Their books were raggedy. They just got second things

Posted by | January 9, 2018

The following is an excerpt from an unrehearsed taped interview with Mrs. Leora Rhodes Brooks Franklin (b. 1920), long time resident of Richmond, KY. The interview was conducted by A.G. Dunston, Assistant Professor of History at Eastern Kentucky University, for the Oral History Center of EKU. Professor Dunston spent several years interviewing the black community of Richmond. He interviewed Mrs. Franklin in her home on October 9, 1992. This segment is midway through the interview.

AG: Oh, okay. Alright. Let’s see, I can’t think of anything else I need to dig into your past (laughter) . . . Listen, let me ask you this: Was there any problem that you can remember when
Richmond City Schools, when Richmond High became . . . when students became integrated? Was there any problem that you can remember?

LF: Yeah. It was a problem there then because it got so that the school . . . Well, let’s see, how can I put that. You know, a lot of times they say, well, we shouldn’t have taken that school away. But that wasn’t so. Because I took my daughter, my baby, my youngest daughter, I took her out.

Well, they had to teach so well when she went there in the first and second grade . . . well, she passed the second grade, and that year, they had the first and second grade together, and I, um . . . she was a B average reader and she went from a B average to a D average reader.

Well, that didn’t bother me because I said, well, she gets out of that class, that teacher, and I got the teacher, you know, the woman that I worked for, she got her a book because their books were raggedy. They just got second things, so that’s what they did. They didn’t, and I worked with the N.A.A.C.P. and all of this stuff. So, we went in and checked on the school.

They didn’t have hot water. They didn’t have toilet paper. They didn’t have doors on the bathroom . . . the girl’s bathroom. The men’s toilet looked like I don’t know what and the soap . . . they didn’t have no soap, and what they were doing . . . Now, they could get that up there, but they said that [they] didn’t know how to use it. The children didn’t know how to use hot water. I said, who in the world now doesn’t know how to use hot water. That’s what they . . . that’s what they said.

And, and, of course, everybody said, we ought to kept it. No, we couldn’t if we hadn’t ruined that. So, my kids went there until about the seventh grade, I believe. Sixth or seventh grade.
One of them was in the sixth and one was in the seventh.

Well, anyway, when they got up there, they thought that my youngest daughter . . . was changing the school . . . done something to it. [They thought that the daughter was having problems because she changed schools.] Now, they left before the school was closed, and they thought she wasn’t getting along with the people or was scared or something.

And, Mrs. Jennings and Mrs. Willoughby, they got together and they watched her. When she went to get something off the board, she didn’t know what she was getting there and when they had problems on the board, she would miss them.

So, she called me up and I went up and she told me, she said this child has been crippled in her first or second grade of school, and [the teacher] said, “I was that way because I had to go live with my grandmother.” And, she said, “I thought it was her bringing her up here to school, but she gets along fine with the students and things,” but said, “I watched her until she couldn’t . . . anything I have on the board, she couldn’t get. She’d be so long getting it, she didn’t know what she was doing.”

And, she said, “I don’t know whether I can do anything about it or not.” Said sometimes it’s awful hard. But, that year was the year that they started remedial reading, and so Mrs. Willoughby, Hortense Willoughby, that was a wonderful teacher up there. So, she told me she said, “With you all’s income, I can’t get her in that class.” Said, “But I’m going to put her in it anyhow.” Said, “When it’s time for that,” said, “I’ll let you know and we’ll put her in there.”

You know what, they got her. She called me, and they put her in that class, and that child didn’t look back. She was a . . . she got on the honor roll.

AG: They just messed with her.

LF: Messed it up. Messed up. And, she went . . . she went right on and went right on through and didn’t have any trouble at all. But, we talked, we had a mother’s group that was connected with the school. You know how they have something like Parents-Teachers.

One of the teachers told us that they have other students grading their papers and all of that. And if the student don’t seem like they want to get anything, you just leave them alone, just pass them on. They don’t have to get it.

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