Robert King headshot

Robert King

Jefferson Elementary School, Venable Elementary School, Lane High School

Robert King: In those days we were referred to as coloreds.  And at least, you know, I could deal with that.  We weren’t Negro.  Blacks didn’t really care for Negro.  They settled for colored.  And to get away from that other word.  I remember as a child if somebody called you Black you know, you break a Coca Cola bottle and cut them.  You know?  That was fighting words.

Phyllis Leffler: It was an insult.  Yeah, really.

Robert King: Yeah, and so to hear “Old Black Joe” in class was hurting to me.  And Venable has those tall windows, and my chair was along those windows.  I would just turn my head away from the class because I’d have tears coming down.  I hated that.  That’s what I remember.  And I can’t today, if you were to look up “Old Black Joe” on YouTube, and hear the words, why she would use that in a classroom setting other than to try and get me to go home and tell my parents.  To get me out of there.  And I knew that — what King was doing, I couldn’t leave.  I had to stay.  Because I had to integrate the schools.