The following is an unrehearsed taped interview with Joyce Walters Gordon, aBate Middle School teacher. The interview was conducted by David R. Davis of the Oral History Center at Eastern Kentucky University. The interview was conducted at Bate Middle School on December 3, 1980 at 3 o'clock p.m.
DAVIS: Okay, Ms. Gordon. Could you give me your full name and birth date, please?
GORDON: My name is Joyce Gordon and my birthday is February 13, 1934.
DAVIS: Okay. What was your maiden name?
DAVIS: Where is your family?
GORDON: My family lived in Harrodsburg, Kentucky.
DAVIS: What did your parents do for a living?
GORDON: Well, my daddy was a farmer. He farmed rather extensively throughoutMercer County, and I lived in the county and went to a city school when I was in high school. 1:00
DAVIS: What about brothers and sisters?
GORDON: I have a brother who is three years older than I, who is a present boardmember on the Harrodsburg Board of Education and I have a sister who's three years younger than I. Margaret Walters. She is now a Williams and lives in middlesboro, Kentucky and teaches high school there. I have a sister who is an executive in a plastics plant in Madison, Indiana. Baby sister. There were four of us in all.
DAVIS: Where'd you go to elementary school?
GORDON: I went to Shakertown Elementary School.
DAVIS: What about your other, education including high school?
GORDON: Well, we had in the county . . . then I went to Mercer County Schools,and in the county, we did not have a high school at Shakertown. So, when I became a freshman, I went to Harrodsburg High. I was bussed into Harrodsburg. 2:00
DAVIS: And what year was that?
GORDON: And then I went on to the University of Kentucky and got my AB degreethere and taught a few years and then went back to Eastern and got my master's and my rank one.
DAVIS: Okay. And what year did you get your AB degree in?
GORDON: In '56.
DAVIS: It was in history?
GORDON: It was in history and English. I have a double major.
DAVIS: What about your work experience? Say from first . . . Like if you firstgot a job out of high school or maybe you worked during your college days.
GORDON: When I got out of high school, my father was a board member at MercerCounty in the Mercer County system. And he encouraged me to come back to Mercer County to teach there. So, I taught at Mercer County High School three years before I married. And I married and moved to Danville with my husband. 3:00
DAVIS: And your husband . . . What's his name?
GORDON: Neil Gordon. And he's a tobacconist with Reynolds Tobacco Company.
DAVIS: And you have children?
GORDON: I have two children. A daughter, Leslie, who will be 20 this spring,and a son, whose 21.
DAVIS: After you taught at Mercer County those three years preceding yourmarriage, then what'd you do after that?
GORDON: After I taught there three years and then I married and we moved toDanville and I had . . .
DAVIS: What year was this?
GORDON:, I married in . . . let's see, I guess it was '58 I married and then wemoved to Danville, and I did not teach two or three years.
GORDON: Because I had small, young children.
DAVIS: You said you were teaching in Mercer County a minute ago. You said you4:00had some black students in your school.
GORDON: Yes. We had black students at Mercer County High School. I taughtfreshman English there.
DAVIS: This was in the mid '50s?
GORDON: And this was in 1956 . . . I started teaching as soon as I got out ofhigh school. We didn't have many black students but we did have a few.
DAVIS: Where did these black students go to school before 1954, let's say, whenthe Brown versus the Board of Education suit decision was handed down by the Supreme Court. Where did . . . ?
GORDON: Well, there . . . as far as I know, there was only one black school inor around Harrodsburg. This was in the city of Harrodsburg.
DAVIS: That was what they called the West High School?
GORDON: West High School, I think. This was the only one to my knowledge.Now, if any of the black students that lived in the county must have either been bussed into the . . . the black students . . . to school or they had to have gone to the county schools. 5:00
DAVIS: What about the students who were at the high school? As a teacher howdid you see them as the other students . . . I'm not asking you how they were treated or anything else, but how did it affect them having black students in the school that soon after 1954.
GORDON: Well, that seems really long ago to have, you know, black students inthe schools. There didn't seem to be too much notice of the situation. My feeling is that the students did not feel mistreated in any way or did not feel left out. It appeared that there was a lot of acceptance of it because there 6:00were a very few black students. You know, I think if there had been more of them I think it would've been a more noticeable change, but I felt this way. Now, I can remember correcting one white student over comments he was making about some of the black students. I do remember that. And that stands out in my mind as we had a serious discussion over that. But, it appeared to me that the teachers tried to see that they felt accepted and comfortable in this environment. I know I did.
DAVIS: How did you feel about . . . How do I say this? As far as academicachievement was concerned . . . Did you have any blacks that were in your class? 7:00
GORDON: I can't remember actually having any in my freshman class. There were sofew of them. I do remember them in this high school. I know there were two or three seniors.
DAVIS: You don't remember their names?
GORDON: one was Mukes. I can remember a Mukes. A girl.
DAVIS: There's still a family that lives there.
GORDON: Yes. And they have basically lived in the county, I think. I knowthere's a family now that goes to city school.
DAVIS: Now, when you moved to Danville and having two small children and notteaching those few years, what was the community atmosphere like as far as . . . You can get a quick drink.
GORDON: No, that's okay. I felt that at the beginning, there wasn't too much8:00notice of it. Everybody was aware that the Bate School was being done away with and that they were being . . . That the black students were being put into the schools, but I . . . You know, it seems there was no major problems that I was aware of. I feel that Danville has a situation that is rather unique to Danville and I contribute this to the smooth transition there. I felt it was rather smooth.
GORDON: I was actually not there at the time it first, you know, at the time ofthe first integration.
GORDON: The first year they had to move in. Uh, or did move in, but I didn'tfeel there was a lot of trouble because Danville has a lot of black homes 9:00throughout the town. You don't have just a community of black people and isolated off by themselves the way you do, say in Louisville, Kentucky. So, I feel this may have had something to do with . . . with the transition . . . a smooth transition.
DAVIS: And before the integration plan, though, in . . . in the city itself, asfar as, um, activities were concerned, any kind of organized sports or clubs or anything like that? Do you know how those were set up or anything like that? Maybe there was . . . Like I read in the newspapers from, oh, 1960 and around in that range, and the newspaper would have a special section where it would say it had colored notes and it'd say so-and-so visited from out of town and this 10:00person had a birthday party and those kind of things. But, the newspaper, when they had published news, they covered separate news, separate schools, separate churches, those kinds of things.
GORDON: Right. Now, that was noticeable.
GORDON: And it was . . . It was . . . I noticed it, you know, if someone gotmarried, for example. You know, this person, who was usually white, if a girl's picture was put in the paper, it would be a white girl. A black girl's picture was not put there. This is something I noticed.
DAVIS: Do you think that was . . . ?
GORDON: And if they were . . . If it was put in, it was on the last page. Itwas completely separate from, you know, from the white announcements.
DAVIS: How . . . What was the relationship of the people like? Like, were thereany antagonisms between races and like in the late 50s or early '64. I know a lot of things happened around that country around that time . . . If any of 11:00those things took shape in Danville as well.
GORDON: Actually, I was so new in the community at that time. I really didn't,um, notice, I'm sure, a lot of differences that someone else had felt. Um, I noticed it. I noticed situations later on. For example, when I taught here in '62 and '63, I taught two half years, uh, I came in and filled out a year for a teacher in '62, and also in '63. A whole year's teaching during those two years. There were no black students or were they? Let's see . . . They were, weren't they?
DAVIS: I think there were a few, but . . .
GORDON: There were probably a few but, uh, what I noticed, I had the advancedEnglish classes, and there were no black students in these classes. 12:00
DAVIS: I think in the early years, even in the late 50s, they had two or threeblack students who, I think it was on a voluntary basis, they could go to Danville High School or they could go to Bate and a very few of them chose to do so.
GORDON: Well, that's . . . that's what it was then because I was aware of thefact that there were no black students in my class and I really had not gotten into the reasons why at that point, because I was so new myself to the community.
DAVIS: When you first heard . . . When you first heard about the integrationplan that Danville was going to integrate, I think Mr. Taylor was the superintendent at that time . . .
DAVIS: And from your standpoint, how did you feel the community of Danville andpeople associated with school reacted to having the Bate students come to the high school . . . integrate into the Danville school system. 13:00
GORDON: I felt it was a rather smooth transition, but I do think there were someconcerns as to just, you know, whether it would go smoothly or whether people were really going to accept the situation, and I heard a few people voice concerns about their children going to school with black students. That kind of thing.
GORDON: We did not ourselves because, you know, I thought that was really theway it should be . . . That black and white students should be together, but there were a few comments.
DAVIS: What about . . .What about blacks? Were they . . . ?
GORDON: Now, there again, I did not . . . I did not actually know the blackstudents at that point.
GORDON: Now, I will say when I started teaching at Danville High after 1965.I've forgotten whether I went in, uh . . . It seems to me I went in in the 14:00spring of '65.
DAVIS: In the second semester of second year of integration.
GORDON: Yes. Right. I think it was the year after the new school was builtthat I went into the high school. At this time, there were black teachers and white teachers, uh, vying for the same job . . . positions. For example, when I taught history at Danville High School with the black history teacher, who was Mrs. Stephens . . .
DAVIS: There weren't many of them.
GORDON: And I know . . . I felt that sometimes maybe she thought that she shouldbe, you know, the main teacher, because after all, she was the black teacher and was well-known in the community and well-respected in that role as the history teacher. And at Bate, you see, they just had say the one history teacher or two. I think there were very few of them. 15:00
GORDON: So, I know, that . . . I sense that there was a little concern thereamong the black teachers.
GORDON: You know, as to where their place was going to be and the role in . . .you know, uh, the position that they would hold.
DAVIS: Who else can you think of besides Ms. Stephens?
GORDON: Well, Mrs. Bowman. Ms. Bowman . . . Ms. Bertha Bowman was also there.
DAVIS: What about other places in the system? Which black teachers were keptlike at Bate and went to the elementary schools? Can you think of any of those? Like for instance . . .
GORDON: I've heard some names, but . . . Wasn't there a Mrs. Sled.
DAVIS: Hmm-Mmm. I think so.
GORDON: Uh-huh. But I did not know them personally. I only knew those I workedwith. I can remember those two, and uh . . .
DAVIS: Of course, you were at Bate with Mrs. Frye.
GORDON: Yeah. I worked with Mrs. Frye and Ms. Pryor.16:00
DAVIS: Was there was a music teacher there . . . I thought there was a musicteacher there.
GORDON: I don't know.
DAVIS: What about any . . . What about males? Black males?
GORDON: At that time, there were no black male teachers.
DAVIS: None in the system.
GORDON: None. In fact, one of the first black male teachers came from myhistory class that I taught and this is Bobby Turnbow.
DAVIS: But he didn't become a teacher here at Bate?
GORDON: Uh-huh. Right. He was one of the . . . Was the first. Did you havehim in class?
DAVIS: He was a student teacher for Sandy Warman.
GORDON: Right. That's right. But I remember he was one of the first thatactually graduated from here.
DAVIS: I think he was first.
GORDON: He probably was the first. But I taught him when he was a junior.
GORDON: Uh, This was right about '66, '65 or '66 or somewhere in there. Hmm-Mmm.17:00
DAVIS: What about the administration, about the school board, thesuperintendent, uh, I know, I talked to Mr. Goodacre, I think he was . . . He was probably on the board. Now, it has been '70s. He was administrator at that time.
DAVIS: In central office, and I interviewed him a couple of months ago. And,for instance, the principal at the old Bate School, Mr. Summers also worked in the central office.
DAVIS: And I've gotten several views on how he looked at his position.
DAVIS: Did he look at it as a promotion or did he look at it as being kicked upstairs.
GORDON: Yes. Uh-huh.
DAVIS: How . . . What feeling did you get?
GORDON: Well, I felt, through this time, say in '64, '65, '66, '67, '68, thisera . . . 18:00
GORDON: I felt it was just a time when, you know, when the white teachers andblack teachers, and white administrators, and black administrators, just . . . you know, fell into place wherever the positions were and really made an effort at, um, coordinating programs and everything that we did. But, I have a feeling that with . . . with the black teachers and administrators, that there obviously were a few feelings of worried for, I guess, what their roles and positions were because they . . . there were so few of them. And it seemed that the rest of us were just taking over.
GORDON: I'm sure they felt this way. However, I will have to say that, youknow, never once did anyone voice this to me or, you know, voice concern because they were always very cooperative and very helpful, and everybody seemed to get along fine. This was on the surface. Underneath I'm sure there were a few 19:00things going on. Now, I do remember a black teacher asking me if I was going to share the history with her. I do remember that.
DAVIS: You mean that . . .?
GORDON: Was . . .was asking me, you know, if she could . . . She was concernedthat I was teaching the American History.
DAVIS: And that nobody else would be able to teach American History or . . . ?
GORDON: Well, she was wanting some of the American History classes. They hadbeen given to me.
GORDON: And this year, I was teaching five American History classes. She waswanting to teach some of them because that was . . . That was the class that everybody wanted to teach, rather than citizenship. You know, some of the other . . . Geography . . . The class was the American History and this teacher had taught it a few years. 20:00
GORDON: And so I felt that there was a concern there that I was teaching it andyet, she had taught it longer than I.
DAVIS: Hmm-Mmm. Who was the principal at Danville High School then?
GORDON: Don Rawlings.
DAVIS: In '65?
GORDON: Hmm-Mmm. And Jerry Boyd was the assistant principal.
DAVIS: How long was Mr. Rawlings principal?
GORDON: He was a principal about 17 years, I think. Now, I don't know when hestarted or . . . I remember . . . I remember when he went out as principal, but I couldn't say the years.
DAVIS: Was he still principal when you moved from there to here?
GORDON: No. No, he was not. Um, Mr. Mcafee was principal when I decided to,you know, I took off a year.
DAVIS: And Mr. Rawlings had moved, I guess, to his current job?
GORDON: Yes. As supervisor.
DAVIS: Did he really take . . . I guess when Mr. Summers retired that DonRawlings moved to his job. Was that the way it worked?
GORDON: I image it was. I . . . Yeah, I think it was. I believe that was what21:00it was. Hmm-Mmm. That stands out on my mind as correct.
DAVIS: Or would he just retire or then drop it?
GORDON: I think that's the way it was. Hmm-Mmm. Right.
DAVIS: As a teacher in '65, and looking at the administration of the high school?
GORDON: As a white teacher, I felt that if you corrected a black student, youwere at fault. But, if you corrected a white student, you know, the administration would stand behind you.
GORDON: I felt that the white administration bent over backwards, as the sayinggoes, to see that the black students felt comfortable. And there was a fear, an underlying fear, I think, toward disciplining them.
DAVIS: What do you think it's . . . ?
GORDON: And I, uh, can remember several situations with the assistant principalwhere I had disciplined a black student . . . had disciplined a black student, and it would turn around that . . . you know, it would look as if that I wasn't 22:00being supportive . . .
GORDON: In the situation. I never felt that with any of the white students.
DAVIS: What do you think the reason was?
GORDON: I think the reason was, again, it was just a way of trying to make theblack community feel comfortable, and maybe an underlying fear on the part of the white administration. I . . . I do think that they did not want the black populace unhappy . . .
GORDON: At all.
DAVIS: Do you think they . . . They didn't really feel that way personally butjust to maintain some over some of _____.
GORDON: Right. I think that's just the way it was.
DAVIS: Was there was any white backlash to that?
GORDON: Um . . .
GORDON: It was noticed I think somewhat. I think it was noticed. I went on anddisciplined the black students. It made no difference in my disciplining them and some . . . As I say, they appreciated the fact that some of my, uh, the 23:00students, I think who appreciated most have been the black students I have had in the past.
GORDON: And I think the black parents have felt the same way. Um, but I felt .. . I had more support if I disciplined the white student.
(Tape recorder turned off.) (Tape recorder turned on.)
DAVIS: What about your . . . your students in '65 and after? Could you detect,you know, undercurrents of anything going on with them?
GORDON: This is where I detected it the most. Because I . . . I guess I reallyfelt that I was a teacher who was as fair as any teacher could be, you know. Because I really don't feel that I am prejudiced in any way. 24:00
GORDON: Because I never really noticed the color of the skin of the studentsthat I teach for some reason. So I felt that, um, that I was . . . Just always fair. However, I felt that there was a defensiveness in some of the black students. You know, I was teaching a subject where you would have to talk about slavery and, um, and you know the Civil War, and I would notice that, you know, if I said the word "negro", there would be a student who would try to stay that I had said "nigger" when I had not said this. And I can remember talking to one of the black teachers about this situation at one point, that I did not say this but the student thought I did. And I think it was defensiveness. I had not said it. If I had . . . If I had in any way, um . . . I had said the, um, "R" 25:00in such a way at the end or where it sounded that way, I certainly did not intend to.
GORDON: Anyway, this is the way I came off to this particular student that Iremember, and this concerned me because, uh, there wasn't anybody who was trying any harder than I was to make the black students feel comfortable, and at the same time, you know, treat them the same as the white students. And, to have this happen, I did . . .did feel that there were maybe a few white teachers who were prejudiced.
GORDON: And maybe they had a right to to feel this way.
DAVIS: How did that . . . ?
GORDON: And I didn't feel I was one of them.
DAVIS: What kind of things happened when you . . . that would give you that impression?26:00
GORDON: Well, in this . . . As I said, this one incident whereby a student leftthe room and went to the black teacher and told her that I had said this word in class, and then, you know, it was my having to defend the fact that I did not say that to my knowledge.
DAVIS: Do you think there was ever any . . .
GORDON: Because I don't mean to say this.
DAVIS: Did you ever hear any students talking among . . . black students talkingamong each other, black students talking among each other about a particular teacher or other student dealing with racial problems?
GORDON: Um, right now, I can't think of any instance.
DAVIS: Would you say the students, the students, themselves got along pretty well?
GORDON: Well, it was . . . Yes. It was again on the surface, it was a ratheruncomfortable type situation, but it was a stand-off situation, you know. 27:00
GORDON: It was an accepting and yet a not accepting situation. And, of course,that's the . . . That really showed right there that we hadn't moved to the state we are now because I think there is now a lot more acceptance, you know. And the students worked together in groups and they handled it. I don't think they're aware that one's black and one's white the way we were.
DAVIS: Let me turn the tape over.
END OF TAPE 1, SIDE 1. BEGINNING OF TAPE 1, SIDE 2.
DAVIS: On the, uh, . . .
GORDON: Back to this situation. I noticed, um, as I say, there was more of thewhites staying with the whites and the blacks staying with the blacks then, and uh, an acceptance on the surface. I do feel that the students were concerned that there weren't black teachers in the school.
GORDON: But, at that time, it was very difficult to get black teachers.Honestly, it was. And I do know that the administration was really working toward trying to bring black teachers in, and they were not getting anywhere with it.
DAVIS: Do you think it . . . Do you think it's because the black students whograduated from college went somewhere else to get a job and didn't come back to Danville?
GORDON: That's part of it. Danville was a real small community then. It'sright before the industries, influx of industries. There weren't as many black people around anyway for that reason, unless they had grown up here.
GORDON: There really wasn't anything for the black young person to do here inDanville except go you know, so, he would move out to the big cities to find employment.
DAVIS: Hmm-Mmm. Including teaching.
GORDON: Including . . . And there weren't really that many going into teaching29:00then because there weren't the opportunities for black people. Now, I can remember the . . . the community in Danville. I can remember this community not having black people working in our stores. Now, that stands out vividly in my mind. Uh, the . . . the town businesses did not have black people behind the counters working. Uh, you wouldn't go into restaurants and see them sitting down eating. There was nothing here for them to do but do the domestic work at that time. Nothing was open for them. And, very few of them, actually, went in to teaching. Uh, we did have a few black teachers who had taught here for years, you know, in the black school and all. But, they were really few and far between if you got right down to it.
GORDON: So, um . . .30:00
DAVIS: You came to Bate in 1968?
GORDON: Approximately. I don't know whether it was '68 or '69.
DAVIS: Who was the principal at that time?
GORDON: At that time, Kenneth Snowden was principal. He hired me here.
DAVIS: Okay. Did you . . . Did you see any difference in the racial atmosphereat Bate as opposed to the high school?
DAVIS: What kind of difference?
GORDON: Um, it seemed to me that the problems were greater later on than theyfirst . . . Than they were when we first integrated.
GORDON: The longer we were in session, the more we started, I felt, startedhaving problems. Problems that would flare up openly. Uh, when I . . . When I first started at Bate, I would notice that, uh, you would have either a group of black students come through the school systems, students that were troublesome, bothersome, worrisome, causing all kinds of problems or you'd have a group of white students that would be this way. And it would seem that they just kind of 31:00gang up and, you know, and then, uh, that'd make everybody feel uncomfortable. Maybe one year, you know, there'd be a group of black students that we'd just have real troubles with.
DAVIS: Antagonize everyone.
GORDON: Antagonized everybody and, you know, and would try to say everybody wasprejudice and, you know, no one cared for them and all. And then, the next year, we'd . . . it seemed we'd have a group of white students who'd act the same way. And I remember a group that came through here that really concerned me because I felt, you know, that there would be problems later on concerning these students, and there were. There was. Danville High, uh, that's when one of our principals left. The situation got so uncomfortable and it was this group of students. 32:00
DAVIS: Hmm-Mmm. Was this the Danville High School principal?
GORDON: Right. Danville High School. Just the whole . . . All the teachersleft. A whole group of teachers . . .
DAVIS: What . . . What year was this around?
GORDON: I would say that this must've been around '68 or '69.
GORDON: About '69 I would say, that this happened. And everyone seemed to knowthat they left because of the student body and I think there was one time some of the students wouldn't go to class in all of this. You know, black students.
GORDON: That was a group of blacks . . . Black students that were . . . uh . . .
DAVIS: Do you think this probably carried down to the middle school or thejunior high school end? The problems they were having at the high school were sort of a trickle down . . . ?
GORDON: Well, it . . . it, uh, I . . . I don't know how to explain it. No, Ireally didn't feel that . . . But, I mean, after this situation was over, it 33:00seemed that everything just kind of cleared up and . . .
GORDON: And run smoothly. Uh, there were groups of black students who wouldcome through the school that I just felt were just the dearest people in the world and had such positive attitudes after that.
GORDON: I . . . I've wondered if maybe that group that went through . . . stillfelt very defensive and not quite sure of their position and place, etc.
DAVIS: They would've graduated around '72?
GORDON: About '71, maybe.
GORDON: Right. It was just about that time. Now, that's the only time that Iremember and . . . uh, as I say, and then, the next year, after this group went through, it seemed that there were all kinds of problems with white students . . .some of the white students. And it seemed that . . . Now, I'm just generalizing here, it seemed that some of the white students were bitter toward some of the black students, and this was again '68, '69, and '70. That era. 34:00
DAVIS: Based on . . . Based on their behavior or what?
GORDON: They were . . . They weren't getting along in school.
GORDON: They were afraid of each other, it appeared. And I don't know why . . .whether this was just a . . . These were students I think who had not started the first grade together.
GORDON: And I wondered if that had something to do . . . At least I don't thinkthey did.
DAVIS: I wouldn't think that would be a problem.
GORDON: No, I don't think they did. So, I don't think they really knew how torelate to each other. And, then, I felt that . . . Then, after that, I started getting students, you know, who had started together.
DAVIS: That's interesting. I've . . . I've never looked at it that way. Nobodyever talked about it that way. 35:00
DAVIS: But the fact that they'd start the first grade or kindergarten as anintegrated situation, they're bound to do a lot more good than be segregated so long and be thrown together.
GORDON: Right. I think it had . . . I think it must have a lot to do with thesituation because I was . . . I was wondering myself about this. And I finally thought that there had to be some reason why there was such a large difference in this group that went through then than the group I got say after 70s. The groups. And it occurred to me that this group . . . The group that was coming in after the 70s seemed much more positive about life, happier, well-adjusted, and I'm talking about the white and the black students. Um, they seemed to like each other. You would see them running around together in groups, you know. There was a lot of understanding there that I didn't notice earlier.
DAVIS: Do you remember any specific incident at Bate involving black and white36:00students, administration and black students, just any kind of conflicts at all since you'd been here that would indicate that the initial integration went smoothly and then things kind of went downhill and then picked back up a little or have they deteriorated since then. How do you feel about that?
GORDON: You mean how do I feel at the present as opposed to then or . . . ?
DAVIS: Well, not just the present, say the last five or six years.
GORDON: Well, since . . . since that situation then, around the 70s, I have feltvery good about the situation. I think that . . . oh, there are problems, but I think people communicate now and even with any problems, I think, you know, you have a much better chance . . .
DAVIS: Now, it's more . . .37:00
GORDON: It's open now. It was under the surface then.
DAVIS: It's more a problem than it is racial problem. It's just problems.
GORDON: It's just problems now.
DAVIS: Some of them happen to be black and some happen to be white.
GORDON: And I think what has helped our situation so much has been the influx ofblack teachers, too. I think it is better the white teachers feel more comfortable and I think it's made the black students feel more comfortable and white students feel more comfortable. I think that the white students have exposure to black students . . . black teachers now and have learned to accept that situation. People from other races. And I think the black students, uh, have black teachers to go to for maybe some problems that maybe they would feel like going to somebody of their own race. And I think the fact that they have seen us teachers associate very closely with the black teachers, etc. has helped them to relate. They've had good models the last few years, particularly, at the middle school level and that's where I've taught. 38:00
GORDON: But, I feel this, uh, very much because I had felt that the teachershave gotten along beautifully . . . the like . . . since these black teachers have come in from other places. And I . . . I know of no situation where there, you know, that I felt uncomfortable and feel that they have felt uncomfortable.
DAVIS: Did you feel uncomfortable or apprehensive when you first taught knowingyou had a higher percentage of black students than say you did at Mercer County?
GORDON: I didn't feel apprehensive at all. What amazed me was the fact that forsome reason, it seemed that I couldn't get it across to them for example that I 39:00wasn't prejudice and that I was here for their good and everybody's good. This is what concerned me. I couldn't seem . . . again I think we all related on a surface basis the first few, two or three years.
GORDON: And I think it was defensiveness on the white side and the black side.Situations . . .and I think people just were concerned that, you know, they would maybe say just one thing wrong and then that would set everybody off and this kind of thing. You never knew when something was going to break out.
GORDON: So, people really weren't communicating. It was just kind of astand-off situation and that was what was uncomfortable. But, then, as people started talking to each other and relating more on a serious level, then, you know, you'd have maybe outbreaks and little arguments and fusses and all, but people were at least communicating. And that was a healthy sign, even though it didn't look healthy. 40:00
GORDON: I think it was a healthy sign. And they would kind of move throughthat, but then these were people again who had not started school together. And you take the students we have now, for example, they've been together since they've been in first grade even kindergarten, and they have their arguments and fights and fusses, and all that and you see they're still friends. And they are relating. So, it's a comfortable situation now 'cause you can disagree now. Everybody can disagree, and it's not the worst thing that ever happened. You know, whether these are teachers that were disagreeing or students that are disagreeing. As you say, it's just . . . we just have problems now. It doesn't matter what race.
DAVIS: Do you have any last impression or anything you want to talk about? I41:00think I covered the bit I wanted to talk about.
GORDON: Right. Right. I have no comments other than I do think it is a verypositive situation now. I do think the black community today expects a lot, and I think they have a right to expect a lot. And I think that they are . . . most of them have their positions now. They've moved into middle class, some of them, who earlier could not, um, support themselves locally. They can do this now well, and they expect a lot more for their children and, um, and have a right to expect this. And I think it's very positive that you see so many black people working in the community and seem to be happy at their work. And I think everybody feels relatively comfortable. I know I do and I enjoy teaching. You know all the students I feel comfortable and I think all the teachers here at Bate feel comfortable. And, to my knowledge, the teachers at the high school do 42:00too. So, I . . . I really feel good. I think about the situation and I think we have a . . . a positive situation with everyone feeling comfortable.
DAVIS: I want to thank you for taking the time and you said you didn't haveanything to offer and you've been one of my longest interviews. Thanks a lot.