Bernadette Whitsett Hammond

I attended Jefferson Elementary School.  And then, when the schools were desegregated, McGuffey Elementary School was one of the ones in my district.  I was assigned to there, went there for just the fifth grade.  Then, they decided to turn Jefferson into the all sixth grade school, and I went there.  That was during the time when they were still building Walker and Buford.  They hadn’t completed the building of those two schools.  Then, after going there for the all sixth grade school at Jefferson, Walker and Buford were open, and I was in the neighborhood that was assigned to Walker, and it was considered a junior high school at that time, and that was for seventh and eighth graders.  And then, I left there to go to Lane High School from the ninth through the twelfth grades.

Phyllis Leffler:  Can you describe what those schooling experiences were like, both at Jefferson and at McGuffey?

Bernadette Whitsett Hammond: Well, Jefferson was a big family.  Again, most of the African American community knew one another, so it was like a big family.  You did have your closer friends, of course, that you interacted with more regularly.  When we went to McGuffey, that was when schools had been desegregated, and there were very few white students assigned to McGuffey, and that was based on neighborhoods, I’m sure.  So, it didn’t seem too different in terms of the student population, but there were quite a few white teachers there.  I don’t recall any particular negative experience.  I do think that African American students were somewhat hesitant.  They didn’t know how they would be treated.  But that was just a year there.  And then, we went to Jefferson, and that was very integrated because all sixth graders in the entire city were attending there.  And that was, for me, I think, first time I really sort of realized not everybody was going to be treated the same.  I can remember some very nice white teachers there, and I can remember some that weren’t so kind.  So, we navigated through that year, and I think people had gotten a little more adjusted by the time I got to Walker.  I think Walker had a really good mix of African American Black teachers and White teachers, so we did see people with whom we can identify and who were there to support us.