Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Viola J. Greene, June 1, 1978

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:16 - Education / early teaching career

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Partial Transcript: This is Edward Owens. I'm with the Urban League. I'm working on the oral black history project.

Segment Synopsis: Greene discusses her educational life from elementary school through college. She mentions moving between Cincinnati, Louisville, and other cities. She also mentions working as a substitute teacher while still in high school. Greene ends the segment by discussing her early teaching experiences.

Keywords: 1930s Lexington; Booker Washington School (Lexington, Ky.); Dunbar High School (Lexington, Ky.); Integration; Teachers

Subjects: African Americans--Education--Kentucky--Lexington; Lexington (Ky.).

00:05:33 - Comparison of black and white school resources and teachers

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Partial Transcript: At the time that I taught, uh, in the public schools in Lexington system, there was a double salary scale for teachers.

Segment Synopsis: Greene talks about the salary discrepancies between black and white teachers early in her teaching career. She goes on to discuss the teaching conditions in black schools. The segment ends with the discussion of her education at Columbia University and her efforts to start a guidance program at Dunbar High School.

Keywords: Black schools; Black teachers; Columbia University and blacks; Inequality for teachers; Inequality in employment; Inequality in schools; Lexington public schools; Salary scale; Salary schedule; Segregation

Subjects: African Americans--Education--Kentucky--Lexington; Segregation in education--Kentucky; Teachers--Salaries, etc.

00:10:16 - Vocational classes at Dunbar High School / comparison of black and white schools

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Partial Transcript: Uh-hm, uh-hm. But it, it, it, it was interesting to me that he wasn't going to let any program be started at Dunbar that had not first been initiated at Henry Clay.

Segment Synopsis: Greene talks about how her efforts to start a guidance program was not approved, but she was able to start vocational classes at Dunbar High School. She goes on to discuss the differences between the black and white schools, including the difficulties caused by the location of black schools.

Keywords: Black schools; Black teachers; Blackteachers; Dunbar High School (Lexington, Ky.); Inequality; National Urban League; Race relations; Racial discrimination; Segregation in public schools; Separate but equal; Vocational classes

Subjects: African Americans--Education--Kentucky--Lexington; Segregation in education--Kentucky

00:14:44 - Comparison of black and white school facilities and resources

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Partial Transcript: Okay, as far as the facilities of the school, the library, the gym, were these equal to the white schools?

Segment Synopsis: Greene compares the school facilities of black and white schools prior to integration. She also talks about discrepancies between black and white school resources. The segment ends with the discussion about the quality of the Douglass' office skills classes for black girls compared to those for white girls at Lafayette High School.

Keywords: Douglass high School (Lexington, Ky.); Dunbar High School (Lexington, Ky.); Fayette County School System; Lafayette High School (Lexington, Ky.); Lexington school system; School conditions; School facilities; Segregation; Separate but equal; Teaching conditions

Subjects: African Americans--Education--Kentucky--Lexington; Segregation--Kentucky--Fayette County

00:19:16 - Black student activities

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Partial Transcript: What were some of the main activities at Douglass and Dunbar schools for the black children?

Segment Synopsis: Greene begins the segment talking about the speech contest and festivals attended by black students during segregation. She goes on to discuss dynamic between black student contestants and white judges once the speech events were integrated.

Keywords: Black schools; Black student activities; Black students; Integration; Race relations; School activities; Segregation; Speech contests

Subjects: African Americans--Education--Kentucky--Lexington; Race relations--Kentucky--Fayette County; Segregation in education--Kentucky

00:24:37 - Social standing of black teachers / black teacher activism

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Partial Transcript: Okay. Now, as far as the black community is concerned, you, being a teacher, were at that time probably one of the better educated people in the community.

Segment Synopsis: Greene discusses the social status of black teachers in the black community. She goes on to talk about black teachers' involvement in the civil rights movement.

Keywords: Black teachers; Civil rights movement; Political activism; Social activism; Social standing; Student activism; Teacher activism

Subjects: African Americans--Education--Kentucky--Lexington; African Americans--Kentucky--Lexington--Economic conditions; Teachers--Kentucky

00:28:59 - Black student reaction to integration

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Partial Transcript: In talking to some of the people, it, it has come to my attention that high school students were very much involved in the movement and in the marches and whatever.

Segment Synopsis: Greene talks about black students reaction to integration and involvement in the civil rights movement. She also discusses her experiences teaching in integrated schools and the relationship between black students and white teachers.

Keywords: Black student resistance; Black students; Black teachers; Difficulties with integration; Integration; Race relations; Racial tensions; Student activism

Subjects: African Americans--Education--Kentucky--Lexington; School integration--Kentucky--Fayette County

00:36:05 - Teacher integration

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Partial Transcript: Okay, at this time. When, when, when, uh, do you remember the year that the schools were integrated?

Segment Synopsis: Greene talks about when, how, and why black teachers were selected to teach at white junior and senior high schools, including her theory on why she was selected to teach history.

Keywords: Black teachers; Board of Education; Integration; Lafayette High School (Lexington, Ky.); Teacher integration

Subjects: African Americans--Education--Kentucky--Lexington; School integration--Kentucky--Fayette County

00:41:49 - Teaching at Lafayette High School

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Partial Transcript: I would like to ask you, when you first went to Lafayette, which was the high school that you went to, the integrated school, how were you received by the white teachers and by the the principal?

Segment Synopsis: Greene discusses her experiences with white teachers and students at Lafayette High School. She mentions that there was some racial tension between black teachers and one male teacher in particular.

Keywords: Black teachers; Integration; Lafayette High School (Lexington, Ky.); Race relations; Teacher relations

Subjects: African Americans--Education--Kentucky--Lexington; School integration--Kentucky--Fayette County

00:46:32 - Growing as a teacher at Lafayette High School

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Partial Transcript: And I had been at, uh, Douglass, I mean at, uh, Lafayette six years, and we were giving Mr. Graham a birthday party, and I came to his table and said, "happy birthday, Mr. Graham."

Segment Synopsis: She talks about how the one male teacher that had not wanted any black teachers at Lafayette had apologized to her for his behavior. She also talks about how well received she was as a teacher by black and white parents, mentioning a number of people who requested to have their children put into her class.

Keywords: Black teachers; Color barrier in schools; Integration; Lafayette High School (Lexington, Ky.)

Subjects: African Americans--Education--Kentucky--Lexington; School integration--Kentucky--Fayette County

00:49:54 - Student-teacher relations

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Partial Transcript: During this time when you and Mrs. Newby were sent to Lafayette, were there any white teachers sent to Douglas or Dunbar?

Segment Synopsis: Greene talks about white teachers teaching at black schools and how they were received by black students. She mentions incidents in which black students clashed with white teachers. She also talks about one student named B.D. in particular.

Keywords: Black students; Integration; Lafayette High School (Lexington, Ky.); Race relations; Racial tensions; White teachers and black students

Subjects: African Americans--Education--Kentucky--Lexington; School integration--Kentucky--Fayette County

00:55:23 - Status of Lexington school system / outstanding black teachers

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Partial Transcript: Okay. Even though you're retired now, can you give me some of your views on the public school system in Lexington now?

Segment Synopsis: Greene gives her opinion on the state of Lexington's school system and talks about black teachers she thought excelled at teaching. She also mentions what made a teacher great.

Keywords: Black teachers; Fayette County Public Schools; Lexington school system; Outstanding black teachers

Subjects: African Americans--Education--Kentucky--Lexington

00:59:52 - Student teachers / emphasis on academics

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Partial Transcript: . . . when was the first year that you received a student teacher at Lafayette?

Segment Synopsis: Greene talks about her experiences with student teachers. She also briefly talks about number of students that attended Douglass. Greene also discusses the different schedules the black and white schools followed, including how at Douglass students were allowed to cut class for various activities.

Keywords: All black schools; Black teachers; Douglass School (Lexington, Ky.); Dunbar High School (Lexington, Ky.); Lafayette High School (Lexington, Ky.); Student teaching

Subjects: African Americans--Education--Kentucky--Lexington

01:06:36 - Black student performance / impact of redistricting

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Partial Transcript: But, but the black children that were the leaders in integration, did they have any problem adjusting to the new school as far as academics were concerned?

Segment Synopsis: Greene compares the academic performance of black and white students and schools. She mentions the lack of emphasis black schools placed on maintaining a regular schedule. She also mentions how how the more academically gifted and motivated black students go to schools other than Lafayette High School partially due to redistricting.

Keywords: Academic performance; Black schools; Black students; Lafayette High School (Lexington, Ky.); School schedules; Student motivation

Subjects: African Americans--Education--Kentucky--Lexington