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Cunningham Stephanie Interview


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Cunningham Stephanie Interview

  1. 1. Stephanie Cunningham<br />K, Reed<br />FI 112<br />02/10/10kl<br />Unlike most writing assignments I was excited to get started on this paper. Excited because I had an excuse to do what I always wanted to do, but could never find the right time. I always wanted to learn about my family’s history. I knew from the very beginning that I wanted to interview my oldest, known, living, relative, which is my great aunt Alice. After listening to “The Ghost of Bobby Dunbar” my imagination ran wild! I couldn’t wait to uncover some deep dark family mysteries, and share them with my classmates! To my dismay it’s actually very hard to get in touch with a 92 year old woman, and even harder to understand her warn voice over the phone, so I settled on interviewing my aunt Alvica. To tell the truth I wasn’t very interested in interviewing my aunt because I knew she couldn’t give me the soap opera drama story I so extremely desired. When I asked my aunt to talk about a time in history she deemed important to my family history I was positive (because she was born in year 1951) that she was going to talk about the Civil Rights Movement. <br />Ever since the abolishment of slavery African Americans have struggled for equal rights. However the Civil Rights Movement didn’t gain much attention until the year 1954 through 1969. African American leaders like Martin Luther king and Malcolm-X lead rallies, sit-ins, marches and boycotts, various types of protest just to get the attention of the media and congress. When it was evident that African Americans were serious about the quest for equality clan activity grew rapidly, among both whites and blacks. The United States was a dangerous place to live for people of all races during the peak of The Civil rights Movement; there was basically a civil war going on, and tragically many innocent lives were lost. Fortunately justice prevailed- and those lost did not die in vain for African Americans were eventually accepted in society as equal human beings.<br />Even though the emaciation proclamation legally freeing slaves was issued in1863, African Americans were still being treated as though they were on the level of pets a century later. Blacks were not allowed to eat or sit with whites. There were separate bathrooms and water fountains, schools were segregated. Not only were things separate the quality of black facilities was in much worst condition than those occupied by the white community. During the interview my aunt talked about how almost every restaurant they went to “only catered to white folks you couldn’t dine in they wouldn’t even serve you at the front window. You had to order around back and pick up around back too” (Alvica). I’m both infatuated and saddened by aunts memories as she continues on to describe the condition of the elementary/middle school she attended. “I remember going to school and grades one, two and three were in the same class, and grades four, five and six were in another class together, there were no inside bathrooms and no running water.” (Alvica). I became infatuated because I had no idea that what aunt, and other family members went through was such a big deal. When she started describing the conditions of her school I imagined and compared the conditions of her school to those of a third world country. I was saddened because I was ashamed of how unconcerned I was about listening to my aunt at the beginning of the interview.<br /> When I researched white schools in Virginia during the 50s I learned that “the schools for white children were much more sophisticated, they were substantially bigger and had indoor plumbing”(“Images of schools”). <br />Brown v. Board of Education Unfortunately school conditions were the least of problems for blacks especially when the “KKK had such a harsh reputation for their random acts of violence, terrorism and lynching against blacks and Jews to set fear in those who might challenge there superiority”( “Ku Klux Klan”). As my aunt goes deeper and deeper into her personal account of the civil rights movement I realize just how critical her story is to my family history. She tells me about the time she “witnessed a KKK rally across the street from our house, we had to turn the lights off and keep real quiet and pray we be ok”(Alvica). The KKK could have easily deicide to make my family their next victims! <br />Although the black community experienced many setbacks, they were able to preserver. “In 1954 Brown v. Board of Education outlawed segregation in schools, many racist school systems defied the law by intimidating and threatening black students however, in 1957, nine African American students from Little Rock Arkansas insisted on going to the all white school, and were admitted” (" Civil Rights Movement Heroes”). Even though the president had to assign National Guard soldiers to protect the students from an angry mobs of people. Even though Brown v. Board of Education supposedly outlawed segregation in schools in 1954, some schools didn’t abide by the law. My aunt didn’t experience integrated schools until the 1969-1970 school year which was her senior year. She didn’t say so but there was something in her voice that made me think that she was content I would even go so far as to say she was proud to have experienced that one year.<br />During my aunts senior year in high school she was picked to represent her school (Dan-River high) as a contestant on an academic television show called Class Room Quiz. She told me My grades meet the requirements for participation on the show but the only reason they let me on the show was because they needed a black person on the show for ratings. It was broadcasted from CBS in Roanoke VA. The show aired every Monday night at 7pm. We won six out of seven games if we would have won the seventh game we would have won the championship game. But I lost the championship question. The question was who the cat off Alice in Wonderland was(Alvica). <br />I think my aunt is still kind of disappointed that she missed that question even after all these years. <br />I wish my aunt knew that it didn’t matter that she didn’t win the championship game because she already won when she graduated from the first integrated class of her school. She won when she was granted a spot on the show. She represented not only for her school but for all the African American students who thought it could never happen, and she made them proud and gave them hope for the future. Even though she didn’t physically win a title or a trophy she gets all my respect for what it’s worth.<br /> I didn’t realize how much my family, aunt and everyone else who lived through the civil rights movement accomplished by just surviving the ordeal until I wrote this paper. I actually thought about all the things they sacrificed in order for my generation to live this carefree lifestyle, and I’m eternally grateful. <br />I didn’t get the Disney adventure story I was hoping for but I got so much more. The truth. I learned and value the history of my family, and a new found respect for survivors especially when the stakes are so high and when the easiest thing to do is to give up. <br />Bibliography <br />James, Alvica 02/2/10 <br />" Civil Rights Movement Heroes" Infoplease: Encyclopedia, Almanac, Atlas, Biographies, Dictionary, Thesaurus. Free online reference, research & homework help. Web. 12 Feb. 2010. <><br />" Images of Schools, 1961-1963 - Separate but Not Equal: Race, Education, and Prince Edward County, Virginia." VCU Libraries. Web. 12 Feb. 2010. <>.<br />" Ku Klux Klan." Spartacus Educational - Home Page. Web. 12 Feb. 2010. <>.<br />