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2:19 - Educational History

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Partial Transcript: Samantha: Can you describe your education for me?

Jessie: The education at Christiansburg Institute?

Keywords: Christiansburg Institute; Wake Forest

Subjects: Christiansburg Institute; Education

6:06 - Going to CI

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Partial Transcript: Samantha: Do you remember how you felt the first day of school?

Subjects: Christiansburg Institute

8:38 - Extracurricular Activities at CI

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Partial Transcript: Samantha: And, what kind of activities did you participate in at CI?

Jessie: Cheerleader, forensic club, I was secretary of my senior class. Goodness. Science club and that's it.

Keywords: cheerleading; forensic club

Subjects: Christiansburg Institute

11:05 - A typical day at CI

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Partial Transcript: Samantha: Can you remember what a normal day was like at CI?

Subjects: Christiansburg Institute

16:13 - Jessie and Classmates Post CI

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Partial Transcript: Samantha: Okay, and so, CI had a high post-higher education rate? Where a lot of students went on to-

Jessie: Went on to college-

Keywords: College; Radford College; Segregation

Subjects: Christiansburg Institute; College

22:20 - Different Trades Taught to Students at CI

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Partial Transcript: Jessie: Oh, and let me--I forgot to say this. When you graduated from CI, of course we had industrial arts which- oh goodness, I can't even think of his name and he lives right down the street from me now.

Keywords: Carpenters; Industrial Arts; Musicians; Trades

Subjects: Christiansburg Institute

25:12 - Segregation in Blacksburg

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Partial Transcript: Samantha: Well, where did your friends go to school?

Jessie: Oh, they went to Blacksburg and to--this was during elementary school time, they went to--Long Shop had an elementary school, McCoy had an elementary school. I used to play with the little fellas from Long Shop. We played all day long together and then-

Keywords: Long Shop; McCoy; segregation

Subjects: Christiansburg Institute; Segregation


´╗┐Samantha Maynard: This is Samantha Maynard interviewing Jessie Eaves on Wednesday, November 14, 2012 in conference room Fourteen-B in McBryde Hall at Virginia Tech. We will be discussing Christiansburg Institute and segregated African-American education in and around Blacksburg and Christiansburg, Virginia. So, can you state your full name?

Jessie Eaves: Jessie Sherman Eaves. I go by Sherman. Took my last name as my middle name.

Samantha: Okay. And what's your address?

Jessie: 401 Jackson Street, Blacksburg, Virginia. Is that on yet?

Samantha: Um-hm.

Jessie: Oh, okay.

Allison Munter: Do you want to stop it? We can stop it any time you want.

Jessie: I don't want the garlic to kill ya. I had garlic last night. [laughter]

Samantha: Oh yeah, you don't have to have this part on there if you prefer not to.

Jessie: Okay, go ahead.


Samantha: Okay. When and where were you born?

Jessie: I was born in Radford, Virginia. April 26, 1947. Sixty-five.

Samantha: And are you married?

Jessie: I am.

Samantha: um-

Jessie: My spouse's name?

Samantha: Yeah.

Jessie: Thomas Eaves.

Samantha: And do you have any children?

Jessie: I do have two daughters. Latonya-

Samantha: How do you?-

Jessie: L-A-T-O-N-Y-A.

Samantha: And, how old is she?

Jessie: Thirty-nine.


Samantha: And-

Jessie: Kimberly. Thirty-two.

Samantha: Can you describe your education for me?

Jessie: The education at Christiansburg Institute?

Samantha: Well did you go to school before you went to Christiansburg Institute? Like an elementary school?

Jessie: Oh, yeah, I did. I went to Wake Forest Elementary school in Wake Forest, Virginia.

Samantha: Then you graduated from the Christiansburg Institute?

Jessie: I did. after Wake Forest Elementary, I went to Blacksburg Elementary.

Samantha: Was that segregated at the time?

Jessie: It was. We went past a few schools to get there. [laughter] Then we went 3:00to Christiansburg Institute for eighth through twelfth grade.

Samantha: And did you have further education after-?

Jessie: I went to Radford College. It was Radford College then. For a year, it was about a year.

Samantha: And other than working for Virginia Tech, where else have you worked?

Jessie: Worked at Poly-Scientific. It's now Moog. M-O-O-G. And then I worked at Hercules, Incorporated which is now British--I think British arms just recently purchased it. Then I've been at Virginia Tech for twenty-six years.


Samantha: Okay. And so, do you remember how old you were when you first started attending Christiansburg Institute?

Jessie: Goodness Lordy, let me think. Eighth grade, I would have been what? I can't really remember. Let's see.

Samantha: Like twelve?

Allison: No, thirteen.

Jessie: Thirteen, probably. Thirteen, fourteen. No, that's not right. Fourteen, it had to be fourteen, because you graduated at eighteen. Right, fourteen.

Samantha: And did your siblings--did you have any siblings?


Jessie: I did, but they didn't attend Christiansburg Institute. I graduated in [19]65 and that was the year before it closed in [19]66. So, Christiansburg Institute closed permanently at the end of the academic year in 19[66].

Samantha: So by that time, were a lot of your friends transferring over to integrated schools?

Jessie Eaves: Blacksburg High-

Samantha: Yeah.

Jessie: Blacksburg High, Christiansburg High, Pulaski, Floyd, I guess Dublin, Shawsville. Because at that time, all the African-American students went to Christiansburg Institute, so if you were anywhere in the New River Valley, that's where you attended school.


Samantha: As far away as Charlottesville?

Jessie: Oh, Shawsville. It's my accent. Shawsville. [laughter]

Samantha: And do you remember what it was like, how you felt your first day of school?

Jessie: Oh, I was excited. It was really set up like a campus. I mean, we had different buildings for different things. We had the lunchroom and the library and the principal's office was all in one building. We had one building that we had math, science, business, French, and English in. Then we had one building, was Scattergood Gym. We had gym, music, geography in that building.

Samantha: Wow.

Jessie: Yeah. Then we had one house that we had home economics in and then we 7:00had another house that housed the barbering and the cosmetology department. So, you had to walk, just like you have to do here at Tech, just had to walk to get to all your classes.

Samantha: So the campus was really big?

Jessie: Yeah, it was, you know, a pretty nice size. It wasn't as large when I went there as it was when my mother went there. My mother graduated from there too and it was like a hundred and some acres, I think. A hundred and eighty-five acres or something, the original campus. She boarded, she was a boarding student.

Samantha: Oh, okay. So did you take the bus to school?

Jessie: Took the bus, we left at seven every morning, got back at five o'clock in the afternoon. [Laughter]

Samantha: That's a long day.

Jessie: It's a long day. [Laughter]

Samantha: What year did your mom graduate from CI? Do you remember?

Jessie: I do not even remember. [laughter] But I do know she was a boarding student and she did finish.

Samantha: Okay and so, did you like riding the bus?

Jessie: Not that far but we didn't have a choice. [laugh] 'Cause we went by, it 8:00was no high schools. Eventually, we went by Blacksburg High School. But as far as elementary school, we only went, I think, first through fifth grade at Wake Forest, and then we went sixth and seventh grade at Blacksburg Elementary School, which is the same school that is on Harding Avenue now, but they've added more on to it. It was just a little two-room school when we went there.

Samantha: And, what kind of activities did you participate in at CI?

Jessie: Cheerleader, forensic club, I was secretary of my senior class. Goodness. Science club and that's it.

Samantha: Wow! And do you know how these activities compared to other high 9:00school activities? Did Christiansburg offer more diversity with activities and stuff?

Jessie: I'm not sure because at that time, we didn't really go to any of the other schools for anything.

Samantha: Okay.

Jessie: Because it was all African-American then.

Samantha: Was there anything about CI that you really didn't like at all?

Jessie: Unh-uh. I loved it. I loved school.

Samantha: And what about it did you love so much?

Jessie: The teachers, the getting to know the students from other areas, cheerleading, going to all the football games, the basketball games. [laughter].


Samantha: Despite it closing in [19]66, all your friends went to CI. So you didn't know anyone that went to the public schools like Blacksburg High School?

Jessie: Not in my class. I think like [19]64, some of the students that were ahead of us, a few of the students went to Blacksburg High and graduated from Blacksburg High. But I finished my last year at Christiansburg Institute. But Blacksburg High, I think it integrated in [19]64 if I recall and some of the students did transfer over there.

Samantha: But you don't know how CI compared to Blacksburg?

Jessie: No.

Samantha: Were you given the opportunity to transfer?

Jessie: We could but who wants to transfer their senior year?

Samantha: Yeah.

Jessie: Not me! [laughter]

Samantha: Can you remember what a normal day was like at CI?


Jessie: Classes, P.E, going outside for gym. Oh, I also worked on the yearbook staff. I forgot about that. Yep. Did the yearbook, did the yearbook thing.

Samantha: You were talking about the teachers that they helped make CI really special. What about them was so like special?

Jessie: They were very energetic, really cared that you learned, took extra time to see that you really got the information. In fact, I can think I can remember just about all my teachers' names I had: Mr. Holmes for Geography, I had Mr. 12:00Carr for Biology, I had Mr. Buckley for Math, Miss Bradley for P.E, Miss Chappelle for Home Economics, Miss DeHart for Cosmetology, Mr. Brown for Music, and, let's see, Mr. Dobson for Business. And I think later Mr. Dobson was assistant principal, I think, at the middle school. Yeah.

Samantha: And do you remember who was principal of CI when you went?

Jessie: Mr. Banks. John F. Banks, Sr. [laughter]

Samantha: What teachers, if you can remember, had a significant impact on you?

Jessie: Miss Clemons. Okay, I had Miss Clemons for English, she was very good and Miss Charlton, I had her for French and she used to--her statement was, 13:00Jessie, you cannot look pretty and speak French. [laughter] 'Cause she used to always, parlez-vous Fran├žais? and would say you can't look pretty and speak French.

Samantha: Would you have regarded these teachers as a mentor almost?

Jessie: I would. And, I loved Mr. Carr was good for- I think I had him for biology.

Samantha: How are they-

Jessie: Chemistry, I had him for chemistry, too. [laughter]

Samantha: So did the teachers repeat, teach multiple subjects?

Jessie: Mr. Carr taught biology and chemistry. I think Mr. Holmes, I know he taught Geography but I think he taught History, also. Miss Clemons only taught 14:00English. Miss Charlton only taught French, Mr. Dobson only taught Business and Mr. Buckley taught the Math classes.

Samantha: Wow, your classes were diverse.

Jessie: Um-hm.

Samantha: And how were the teachers like Miss Clemons or Mr. Carr different than your other teachers?

Jessie: I think they just took maybe a lot more time. 'Cause I like Miss Chappelle, too, in Home Economics. We used to have to eat what we cooked. So that sort of leaves a lasting impression on you. [Laughter]

Samantha: Because the teachers played a more significant role in the community, they were more than just teachers, right? They were often-


Jessie: A lot of them often attended churches in the area where we went to church.

Samantha: Okay, so-

Jessie: 'Cause like-

Samantha: So were they prominent members of the community too as well as being just teachers?

Jessie: Right. I think teachers got more involved in the community back then.

Samantha: Okay.

Jessie: And Mr. Buckley was the band teacher and, 'course, we won first place every year in the parades [laughter]. So we had a good band. I think they demanded excellence and I think really, this is my opinion, our education from a high school was equivalent to a junior college now because most of the people that graduated, most of the students that graduated went on. A lot of them went on to finish college and a lot of 'em went into other fields and really excelled in what they did, so to me, that education then was equivalent to going to a 16:00junior college for two years now.

Samantha: Okay, and so, CI had a high post-higher education rate? Where a lot of students went on to-

Jessie: Went on to college-

Samantha: Okay.

Jessie: And finished.

Samantha: Wow.

Jessie: More like, for instance Doug Brown, he went on. He graduated from college. He was the principal of a school somewhere in Virginia. Sydney Lee went on to work for--he finished--I think Sydney graduated from Tech. Sydney Lee, and he went on to work for Hughes Company out in California. Let's see, a lot of 17:00them graduated, I can't remember what college. They went on to work either in the government or other businesses.

Samantha: The colleges they went to, at that point were they still segregated, or was Radford segregated?

Jessie: When I went to Radford University, I was one of the first six students, maybe, or eight students that went to Radford.

Samantha: Wow!

Jessie: Yeah, now, that was a different experience. But, I didn't finish.

Samantha: Okay.

Jessie: I'm not sure where any of the students that were with me the year I went over there are now.

Samantha: Was it a bad experience? How different was it compared to having classes, integrated classes?


Jessie: It wasn't really a bad experience. I commuted and didn't stay on campus, but I know Lavern Bates from New Jersey, she stayed on campus. I'm trying to remember some of the other students that went over there, which I can't. Some of them had some bad experiences because at that time, it was just a new thing and a lot of the parents didn't want their children rooming with African-American kids, so you had to change rooms and things like that, but it was okay.

Samantha: Was this type of racism, was this a new experience or did you experience this while around the community of CI?

Jessie: Well-

Samantha: Not CI, but, where you lived?

Jessie: Okay. I always had white friends. In fact, my best friend for a while, we slept in the same bed, shared stuff. A lot of my friends were white. You 19:00could play with them but you couldn't go to school with them.

Samantha: Would you have said that racism wasn't a huge conflict for you other than?

Jessie: No.

Samantha: Separate schools?

Jessie: Separate schools, right.

Samantha: After leaving Radford, you went straight to work?

Jessie: Let's see, I actually worked Hercules the summer, I think, before I went to Radford. So then yeah, after Radford, I went to Poly-Scientific and I didn't stay there long. Then I worked in banking. Oh, I'm sorry, I worked in banking for sixteen years. [laugh] Forgot about that.

Samantha: Okay.

Jessie: I worked at-what was it then? First National Bank. First National 20:00Exchange Bank and then they changed their name to Dominion. And then, I worked there for a while and then we moved, we got married in [19]69. I moved to D.C. and I worked at Dominion Bank on Glebe Road in D.C. and then I went to American Security in D.C.

Samantha: Do you believe that desegregation had a negative impact on the African-American educational system?

Jessie: I think it did and, let me see, the reason I think it did. Because, I think when they went to a lot of other schools, they didn't get that personalized attention that you get and I think that made the difference. I really do.


Samantha: Was there a cultural difference at CI? I can imagine that there was- it instilled African-American culture in the education, like you incorporated it. Do you think that that kind of culture was lost?

Jessie: In desegregation?

Samantha: Yeah.

Jessie: I would say yes.

Samantha: Can you think of any cultural traditions that no longer are in practice?

Jessie: Well, then I think they had a good background on what it was like. Family, education, church, it was all sort of intertwined. And then, after then, I guess the families still were there but I don't think you had the church portion of it.

Samantha: Okay.


Jessie: A lot of people don't like mixing church but I think a spiritual background is very good. I would say that, since I am a youth minister right now [laughter]. But, yeah. I think it lost a certain part of it, right.

Samantha: Okay, so.

Jessie: Oh, and let me--I forgot to say this. When you graduated from CI, of course we had industrial arts which- oh goodness, I can't even think of his name and he lives right down the street from me now. Mr. Smith, Joe Smith taught industrial arts. I mean you could find a job, it was a lot of carpenters that came out from Christiansburg Institute. A lot of musicians. I'm not going to say dress designers or anything like that because in home economics, we used to have to do an outfit or design something or do a pattern or something and then do a 23:00fashion show. So, what you fixed--actually, I think it made you do your best 'cause if you knew you were going to be in a fashion show you were going to want something that was nice, right? You are not going to want to get out there. We did a lot of plays. I guess they do that at high schools now. But, we did a lot of plays there, too, on a stage. I think all that helps a lot. I don't know any actors or actresses that was over there but a lot of musicians. Some financial planners. So I think we got just more of a--I don't want to say it--well-rounded thing, you know?

Samantha: For those who didn't go on to college, it was easy for them to-

Jessie: Find a job, right.

Samantha: Okay.

Jessie: Because the business skills that you got even made excellent 24:00secretaries. And I have to throw this in since it's going to be on the thing. I grew up in Wake Forest. And most of the students from Wake Forest finished probably in the top five of the class. I don't know why that was. We didn't have much to do but study. [laughter] Study and play and study was a first. And I think the saying that it takes a whole village to raise a child, that's what it was. It was more, you know, in the community everybody sort of looked out for everybody and-

Samantha: And so, you said that you had a lot of Caucasian friends. Do you remember ever feeling that CI was less prominent than Blacksburg or more 25:00prominent, like it was a better school?

Jessie: No, I never did really think that because I really didn't go to Blacksburg so I couldn't really compare the two. But, I mean I grew up. I didn't go to Blacksburg High, yeah.

Samantha: Well, where did your friends go to school?

Jessie: Oh, they went to Blacksburg and to--this was during elementary school time, they went to--Long Shop had an elementary school, McCoy had an elementary school. I used to play with the little fellas from Long Shop. We played all day long together and then-

Samantha: But you don't remember any significant differences between their education and yours where, one institution was far- like, CI has a reputation of being really top notch for not only an African-American school but just a school 26:00in general-

Jessie: Right.

Samantha: How did it compare to the white schools that your friends were going to?

Jessie: And that I don't really know. Okay. Because Jade and Ellen, they were not from here. My aunt used to work for their families and they were from New Jersey and Florida. And they would come in the summer and we would spend the entire summer together. They would come to Wake Forest and stay with my aunt or I would go to Blacksburg and stay with them. So we really didn't experience a lot of the, I guess you'd say, racism.

Samantha: Okay. When you went into Blacksburg in the summer and stuff, could you eat together in the same restaurants?

Jessie: Oop, no. Oops. No, no, no, no. I'm trying to think when--I can't even 27:00remember when the restaurants, you could sit down and eat in them. I remember the bus station wasn't even--you couldn't even go in the bus station until Duke Ellington came here to play for Ring Dance for Tech one year, and they got in in the middle of the night, and they couldn't even go to the bus station. And then I think that changed right after that. I can't remember what happened but no, the restaurants weren't integrated then.

Samantha: So you were only able to-

Jessie: Eat with them in their homes.

Samantha: Okay, yeah.

Jessie: And they ate with me in my home. [laughter]

Samantha: Were you frowned upon to be seen with them together in Blacksburg? Could you walk down the street with them?

Jessie: We did, but I was young and you don't think about stuff like that.

Samantha: Okay.

Jessie: Really, you know.

Samantha: Okay, but you never received any- conflict from it?

Jessie: No, I didn't.


Samantha: Okay. How do you think the African-American community is different now than it was when you went to CI?

Jessie: I don't think we are as close knit and that's probably because you have a more diverse, it's a more diverse student body.

Samantha: Again, are there cultural things that you did with the community? You were saying the church was really significant. Is it still significant?

Jessie: It is in my life but probably not in my kids'. Oh, don't make me go to church mom. [Laughter] Yeah, that's just my observance. I just think that piece, that spirituality piece is missing now. That's Jessie's opinion.


Samantha: Do you think that it's a loss for the community?

Jessie: I do. Yeah, I think the closeness, the close-knit communities. I think that's a loss.

Samantha: Going back to the question about racism, do you remember ever getting involved with civil rights kind of stuff?

Jessie: Not much. [laughter] I know we couldn't go in, we couldn't eat at the drugstore. One guy closed his lunch counter down rather than to serve blacks but 30:00that was [laughter] kind of funny.

Samantha: Are there any questions that I didn't ask you that you wanted to discuss or that you think is something important?

Jessie: No, I think you covered a lot of it. How do y'all feel? Did you all go to integrated schools, private schools?

Samantha: Yeah, mine wasn't really integrated. So I didn't really experience it until I went to college, actually.

Jessie: Okay.

Amanda: Mine was. I had a pretty mixed school.

Jessie: Oh, okay. Where did you attend school?

Samantha: St. Anne's-Belfield. It's a private school in Charlottesville.

Jessie: Oh, okay.

Samantha Yeah, but it's not segregated, just kind of happened to be that way.

Jessie: Right, okay.

Amanda: I'm from Virginia Beach, so.

Jessie: Oh, okay.

Samantha: Well, thank you so much-

Jessie: Is that all you need?

Samantha: Yeah, thank you so much.

Jessie: Oh, okay. If you want to add on any, it was a great experience. 31:00Christiansburg Institute was a great experience. And we did lots of things, lots of fun things and had lots of fun times. Lots of, like I said, plays, lots of programs. It was pretty neat. Pretty neat.

Samantha: Well, thank you so much.

Jessie: Okay, Samantha. Samantha and Allison, right?