It was an enjoyable experience, but then we packed up after that weekend and went back to our little segregated lives.13:00
Kennelly: So there weren't any negative experiences at the camp?
Scott: That I can recall. I can't think of any.
Kennelly: What do you think of the--
Scott: I think everybody had been schooled before they came that this was the experiment. They were going to do this. It wasn't like anybody was surprised. So I'm sure that everybody was prepared for this particular weekend because the whole thing was to talk about coming together as black people and white people.14:00
Kennelly: Do think they might have selected the kids to come to that?
Scott: Yes, they possibly could have. In fact, I'm sure they probably sent permission slips home to parents, and this is what it's going to be. If you don't want your child to participate in this, don't send them because they're going to be there, and they are going to be in the same rooms.
Kennelly: What do you feel about the quality of education that you had in your elementary and high school years at that school? Was it a good school? Were you well prepared for college?
Scott: Well, after coming here, I found out that I thought I was well prepared. I was made to feel by one counselor at my high school, believe it or not, that I would not be. I don't think he thought that we were ready. There was a fellow who went to high school with me who came here, too.
Kennelly: Same year as you?15:00
Scott: The same year. Yes, we were in the same graduating class in high school, and I wasn't coming unless he came. He wasn't coming unless I was coming.
Kennelly: What's his name?
Scott: Jimmy Woods. And he didn't finish here, but he came. We came together, and this particular counselor came right out and told me--I guess he told Jimmy the same thing--that it would probably be a mistake if we went to this white school because we would find out that we had not an equal education and that we would probably do poorly. So that, of course, just gave me resolve to come here and prove him wrong. And when I finished, I went back and let him know that I graduated, and I graduated in four years. It didn't take me five, six, seven years, or anything like that. I wanted him to know that because probably he gave me the impetus to do it. You know, to make sure that I would succeed because he doubted that I would.
Kennelly: What did he say?16:00
Scott: Congratulations. And by that time, by the way, my high school was closed. By the time I finished college, they had closed my high school and made it into something else. So desegregation of the high schools had really taken place by then.
Kennelly: And that was why your high school closed--essentially because of the desegregation?
Scott: Yes, they generally closed the black schools. People were rankled to send their white children to what had been the predominantly black school, I believe. That's my gut feeling as to why they closed it, but they made it into something else. It became a school for exceptional children, and as far as I know, it still exists that way.17:00
Kennelly: Was your family politically active?
Scott: Well, not politically if you mean by that being members of a political party and participating in political kinds of events that way. Did my parents vote? Yes, religiously, and I don't know if they voted prior to, you know, I'm assuming they voted even when there was a poll tax. But I'm not sure of that because I never talked to them about it, so I don't know. As far as being people who would go out with protest signs and demonstrating and all that sort of stuff, no.
Kennelly: Let's say the NAACP or something like that, did they belong to anything like that?
Kennelly: So was their attitude sort of, with the things that you knew, they would just sort of avoid those, like don't go to this lunch counter, and you don't go to that gas station?18:00
Scott: Now my mother and I did protest together once over a department store that had refused to desegregate its lunch counter, and it happened to have been a store in which the majority of the people, I think, who shopped there were black. It was like one of those department stores that was on the border of black downtown and white downtown, and so they had quite a few black people that shopped there. And so my mother was actively boycotting, and we did demonstrate that time with a little placket or something against Schwartz, I think, was the name of that department store. But as a regular kind of thing, no. But let me say this. My father's fight always was in that postal service. He was an outspoken critic, and it usually got him in a little high water here and there in terms of trying to make that work environment right for black people. As far as endorsing political candidates or any of those kinds of things, not really. Although my mother did take me to see John F. Kennedy when he came to town and he was running for president. I will always remember him. I fell in love with him. I was going to marry John F. Kennedy if I could just get rid of Jackie. I just loved him to no end.19:00
Kennelly: What happened with the lunch counter? How old were you with that?
Scott: They closed the store. The store closed. The boycott killed them. They just would not desegregate that lunch counter, and I guess it never hit them who's paying for the goods here. So they just wouldn't move off of that. And by that time, places like Woolworth's and the little Tea Room on the Mezzanine and Rices [Nachmans] department store downtown--all those places had changed, but that store would not, and so there I was.20:00
Kennelly: About when was that when you--
Scott: I was in high school.
Kennelly: Were there buses? Did you ride the bus?
Scott: No, I hardly ever caught the bus, but let me tell you about the bus. When we lived in Norfolk, as a child, I caught the bus because my parents didn't own a car. But the bus that we caught, where we were going was always to another black neighborhood, and so there were never white people on it. So I never went to the back of the bus. When we went to Clarksville, I don't recall whether I went to the back of a bus. Maybe I did and didn't realize it when I was child. I really don't have that kind of recollection. When I was a young teenager (twelve, thirteen years old, maybe eleven) when we had moved to Virginia Beach, the only way you could get into town (if your parents didn't take you in the car) was to catch a Trailways bus, and we would catch that on the corner to go into downtown Norfolk. We wanted to sit in the back, so I don't know if we had to or not. But we would take up that long back seat because there would be several of us girls, and I just remember us being silly on the bus, and so I don't recall having to do anything special. I don't recall a little line being drawn. I do remember this. When my grandfather died in 1969 in Clarksville, Virginia, my grandmother still behaved as if segregation existed. And I remember, as a child, the bus station being segregated. There was a side door that had "colored" and the front door was for whites. The local pharmacy had a little counter; of course, you didn't go anywhere near that counter. I recall that. So that when my grandfather died--I'm prefacing this for that-- telegrams had come in, and you had to pick the telegrams up at the bus station. And I remember my grandmother asked me to go get these telegrams and reminded me to go in the "colored" door entrance, and I was telling her that now this is 1969. We don't go in a "colored" entrance anymore, and her fussing at me because I was in Clarksville where she had to live. In Clarksville you still went in that door. And so because it was my grandfather's sad time, I said okay to her, but I went in that front door. There was no way, and then I was upset, and I went down to the pharmacy and sat at that counter and ordered a milkshake or something like that and sat there and drank it before I went back. Then I felt so much better. And of course no one didn't serve me, and no one said anything when I went in the front door. I mean, times had changed, but she hadn't. I thought that was so quaint that she was still having that attitude. Don't mess up in Clarksville. Now what you want to do up there at that Virginia Tech and anywhere else is your business, but don't come to Clarksville, Virginia and upsetting things. Yes, mama, okay.23:0022:0021:00
Kennelly: Was it a big deal when the Tea Room was integrated? You said there were several little places. Did that seem like a big deal when you were in high school?24:00
Scott: Yes, sure.
Kennelly: Would you go there and have a Coke there?
Scott: Sure, just to have one.
Kennelly: It seemed kind of exciting?
Scott: Yes, it was still danger.
Kennelly: Was there ever any a problem with that as far as actually going?
Scott: No, but I do remember this. When we were teenagers, a girlfriend and I went to apply for a job at one of those department stores. My girlfriend's last name was Tolentino, and she was one of my best friends, and she's my son's godmother. We had grown up together, and we went to do this. Her father was half Filipino, and so she had kind of slanted eyes, and she looked a little bit Asian. We applied for these jobs, and she swore out that on my application they had written an "N" on mine and a "W" on hers. She was white, and I was a Negro, and so neither one of us got the job. But we always felt that it was because of that racism. They would have all these stacks of applications, and they would weed those with the "N" on them and put them on in the trash. 'Cause this was after the 64 Civil Rights Act, and they weren't supposed to do that sort of stuff anymore. Sure it was still going on. Just put a little code on it. They couldn't ask you anymore what you were, and they had to visually look at you and try to figure it out, so they put something on it.26:0025:00
Kennelly: So was she white and Filipino or African-American and Filipino?
Scott: African-American and Filipino.
Kennelly: Was church an important thing for your family, or was that a social center?
Scott: No, not really. My parents went to a local Methodist church, St. Charles A.M.E. Church, and I had gone to that church until I was about 12. And I had gone to the local Episcopal church and really liked it. Primarily because they were in and out. From beginning to ending, it might have taken an hour, maybe. And if you went to eight o'clock's, 30 minutes. I said, this is the church for me. So I was confirmed into the Episcopal church all by myself, no parents. I just made that switch on my own without their help. And which, I guess, indicates what kind of household I lived in. My parents, I guess, respected my intelligence at that point. If that's what you want to do, all that was fine. I was allowed to do some independent things like that.28:0027:00
Kennelly: Was that a racially mixed church?
Scott: No, it was a black Episcopal church. All of the institutions in my life, until I came to Virginia Tech, were completely black. My school was all black, church was all black.
Kennelly: Were there any like social things that you did, say as a high school student, where it was mixed, like going to a pool?
Scott: The only thing that I remember doing was that Y teen conference.
Kennelly: That was the only thing?
Scott: That was the only thing that I ever did that involved white people that I can recall.
Kennelly: Were you involved in 4-H at all?
Kennelly: How did you happen to come to Virginia Tech? What made you think of coming here?
Scott: I didn't think of it. A recruiter, someone from this school, and I can't recall who it was, came to speak to students at my high school, knowing that it was an all black school.
Kennelly: So a recruiter came--
Scott: And left applications.29:00
Kennelly: And was it sort of a selected group of students who were--
Scott: I really don't know. I can't tell you. It could be that anyone who wanted to come could come, which meant getting out of a class (Hey, I was ready!), or it could have been it was a select group. I really do not remember. I just remember that this white man--and that's strange in my school at the time--was there to talk to students. I had never heard of Virginia Tech. It was not in my realm. I just didn't know anything about it. The only schools that were predominantly white that I knew anything about in Virginia was Old Dominion down the street, William and Mary, and of course UVA. VPI, way out here in the western part of the state, I didn't know anything about. I really didn't. And I knew of VMI, and that's because my mother's cousin and his wife lived in Lexington, and I had been to Lexington, Virginia. And she cooked for a fraternity at either Washington and Lee or VMI. So I knew of those two schools. But those were men's schools.30:00
Kennelly: So did you feel like you were being actively recruited, or just sort of they left the application, and you decided to apply?
Scott: Well the man talked to us and really seemed to be interested and talked up the school and seemed to really want us to come.
Kennelly: So you decided that you would apply?
Scott: Oh certainly. Well I took the application home, and my father decided that I would apply.31:00
Kennelly: Did you apply anywhere else?
Scott: I applied to Virginia State College which was where I was going to school.
Kennelly: Virginia State College. That's where you expected to go?
Scott: I expected to. That's where my mother, my father, his sisters, her brothers--everybody had gone to Virginia State in this family. And so I knew I was going to Virginia State. I had wanted to go to Howard University in Washington. That's really where I wanted to go, but that cost so much money. But I'm sure that I probably applied to Howard as well. And then I brought that application home from Virginia Tech, and it seemed to be that that was the end of all conversation about school. My father just loved the idea.
Kennelly: Of your going here?
Scott: Of my coming here. And that had to do with his philosophical approach to life. Times were changing. One had to get to know people of other races. Diversity would be good. You could go and teach them about black people, learn about how to live with white people. That's how the future world is going to be. This is the school you need to go to. Okay. Then they sent a letter saying I had some money to go to school, so that solidified it, and my father said, that's definitely where you're going.32:00
Kennelly: You got a scholarship?
Scott: A Rockefeller Scholarship for culturally disadvantaged students. So my father said, you just choke on the culturally disadvantaged part, pay that no attention, because I really resented that part. He said, take the money and go. And you can teach them who is culturally deprived later, but right now take the money and go on to school there.
Kennelly: So was it a good scholarship? Did it cover pretty much everything?
Scott: Initially it covered right much, and it got changed. By the time I left here, I was paying. I had to add something because tuition kept going up, room and board and stuff. You know how that is.
Kennelly: Did you know that you would be among the first group of women?
Scott: I had no idea. Do you want to know when I realized it? My mother called and said that there was an article in Jet magazine. I don't know if you've ever heard of Jet.33:00
Scott: It said that there were these six black co-eds at Virginia Tech, and they were the first black girls there.
Kennelly: I'll have to find that.
Scott: I've never seen that article. I've never seen that Jet. My mother told me about. And as far as I know, she didn't buy it. She saw it somewhere. So I would imagine that it was a Jet sometime in 66. It had to have been in 66 or early 67.
Kennelly: That's amazing. I'd like to get a hold of it for the archive.
Scott: I would like to do that, too.
Kennelly: This was before when you were already there?
Scott: Already here. Already here. I imagine, again we're talking about something that happened thirty years ago. I don't know if I was actually told that I was one of the first black girls. But, you know, you kind of figure there was somebody before you. So I don't think I quite understood the implications at the time, that I was the first. I knew intuitively that I was being watched. You know how you feel you're being watched by everyone to see how you were going to behave?34:00
Kennelly: When you came here?
Scott: Yes, I just kind of felt I was being watched to see if we were right for the job, so to speak. Now I remember that first quarter here. There were several of us who really didn't do very well, including me. And we were given a little lecture by people in the Admissions Office about if we didn't improve, we wouldn't be here very long and what have you. So that was enough for me, and I got myself together in higher gear. But some other people didn't, and then they were put on academic probation. Some just left because they couldn't, they didn't like it here. It was a hard environment. You'd be lonely a whole lot if you didn't have friends. And because we were the first six black girls here didn't necessarily mean that the six was a good mix.36:0035:00
Scott: So we all kind of branched out and found other friends as well. In other words, some of us became rather friendly with some white girls who went here as well.
Kennelly: So did you find that the white students, say in the dorm, were friendly on the whole?
Scott: In general, I think there was basically a kind of indifference. I don't remember them being particularly friendly or not friendly. People who lived beside you maybe, girls who might have been in some of your classes, you tended to be more friendly with maybe than other people. And again, come the weekend and it was time to find a party or something, then there was this little wall that separated us. They went their way, and you went your way.37:00
Kennelly: You felt pretty much left out?
Scott: Yes. That was in the beginning. In that first year or so, but as time went on, as Linda was saying earlier today, by around 68, it was the in thing maybe for some white people to become friendly with black people. The flower children were emerging, and it was cool. So you got the feeling they were slumming. You know what I'm saying. It's like that Harlem Renaissance thing when white people went to Harlem for the jazz clubs. You know they were slumming and that might have been what that was all about, too.38:00
Kennelly: That would be sort of painful?
Scott: Again, this is a hindsight reflection. I have not maintained any contacts with anyone that I knew here, black or white, for the most part. It just seems that when we left, we left. And, unless they lived in the Tidewater area where I was from, there are few people there that I still see every now and then. But for the most, there are no white people that I was in school with that I see or know where they are or anything.
Kennelly: So it was pretty isolating?
Scott: It could be. It could be very isolating.
Kennelly: I guess you were sort of thrown together with the other girls and the young men? Was everyone kind of clustered together? The black male students too?39:00
Scott: Now, I don't know how they were clustered because some of them were in the Corps and some of them were civilians. And I would imagine that they, too, were paired except maybe in the Corps. There may have been because there were uneven numbers, and they had to put people in different companies and all that sort of stuff. That might not have been as even a pairing. But it seems they were paired for sure. The fellow that came with me, for instance, had a black roommate miraculously when he got here. So my assumption is that everybody was paired like that, too.
Kennelly: Did you feel like the students in the dorms had sort of stereotypes and preconceptions?
Scott: I think so, and it was our job to dispel those things.
Kennelly: Now, you made a comment in that book. You felt "from the day I walked on campus I knew it was my duty to enlighten and become enlightened." Because of the kind of feeling you got from people?40:00
Scott: Well, certainly not only that, but I knew what the images that had been created about my people were. I'd been to the movies and seen television shows and what have you. And generally speaking we were Amos and Andy type of people. My assumption was that that's how white people saw us. So again, to think about who my father was. It became my job, I felt, to dispel all those myths.
Kennelly: Were things overt ever, or was it more like a subtle kind of racism?
Scott: Most of the time it was subtle. And again, you know how you feel sometimes that maybe you've repressed certain things. That you don't want to remember things that hurt. I get the feeling that I've probably suppressed a whole lot of stuff. Again the time when I was most fearful was when we were attempting to get the University to take the Confederate flag out of the Coliseum.41:00
Kennelly: Can you tell us the story about it?
Scott: Well, when I first got here, I didn't realize how big the flag and "Dixie" was to this institution. And I got my first insight into that at the first football game that I went to. The cheerleaders would come out on the field first with this huge rebel flag, and then the Highty Tighties would come out playing "Dixie." When they played "Dixie," it was expected that people would stand, as if it were the national anthem. I recall at a game I said, there's no way I'm standing for "Dixie." And I remember someone punching me in the back at a football game and saying something to the effect about how I should stand. I looked at that person, and I said, you best not put your hands on me again.42:00
Kennelly: A white person?
Scott: Yes, and he was drunk. I said, I'm not standing for this. Then so I may have moved my feet. I think I did, but I wasn't going to stand for it. And at every game that's how it was. Finally, there was a game that was televised, and my parents looked at it, you know. They were proud--they might see their daughter in the stands or something. That night my mother called me and said, are you all right? And I said, yes, why do you ask? She said, well, after I saw that rebel flag flying everywhere and "Dixie" playing over and over again. She said, my God, maybe I have made a mistake making this girl go up to Blacksburg, Virginia. So it was I guess at that point I said, we've got to rid of these two symbols. I guess it was the next year we started the work on trying to get rid of the flag that flew beside the American flag and the Virginia flag in the Coliseum. The interesting thing about that is that they would take the Confederate flag down when an important African-American came to visit, such as an Erroll Garner. I remember Erroll Garner coming to play his jazz piano, and the flag wasn't flying. So then you said, okay, well obviously they felt that this would be insulting to him. Why don't they think it's insulting to me, and I'm paying university fees and what have you? It's time for that flag to go. I had been elected to the student senate, and we made a resolution or a bill or whatever the case may be to get rid of that.44:0043:00
Kennelly: Had you brought forward that bill?
Scott: Brought forward that, and it went through the process as I recall. And I think a part of that process was that the University Council, which was made up (I believe) of faculty and staff kinds of people and maybe some trustees, those folks had to make that ultimate decision about whether to do that. And we received hate mail, ugly telephone calls.45:00
Kennelly: When you say, we, whom do you mean?
Scott: People who were involved in that process. My roommate at the time was white, and so she got threatening phone calls about living with me. Her name was Natalia Herdami, and I'd love to know where she is now. But the other kids who were involved in this--
Kennelly: The other people on the student senate?
Scott: Yes. Not everyone in the student senate was for this, now. In fact, there was a demonstration here on campus as a result of that in which students flew their flags outside of their windows. They would open the windows and hang their flags, and so this school was like covered in confederate flags at one point. And they would have the windows opened so that they could blast their records "Dixie" out of the window. I had a Nina Simone record that had a lot of like protest kind of songs on it. One of them was called "Mississippi, God Damn." So I'd open my window and play my "Mississippi, God Damn," which was a wonderful protest. I still have that record. I used to also play it for parents when they came on Sunday for those girls who wouldn't speak to me. There was that subtle kind of stuff with the girls, and so that was my way of introducing their parents to the idea that there was a black girl on campus now, and you had to deal with her. I'd open my door and have my "Mississippi, God Damn" playing out there until my roommate would come and say, come on, now, give them a break. Talk me into cutting it down a little bit. That was my way of dealing with it.47:0046:00
Kennelly: So there were girls that wouldn't speak to you?
Scott: Oh, sure. Sure. They didn't want to come anywhere near me.
Kennelly: What was the outcome then? Was this flag--how did that get resolved?
Scott: The flag came down.
Kennelly: It came down?
Scott: It came down.
Kennelly: So you were successful?
Scott: Yes, the flag came down.
Kennelly: That must have felt like a real--
Scott: It was a victory. It was a victory. I believe the cheerleaders stopped coming out on the field. You can be a little Hokie flag or something. You don't have to come out on that field with a great big rebel flag.
Kennelly: Now you got elected to this? Who--
Scott: Campbell Hall. I think it was from Campbell.
Kennelly: So you were elected from your dorm?
Kennelly: Was that kind of recognition by your peers at that point, too, of leadership?
Scott: Yes. I remember being on some kind of committee. In fact, there was that picture that they have a slide of. I don't know exactly what it says, but it was just a few of us sitting there, and it says we're some kind of committee. I just don't remember all of this stuff. This was back in the day before I did resumes and stuff. I wish I could remember that. I would have put it down. I just remember that we did it right. We didn't climb up the wall and pull it down or burn the building down. Remember this is also in the 60s in which that was definitely happening around the country. Kids were taking over buildings. They were a lot more militant than anybody at Virginia Tech. We were mild, very mild. I think that the University Council--and I think that was the body--was wise in their decision because we could've become that.48:00
Kennelly: That was pretty much a mixed black and white group that was pushing for that?
Scott: Yes, but mostly black for that Confederate flag. But there were white students who were in agreement that that particular symbol needed to come down.49:00
Kennelly: As I recall that picture, there might have been another black person in there, I can't recall. So in presenting it to the senate you might have been sort of having to do that on your own?
Scott: Yes. And I recall someone--there were hate messages on the floor of that body, and people suggested that if I didn't like things the way they were at Virginia Tech, that I could leave Virginia Tech.50:00
Kennelly: People would say that?
Scott: Oh, yes. They said that in that forum when we were having a debate on that. I remember leaving and being close to the steps when this fellow got in my face and repeated that. He used the n-word. He called me a nigger and told me that I should leave the university. All I could remember was saying, 'cause I believe he had his back to those steps, I think I suggested that I was going to push him right down those steps. He could leave. I wasn't going anywhere. I was going to stay and let them get rid of that flag, whether he liked it or not. That was my little taste of militancy. I remember having to have that facade at that point. It was like an evolvement. At first when I came here, I was a sweet child. By the time I left, I was Ungawa black power kind of person. I had become that, and I remember always having to have this serious facade so that people would take me seriously, so that they would be careful of what they would say around me. I guess in a way, I tried to become intimidating to people which I guess was kind of like a defense mechanism to survive in this environment. Although I still like with Betsy--the girl who was my roommate. She was white, and we got along famously.51:00
Kennelly: She was just somebody you happened to meet and struck up a friendship with?
Scott: Yes, exactly. We lived in the same dorm initially, and we just became real fast friends.52:00
Kennelly: Was there something about when that first group of women came that one of the women had been assigned to a white roommate and there was a problem with the roommate?
Scott: That's correct.
Kennelly: Now who was that?
Scott: That was Linda Adams. Chiquita Hudson had a medical condition. She had lupus. She had requested, apparently, a private room because she knew she would be sick alot, and she didn't want to have to disturb her roommate. And so they had granted that to her in Hillcrest dormitory. So that left five girls to pair, and they paired Linda with a white girl. And when the white girl and her parents got here and saw Linda in that room, they freaked. No way their daughter was going to stay in that room. They talked Chiquita into giving up her private room and living in Eggleston with Linda Adams. So that's how that came to be.53:00
Kennelly: That must have been painful for Linda Adams?
Scott: Yes, her initial experience here was that. We thought--I remember my mother and I and my father all thinking it was kind of funny. We didn't know who my roommate was going to be, and we walked in the room, and there was Jackie Butler. You know, ha ha ha, black and black, got it. That's how they're gonna do this. When I got here, Jackie was already in her room. All the people I saw, everyone was white. Of course there's this Jackie in the room, and it felt good to see her. It really did because there were nothing but white people here. We got right tickled by that fact that they had paired people. And we also got tickled by the treatment that we got. My mother looks white. They would keep asking her, where's your child? My mother would keep saying, this is my daughter. And then somebody else would come up and say, where's your daughter? This is my daughter. So we had a good time with that one all day, too, because people just didn't want to put us together at all.54:00
Kennelly: You laugh now, but there must have been a part of that I would think didn't--
Scott: Oh, we laughed then, too. There were times in my laugh when I used to get irate about that. I used to feel--there was a point in my life that I felt inferior being brown because the society makes you feel inferior because my mother wasn't. She used to talk about the sneaky kinds of things that she and a friend would do. Because if they had wanted to, they could have been white anytime they wanted to, so they could sneak into things and sit places that people wouldn't know, and they'd get a kick out of doing that. If somebody had known, they would have freaked. They played a game on white people. That used to kind of rankle. Fortunately somebody, somewhere along the lines, said something like black is beautiful. Yeah. That kind of got rid of those kinds of notions, but that's how the society made people feel. And then when you have a counselor in school who says you're not ready to be with them, that does not help your self esteem. The other kinds of things that went on here--like when I found out that white girls were told they had to have letters from home saying it was all right for them to date interracially. That was with any non-white people--Chinese, East Indian, black. It didn't make any difference. But I had not been told that I had to have a letter to do the same thing. Again, what's that saying about me and my womanhood? That was another thing that had to be rectified very early inside when I came here.56:0055:00
Kennelly: So what did you do with that?
Scott: Well, initially I just went and asked my--what did you call them then--head mother, head lady in charge. It was an adult that lived in the dormitory, whatever you called those people. She said she didn't know anything about it. Again, I don't think this was written policy. Or if it was, we didn't get it in writing. I'm just not sure how that policy came to be. You've got to remember that it wasn't until 1967 after we had gotten here that the Supreme Court had struck down miscegenation laws in Virginia. I would think that possibly it might have been in writing for those students because there was also an international kind of community of students here, too, that were non-white. I guess they wanted to cover all their bases, and now we got this influx of black kids coming, too. I had found this out quite by accident because I used to tease this girl who used to talk about one of the fellows that came to school the same year that I came, a black fellow, and she was, oh, he's just so adorable. I would just love to date him. Why don't you just stop talking about him? If you would like to go out with him, why don't you go out with him? I can fix you up. I can tell him you're interested. Oh, I can't. I said, why, because you're white? She said, well, not only that, I'd have to have a letter. So that's when I found that out. Yes, this was like near the end of our first year here. There wasn't a whole lot to do. But when we came back we had what was called a Human Relations Council, and so that was like the first item of business. We're going to test this whole business about the letter and interracial dating because by this time also there was a black girl who was dating a white fellow. I believe he had been called in. He had been called in, not her. But he had been called in about dating a black girl.59:0058:0057:00
Kennelly: Was this one of the first girls?
Scott: Yes, Freddie Hairston. In fact, she married him. So she really freaked them out. But they left school. I believe at the end of that freshman year some girls had applied to be R[esident] A[dvisor]s the next year, or it could have been at the end of our sophomore year. I'm just not really sure which year it was, but I'm thinking freshman year. I believe they had been called in about their association with Freddie and with the rest of us black girls and the parties that we attended in town that were integrated.60:00
Kennelly: You mean these were white girls that were called in?
Kennelly: Because of their association?
Kennelly: And they were called in by whom?
Scott: The Dean of Women, as far as I can remember. Now that's what they told us, that they had been called in. Basically told that they should stop associating with these people, that they were bad influences. And one of the girls' fathers supposedly came down and basically said, my daughter will associate with whom she pleases, and you don't blackmail my daughter by saying she won't get her RA position because of her association. Now I know she's going to get it because you've done that. The school didn't want a lawsuit. That's what this girl told us. I don't know this all to be fact, but I had no reason to disbelieve all those girls. As far as I can remember, they got their RA positions too and continued their associations. The Human Relations Council decided we would do an in your face kind of thing, and so we were going to have an interracial date set up to occur at a time when you have lots of alumni here for those reunions and what have you. Usually, like on a Friday night, there might be a concert prior to the football game on Saturday. This white fellow and I were the ones that decided we would do the experiment.62:0061:00
Kennelly: You mean you as students sort of informally decided to do this?
Scott: That's right. It was a Human Relations Council. It was an organization. That by the way, the first year I don't think we got approval to be a campus organization because (as somebody said) we were rather subversive. The "human relations" didn't sound right. But by the next year people had come to their senses and said that's fine to have a Human Relations Council.
Kennelly: I saw something about that in the yearbook, and I couldn't figure out what it was. There was a black and white handshake. I couldn't figure out who was on it or what it was about--in one of the yearbooks for your time here.63:00
Scott: That's right. That's what it was about, to help the desegregation process, the integration process, to make that transition better, to have a forum to talk about things.
Kennelly: It was student organized, you might say?
Scott: Yes, as far as I can tell. But I believe there was a faculty advisor. There might have been quite a few adults who were a part of that organization. So I don't think it was just student oriented. I think that there were quite a few adults. Like maybe your campus chaplain and those kinds of people. This fellow and I decided we would go, and so the technique that was used at the time was that when fellows came to call on a girl, they'd have to ask that dorm mother or whoever to make the call upstairs for you to come downstairs. Men weren't allowed on the halls at that time. There was a substitute there, and I remember she refused to call for me. In fact she said to him, do you know who she is? And he said, yes. Do you know that she's a colored girl? He said, yes. She said, well, I'm not going to call her for you. And so he had to get a kid, another girl to come up to get me to let me know he was there. We had tickets for this concert, and we sat on the faculty/alumni side. We didn't sit in the student section. We wanted the old people to see us, very specifically. Sure enough the next day the Dean of Women called me in (or the day after) and let me know that she indeed saw me and that I looked so nice and what have you. She told me that she had been to some breakfast that morning with these ladies who had graduated from school here, and she said one lady had said to her, did you see that colored girl and that white boy last night? She told me that she had told the lady that she had, and the other lady asked her then, well, what are you gonna do about it? And the dean told her, what do you mean, what am I gonna do about it? Here at Virginia Tech students can date whomever they please. She knew what I was doing obviously. That was to let me know, back off. I'm not gonna bother you folks anymore. You can date whoever you please, do whatever you want, and associate with whomever you please. So I think she had come to that realization that she was fighting a losing battle if that was going to be her thing. We spread the word that we don't have to battle this lady anymore on that issue. The funny thing is T. Marshall Hahn used to have these student forums where he would ask for input from students and student leaders, whoever wanted to show up at these things and ask him 101 questions. A fellow who was a member of that Human Relations Council (a black kid) had not gotten the word apparently that we weren't on that interracial dating issue anymore, and he brought it up and said there is a member of your administration who isn't quite up to par on this. And T. Marshall Hahn said, I know no one on my administration has said anything to anyone. And he called the Dean of Women (she was in the audience), is that correct? She stood there, indeed you are correct, sir. I guess she was saying, my God, I thought we were all right on this. And we were trying to nudge this fellow. He just kept talking and kept talking. I felt like I had done the lady a disservice. I talked to her later. I said, he hadn't gotten the word. So, everything's okay. Life was much more pleasant after that.68:0067:0066:0065:0064:00
Kennelly: Did you actually date interracially seriously?
Scott: No, that was the only time.
Kennelly: It was more like you would go out with black guys?
Scott: Yes, that was my only interracial date here. And it was a fellow in my freshman year. I used to go out with him all the time. He's a white fellow. It wasn't a date. I had no idea what year he was. He was older. But he had this motorcycle, and we used to talk in the cafeteria all the time. So finally he said, would you like to go for a ride on my motorcycle? I just fell in love with riding on that motorcycle, and he would just take me all over this area, and we would go around those mountains. Oh, it was just such a thrill. It was like being on a roller coaster. I just loved the thrill of that motorcycle. After that, I think he must have finished that year or something. He was like a big brother to me that year with the motorcycle, but never considered that a date. We just went for a motorcycle ride, and he'd bring me back and that was the end of that.69:00
Kennelly: Did you ever have any problems with people in town or anything because you were with him on the motorcycle?
Scott: I'm sure that we got stares and things of that nature, but just ignored it. No one overtly did anything, if that's what you mean.
Kennelly: What about like when you ate in the dorms and stuff? Were there any incidences there? Were people were pretty much mixing?
Scott: You mean over at Owens?
Kennelly: I want to get this straight. Which dorm were you living in?
Scott: Initially, Eggleston and then I moved to Campbell. Between those two dorms is where I lived. Four of us in Eggleston, initially, and two at Hillcrest that first year. Then after that year, more black girls came in.70:00
Kennelly: Was there any bad vibes from the students when you went over to Owens to eat?
Scott: Well, as Jackie tells it, at one point depending on where you set your tray down, some people might move. After a while, even that stopped.
Kennelly: Did you ever go to the Lyric Theatre?
Kennelly: At one point they had a balcony for black people. Was that over by the time you got there?
Kennelly: What about going to restaurants downtown? Was there--
Scott: I didn't have any money, so I didn't have to worry about being down there. My first year here, I had no money to go to restaurants. I never went to a restaurant here. They had a little cafe-like thing in Owens that you could pick up a hamburger or something. I might have been able to do that once a month. I had no money, so I have no idea what it was like in town. It was a rare thing that I went into town to eat or anything like that. I worked at a coffee shop in town my freshman year.71:00
Kennelly: You worked in a coffee shop?
Scott: Yes. I knew it was okay there. I served cider. It was a bookstore slash little coffee shop.
Kennelly: Now, where was that?
Scott: Right down the street. I don't even remember what the name of it was, but it was right off the street that we're on or around the corner. It wasn't far. It was in real short walking distance. I worked as a waitress. My father didn't know that.
Kennelly: He wouldn't have wanted you to do that?
Scott: No, I was never to wait tables.72:00
Kennelly: He didn't want you to get any service type of things?
Scott: That's right. I never could do that. So I did that without his knowledge, and, in fact, I don't think he ever found out. I did that one quarter.
Kennelly: Did that go okay?
Scott: Well, that was like a hip place to come. The kinds of people who would come there were your certainly most liberal kind of people anyway.
Kennelly: I think Jackie might have said that you went to the Episcopal Church here?
Scott: On occasion, not a whole lot.
Kennelly: She thought that was an integrated church?
Scott: It was. Nobody said anything. They were all very nice.
Kennelly: Did you feel comfortable there?
Scott: No. Being the only black one in there didn't feel that comfortable. That's why I didn't go very often.
Kennelly: What did you do for your social life?73:00
Scott: We looked for parties and generally someone in town--I think there was a barber in town who used to make his home available for us to have little house parties. On occasion, we went to the movies at one movie theatre, Lyric. Or just sit around in the little dormitories. There wasn't any place to go. I remember in the spring, one or two people had managed to get cars, and we would go to Roanoke to some clubs. That was it, but generally speaking there wasn't a whole lot to do in Blacksburg.74:00
Kennelly: Would that be going to a mixed black-white club?
Scott: No, that was black clubs.
Kennelly: Someone would know where they were?
Scott: Yes, people from Roanoke who were here.
Kennelly: Do you know where Freddie Hairston is now?
Scott: I have no idea.
Kennelly: So you've lost contact on Linda Adams?
Scott: I have no idea.
Kennelly: And, what about Chiquita Hudson's family? Do you know where they are?
Scott: As far as I know, they would still be in Hampton.
Kennelly: Do you have any kind of address or phone for them at home?
Scott: I don't, but that would be easy to get because Angela Talentino got married to Chiquita's cousin, my friend.
Kennelly: So we might be able to get that?
Scott: I might be able to get it. I'll check on that for you.
Kennelly: So you had that job as a waitress. Did you work at all other than that when you were here?75:00
Scott: No, and I only worked a short period of time. Tips were bad.
Kennelly: Do you think that the problem you had in the first semester, was that just like adjusting to college or do you think it had the racial--
Scott: I think I was looking too hard for a party. I really think that's what it was. I just didn't have myself focused on studying. Initially, I hated the place. I didn't want to be here. I didn't like it, so I would imagine that initially it was hard just being in classes with nothing but white people, being in a dormitory with nothing but white people, people not saying anything to you. You would sit in a class, and there was not a friendly face that you could even say, could you pass me a pencil for a minute? Plus, I'm going to tell you what scared me to death was that first talk by the president of the student government or something during orientation when he said, look in front of you, behind you, and to either side of you. Three of the four are not going to be here next quarter, or something like that, and then that hammering in of the honor code. I was so scared that I don't think I focused on anything correctly. I was afraid to ask anybody how to spell a word. I would preface it 'cause I was afraid I might break the honor code, may I have your opinion on how to spell such and such? It just scared me so much. And you're in classes in these lecture halls in an auditorium-like situation with those little desks and people right beside you and you have to take a test, and I was afraid to look at my sheet because I was afraid that if I looked like I was reading it this way then somebody might think that I was cheating. I was petrified until I finally mellowed out a little bit. But I did really bad in a French class. I had a Scottish-French teacher, and I didn't understand his English, much less his French. So that one threw me for a loop, and I didn't do well. After that, I had a Parisian lady teach me French and from that point on did fine. I swear I didn't understand that Scottish guy. I never did. I guess it took that shock of almost failing to make me come to the realization that I'd have to open a book on occasion.78:0077:0076:00
Kennelly: How about your professors and teachers? Did you feel there was any--
Scott: Yes, there were a few instances of that kind of thing. In my freshman year, I took an expository writing class, and we were told to write a paper about some truthful event in your life, or describe a place, or do something like that, that was for real. I did a paper on Church Street, which was black downtown in Norfolk, and the professor believed nothing that I wrote. He gave me a C on that paper, and I could never convince him that I was telling the truth. I invited him to come to Church Street. I had talked about Daddy Grace's church. I don't know if you've ever heard of Daddy Grace. Have you ever heard of Father Divine?79:00
Scott: These were these evangelical kinds of preachers, and Daddy Grace had the House of Prayer. That was the name of his church, the House of Prayer, and they were all over the place. I mean they were in different cities. I think he lived in New York, but when he'd come to town, there would be a parade, and he would have a float made out of nothing but money. People gave him money. His church was in the middle of Church Street, and on Sundays there were these speakers on the outside, because there would be an overflow crowd so that all these people could hear. The man didn't believe me, and he was a foreign professor which irked me. I talked about the tenements on Church Street and the foul smells that emanated from those places of urine on the walls. He couldn't believe that Americans lived like that, so I was lying. Okay. I never could get him to believe otherwise. The most interesting thing is when they finally decided that we could have an African American literature class and African, of course at that time it was called black literature, and black history and what have you, he was the black literature teacher. When I walked in there and saw him, I said, I know this is a farce. Here is the man that wouldn't believe what I wrote about the black experience, and he was going to teach me this literature. What a joke. I stayed there, but it was a joke. It was a joke of a class. He didn't do much teaching. We taught the class. We got to read a lot of books and got credit for it. He was just there sitting at a desk. He must have been the low man on the totem pole in the English Department at the time. Gosh only knows where he is now. I don't even remember his name. There was another professor in an American Literature class that I took who had us read the play, Green Pastures, which I believe was written by Joel Chandler Harris, which is a story about blacks in heaven. It was written in Negro dialect. We read that entire play in class. He read it to us. That was--should I say--I don't want to use the word embarrassing. I wasn't embarrassed by the dialect. I just thought it was kind of quaint that that was what we were going to have to study in that class as an example of American literature, what he considered it to be an example of black literature, but it was by a white man. So he was really confused, I thought. He was from Tennessee, and so he spoke in this Negro dialect with a Tennessee accent. It was just really hilarious, so I sat and laughed most of the time to myself. And I was the only black student in the class, and so when he finished this play finally, he asked, his first question was, well, what do you white students perceive heaven to be? I said, wait a minute. He just left me out of the conversation. So my hand went up, and he turned blood red. He said, oh, Miss Harper, I am sorry I left you out of the conversation. I said, you certainly did, and I want to correct something right now. Your assumption is that this is my perception of heaven, and it most certainly is not. I'll give you a couple of reasons why. Number one, there's this fish fry going on forever in heaven. I'm allergic to fish. I might as well go to hell. Number two is all this milk and honey stuff, too--not my perception of heaven. I don't like honey, don't like milk. This is not what I think about when I think about heaven, okay? That kind of got everybody kind of loosened up. Then we could discuss, and then we discussed how this is a white man's perception of what black people's perception of what heaven is. So we're doing this kind of backwards here. I don't know if he ever taught that particular play again, but what a waste. It was a waste of time. Those two particular things stick out in my mind. I had a very interesting class once in Sociology. I think it was a race and power class. My professor in that class was from Alabama, but I enjoyed that class. But once he asked, and this was a well mixed class--there were several black students because this was one class that I was not alone in. The professor asked for some black stereotypes. White students in class were a little skeptical about answering that question, so nobody said anything. So the black students got that one started. We gave him two or three stereotypes. Two or three now. When he finished, there were fifty-some stereotypes on that blackboard. Stuff I had never heard of before, and I said, my God, is this what they think? After that, he asked for some white stereotypes. Then the room got quiet. The black students started that one off again, but no one white ever added anything to that list. And, of course, we only might have gotten eight things on the board. Eight to fifty-some, and the most interesting thing is this white girl brought that up. She said, I find this most interesting that white people have no stereotypes about themselves. We really do think we're superior. That was a very good class, and that was an eye opener for me in terms of what the majority population had to say about perceptions of black people. Really ridiculous stuff. Really ridiculous stuff. Once the cloud was opened, the rain fell, and they just filled that board up. Those are some examples of things I can remember.86:0085:0084:0083:0082:0081:0080:00
Kennelly: What about--you were in the History Department? What was your feeling about the way history was handled?
Scott: I had one history professor that I really thought didn't like me, and I don't remember his name. But I never could seem to have any rapport with him at all. I asked him about something he had taken off in my blue book on a test and he could never really answer me. Otherwise, the rest of them, initially there was no black history or there was no treatment of black people, but I took a lot of European history courses. I was very anti-American at first. It wasn't until later that I saw the value of taking some American history. One of my favorite courses, really, was Civil War with Dr. Robertson. I enjoyed that course with him. He was good. He employed techniques that I've always employed as a result of having him teach me. History can be, in a lecture class, extremely dry where someone's just talk and talk and talk. But he had diaries, he played music, he did all kinds of things with that course. I said now this is how a history class ought to be taught. He was a teacher. Most were just lecturers. He was a genuine teacher. The other one that I really enjoyed was Dr. Wieczynski with Russian history. I took more Russian history than I needed just because I enjoyed the course. He wasn't the most interesting person, but Russian history was so interesting. He did the same kinds of things, and so I enjoyed his class. Then there was a black history class, and that black history class did a show on public television in Roanoke. We all went up and had these seminars on television, and apparently I said some disparaging thing about Virginia Tech. And because Dr. Wieczynski reminded me of that yesterday when I walked in and I said, my name is Maugerite Harper Scott. I was here back in such and such. I don't know if you remember me. 'Cause I'm thinking, heck, it's been 30 years, of course he doesn't remember me. He said, yes, you're from Norfolk. You're the one that gave Virginia Tech hell on television. And, I said, God, I had forgotten all about that. When we were talking about trying to get Black Studies here at this school and the treatment of black people.89:0088:0087:00
Kennelly: Do you remember what year that was in?
Scott: I do not. I'm thinking it's probably my senior year. So it's 69 or 70. It had to be when I was about ready to go.
Kennelly: It was like a forum of some type?90:00
Scott: Yes, on public TV out of Roanoke. We had to go to Roanoke to tape it. It might have been done live. I don't know. Well, of course I didn't see it. It must not have been taped. I never got to see it. We just got to do it, so people here saw it. Apparently Dr. Wieczynski saw it and it had stuck in his brain.
Kennelly: It would be a wonderful thing to have now. I wish we had a copy of that. It would be so interesting.
Scott: Yes, I'd love to see that myself if it still exists, but it probably doesn't exist anywhere.
Kennelly: Was that a mixed panel of black students and white students?
Scott: I think it was. I think it was.
Kennelly: You must have been sent in a way as a person who was outspoken?
Kennelly: You were on the standing Senate Committee on Credentials and Elections. Did you go to the school dances?
Scott: I went to the Cotillion and German Club, those things, yeah. We certainly did because we had found out that at one point black students who had been here weren't allowed on the dance floors, so we went to dances initially. Then after a while that got old, too, because you had to get dressed up and have a date and all that. My freshman year, I certainly did.91:00
Kennelly: I wonder if that was the first year the guys were going to the dances? I mean the black guys.
Scott: I have no idea if that was the first time they were able to go on the dance floor or not, but I was told that all you had to do was just buy a ticket and go, have a date and go. They had good music. They had interesting people, good music. That was something to do, get dressed up. Then there were dances in Memorial Gym, too. More informal kinds of things. We went to those, too.
Kennelly: With those, it was pretty much black students dancing with black students?
Scott: Probably. I'm thinking that that's probably the case. Now at some point a male friend of mine, who was in the Highty Tighties--a group of Highty Tighties played in a band also that performed, so they were invited to do a lot of fraternity parties. I would go to fraternities with them, and so it was interesting to see how white kids partied, because I would just sit with the band and just watch them.92:00
Kennelly: Sort of as a person in the band? You wouldn't be exactly participating?
Scott: I might know some of the girls because they lived with me in the dorm. So I might have a beer and talk to some of them, but generally I would not have been dancing with them or any of that sort of stuff.
Kennelly: What did you do in the summer time then? Did you go back home?
Scott: I went home, yes.
Kennelly: Did you work in the summer?
Kennelly: What would you do?
Scott: I worked. Until my junior, I worked at Norfolk Community Hospital as a PBX [Private Branch Exchange] Operator slash Admissions Officer at night. If it was at night time, I had to admit people. But most of the time I was just a PBX Operator. That was--we used to have to switch a switchboard. A switchboard operator in that hospital, and that was a black hospital. It was a hospital in a black neighborhood. So I worked there, and then in my junior year, I worked with Upward Bound. I was a counselor with that program.93:00
Kennelly: Now that's for students in high school?
Scott: Yes, and I was a counselor.
Kennelly: You were trying to get students to figure out how they were going to handle what they were going to do?
Scott: Yes, then the next summer--of course, I had finished--and I worked with Norfolk City schools in an enrichment kind of program. Same type of thing, only it was Norfolk City schools, and then I started teaching full-time.94:00
Kennelly: Then you started teaching?
Kennelly: A regular teaching job when you graduated?
Scott: Yes. I was interviewed here. An interesting thing about that interview, the first question that the interviewer asked me, who happened to be the man who was in charge of personnel for Norfolk City schools, he said, Miss Harper, now you know schools are desegregated. How do you think you could handle an integrated situation? I said, ding dong, where are we? I think I said that to him. I think my thoughts came out on that one. I said, ding dong, you're at Virginia Tech, how do you think I can handle an integrated situation? I'm a senior. I've handled it. That was that. Next question. So I knew I had blown at getting a job at Norfolk, but I thought that was such a stupid question. In fact, I never had any contact with him. Another interviewer who happened to come called me and gave me the job.95:00
Kennelly: The Norfolk job?
Scott: The Norfolk job. That particular man never spoke to me again, the person that actually interviewed me.
Kennelly: So you went then to teach at a school that was integrating at that time?
Scott: Yes. In fact, I started teaching in 1970, which was the year bussing began, so the whole school system was in great flux. Teachers had been moved around. I mean, I was just a first year teacher, so it was my first job. There had been white teachers sent to predominantly black schools, black ones were being sent to white ones, and so it was just a very tumultuous year. No one knew what to do with anybody. Not only did we have these little mixed children now, but the faculty was very much mixed, and there were very unhappy people everywhere. It was an interesting time, and everybody had to go in Norfolk City schools to human relations counseling. We had to have these in-services, these workshops on human relations. That was interesting, too.96:00
Kennelly: Did it go pretty smoothly?
Scott: For me it did, but like I said, for people who were not accustomed, I think life might have been a little more difficult.
Kennelly: When you were teaching white and black students?
Scott: What my father said, it come true. You needed to do exactly what you did. Here it is, here's the world like it is.
Kennelly: You kept with your teaching?
Scott: I taught continuously. I was out nine weeks for my son. I was not out a day with her. She came on the nineteenth of June, so I was out.
Kennelly: So you just steadily--
Scott: I steadily taught school.97:00
Kennelly: You have two children now?
Scott: Two children.
Kennelly: Do you have any regrets about coming here, going through all you went through?
Scott: No regrets. No regrets. I don't look back and regret anything. I may have done some things differently in hindsight. But I don't regret having come here.
Kennelly: How would you have done things differently?
Scott: I tend to think I might have become more outspoken than I was. Earlier maybe than I did.
Kennelly: To your fellow students and student groups or just generally?
Scott: Generally. Not only with students but with the adults here. There were things like that lady not calling me up. Those kinds of little incidences I might have just have been a more of an in-your-face type person.98:00
Kennelly: Which is this lady not calling you?
Scott: That wouldn't call me when the white fellow came to pick me up. So I suspect that there might have been some other little things that she had done because she didn't approve of us girls being here.
Kennelly: In that case, he sent another person up, he kind of circumvented the situation. You might have really called her on it.
Scott: Maybe there had been other incidences. Because that particular fellow had been over many times before. Because we were on that group together, just to talk. Not for a date.
Kennelly: As a friend.
Scott: As a friend. You just wonder. I might have just earlier have been more outspoken than I was. But that's hindsight. No, I have no regrets about going to Virginia Tech.
Kennelly: What about with your daughter, what kind of advice would you want to give her?99:00
Scott: It's strictly up to her. If she would like to come here, that will be fine. If she can find some money to come to Virginia Tech, let's put that in there--money! Money! You need money! Because that's out of state tuition. That's so much now.
Kennelly: Is there anything that you would like to add that I haven't thought to ask you or anything that you want to comment on?
Scott: Not that I can think of. I respond better to questions.
Kennelly: What strikes you on coming back to [Virginia] Tech as far as racial things? Your experience here? Do you have anything that you've thought about?
Scott: I understand that there are about eight hundred black students here, and I haven't seen anywhere near eight hundred, so I'm wondering where they are. I've heard the girls who have come over and talked with us say that there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of unity on this campus. Everybody seems to be preoccupied with their own thing, studying or whatever the case may be. That sense of community that we had, it's not here. But then, maybe the world is changing. Maybe that's a good thing, too. I don't know. People associate with whomever they want and that's a good thing. Nobody should be made to associate with anybody.100:00
Kennelly: Is this your first time back here?101:00
Scott: Not since I graduated. I came to graduate school here. One summer I came here and took twelve hours.
Kennelly: In one summer?
Scott: In one summer. Well it was still a quarter system, remember. After that I left. I have not been back. I've been to graduate school. I have a Masters from Duke. But I never came back to Virginia Tech and I've never been here to visit. I have a son that's in college. I never brought him to see Virginia Tech. For one thing, we live in North Carolina, and we've got plenty of schools there.
Kennelly: Your son's going to school down there?
Scott: Yeah. So I just never been back here. It's not a place that's on the beaten path to anywhere else. You just don't even get to pass it going anywhere. I just never had a real reason to come.102:00
Kennelly: Did you have a real sense that you were breaking ground when you came here? That you were a pioneer?
Scott: I knew that we were pioneers. Even though I knew we were pioneers and I knew we were being watched to see if this little grand experiment was going to work, I was determined that I was going to be me. I wasn't going to behave in some prescribed way that people wanted me to if I didn't think something was right. I'm saying this in terms of there were students here who were basically afraid to speak out on anything because they would jeopardize their scholarship or whatever. I didn't care. If I lost my scholarship here, they weren't going to ship me home. I'd go to Virginia State finally. That was my attitude. So I was not going to be some little goody-two-shoes that would just sit back and let things happen to her. I wanted to make things happen. That's how I was. This was a grand place for me to do it. There was something to make happen here that had never happened, being that we were the first. They didn't know what to do with us, apparently. With the other little set of rules. We had to be paired together, and I roomed with a white girl the next year because, hey, we're not going to do it the way you want us to do it. I felt somewhat like a pioneer, and I think that in turn molded how I was going to be for the rest of my life.104:00103:00
Kennelly: And mold how it affected--
Scott: --my job. Absolutely. If I felt something wasn't being done equitably with students, I've never been afraid to tell my administration so. And that's been throughout my twenty-five years. I may not have been very popular with them. By the same token, if there was anything that was questionable, they'd come and ask me about it and see if it was all right with me.105:00
Kennelly: They know you'd tell them.
Scott: They know I would tell them. I've always felt good about things like that. I was the one, and I still am where I am now. People come to ask as opposed to anybody else because they know I will tell them. If I don't think something's right, I'm going to let you know. I got that from my father. His thing has always been, hold on to what your convictions are and your principles. If this is what you feel, then this is what you tell them. My mother was always a very cautious person. Don't upset the apple cart too much. My father pushed the apple cart over if he wanted to. I always had these two diverse people, so I think I kind of tempered it pretty much, and I do a lot of things with humor. That can diffuse a lot of potentially very bad situations. Gosh knows if I didn't try to find the humor in everything, I'd be a bad, bad person.106:00
Kennelly: It helps.
Scott: It helps. I've been an advocate for children, especially black children, who have taken the brunt of bussing and being taken from their neighborhood and brought into a predominantly white neighborhood. When you think about how schools were desegregated, generally speaking, the black ones closed, which meant black people had to be bussed out of their neighborhoods. And white people resent bussing, but their children weren't being bussed for the most part unless it was by choice. Current kinds of things, I've been very active with site-based management in my school. I do think the long way and not necessarily to an organizational, an organized way of doing things. Just where I am. I'm concerned with this is the school that I'm in, so this is the place that I'm most interested in, and this is where I do my activity as opposed to a big system of things. I'm nobody's leader of any union or anything like that. It's where I am, I'll try to make it right as best I can.108:00107:00
Kennelly: Are you living in an integrated neighborhood now?
Scott: Oh, yes.
Kennelly: For your kids, things are different than--
Scott: Oh, yeah. They are. They have no idea what it is to be in any kind of a segregated society, but children self-segregate.
Kennelly: That's the case now?
Scott: Oh, yeah. Certainly.
Kennelly: With your friends, in your own social life, is that still the case that more of your--
Scott: My best friend's black. But we, certainly, like in neighborhood groups and what have you--I live in an integrated neighborhood, certainly. We have neighborhood parties and things of that nature, and so those are integrated. The same thing with some co-workers that I'm relatively close with. We may go out together.
Kennelly: To have lunch or whatever?
Kennelly: What does your husband do?
Scott: My husband works for the postal service. He works in management on the budget and things of that nature. He manages budgets.
Kennelly: Where did your sister go? Your sister was eleven years behind you. Did she go to school around here?
Scott: She went to Virginia State, where I wanted to go. So she got to go. She did very well there. She graduated Cum Laude from Virginia State. She's in Columbia, South Carolina now.
Kennelly: I have one more question on Affirmative Action policies. What's your feeling about Affirmative Action policies?
Scott: I think they've been great for white women but the perception is they've been too great for black people, and I think that's an erroneous perception out there, too. I think that Affirmative Action should stick around. I don't think of it as reverse discrimination. But the rest of the world seems to look at it that way. I don't think they're looking at it in terms of what it really is. I think those kind of programs need to be kept. I can see more harm coming as the result of ridding the nation of this because discrimination is still there. Racism still exists. Sexism still exists. People look at women as women first. They look at black people as black first. The only people who get to be looked at as individuals are white men. Since it is white men looking at all of us, I really still have this gut feeling that that's still the case out there. People are still not being judged by the content of their character but first by either their sex or their race.111:00110:00 [End of Interview]