Charlotte Stokes was born in Nacogdoches, Texas in 1938. She is the daughter of Arthur Weaver - the president of the NAACP chapter in Nacogdoches for twenty years. In Stokes's earlier years she grew up in Bremerton, Washington. In 1946 her family moved back to Nacogdoches where she attended E. J. Campbell School in Nacogdoches up to her twelfth year. Then she went to Jarvis Christian College where she majored in home economics. During the sixties Stokes lived in Washington, D. C. where she worked as a eighth and ninth grade teacher at Woodson Junior High. Later she lived and taught in St. Louis, Missouri. By 1976 Stokes moved with her husband and son back to Nacogdoches. She continues to live in Nacogdoches with her husband and continues to visit with her father.
The interview was conducted on June 29, 2010 by Kaitlin Wieseman in Charlotte Stokes's home in Nacogdoches.
WIESEMAN: This is Kaitlin Wieseman interviewing [Charlotte Stokes clears throat] Charlotte Stokes on [Stokes clears throat again] June 29, 2010. We're here to talk about integration in the Nacogdoches schools for the African American Heritage Project. So Mrs. Stokes, were you born in Nacogdoches?
STOKES: Yes, I was. I was born in Nacogdoches and went to school here all the way through my twelfth year.
WIESEMAN: Okay. When were you born?
STOKES: I was born in 1938.
WIESEMAN: Was this an area where your parents grew up or did they move here or . . .
STOKES: They, my, my dad lived here. My mother came here from the Lufkin area.
WIESEMAN: Could you tell me when about integration maybe started into the schools, if you could?
STOKES: Now the that's, that, all during all my years of course we were, we would live, we grew up in segregated schools, of course, and I think integration started [background noise of front door being opened and rain] 1968, something like that. I was not here, I was not at home. I was living in Washington, D.C. at the time. So I was not a part of that big transition. I'm aware of it, but I'm not a part of that major transition. [Background noise of front door being closed.]
WIESEMAN: Okay, did you have any children that went maybe through the transition of integration or knew any cousins?
STOKES: My son graduated high school in 1991.
STOKES: So, and we moved back home from [Stokes whispers to herself], from St. Louis, Missouri in 1976. So he was very young at that point.
WIESEMAN: Okay. Then I guess maybe since you weren't as more into the integration, do you remember when it was occurring, like the news maybe or if the media covered it?
STOKES: I remember from the stand point that my parents were here. My daddy was, my dad [Arthur Weaver] and mother were both, you know, here, and were very involved in what was going on in the school system. And so I was always on the phone, always kind of be aware of what was going on. It was just interesting to me to see after all these years that Nacogdoches public schools were gonna finally integrate. And it is, really boggles the mind when you think it took so long for it to happen. But I also remember prior to that integration, I'm well aware of the years that we, we would always get the second hand books as a, in the segregated schools and everything. We, we had . . . that was always mind boggling again to me. For us to get the second hand books and we always wondered as children, well who are these kids that had the books before we, we did. But I remember [noise of hands moving on table] that an, and I was always hopeful that after they began to integrate that there was going to be a time, and this is what I don't think really happen. I thought there was going to be a time when people will sit down and talk about integration, what it's going to mean. What do we have to do for this transition? What we have, what we have to do to make this thing work? How are we gonna relate, all of a sudden Blacks and Whites and Hispanic kids going to school together? How are we gonna bridge that? And I don't, I don't really think that really happened, but it did, you know the schools did you know, made, made those changes. But I still wondered about, that's an area that I think could've been more work done in it.
WIESEMAN: Okay. I would like to go maybe a little back to, what you were saying how your parents were more involved with the integration in the schools . . .
WIESEMAN: . . . here in Nacogdoches, how so?
STOKES: Well, dad was, actually, mom was the one that was always in school. She was taken, when we were young she was taken, she was the one who would go to all the PTA [Parent Teacher Association] meetings, go to all the school programs, and all those kind of things. Dad was kind of the laid back one that would go take us to the movies, take us to the fun things. But in those, in the early years, early sixties, a voice or something happened, something happened to him. He became a, what we would call a, civil rights leader. And as a result of that he really got into that civil rights movement, he got more concerned about what was happening to the children, more concerned about the education, and he just took on a different role. And as a result of that he started working closer with lawyers and people that would come in from other, out of state, from Washington, D.C. and they just got very busy. They started saying, "Okay, enough is enough, we're going to see about getting equal justice for all of our children," [front door opens and sound of rain] and, and also in their case, not only were they working for Black kids but working for the Blacks, Whites, [front door closes] poor, Hispanics, [another door closing and squeaking] anyone that fell under their particular jurisdiction [hands hitting table top]. But dad was very much a part of that time and that period, trying to make change in Nacogdoches.
WIESEMAN: Okay, was he part of the N double A-C-P [NAACP - the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People] . . .
WIESEMAN: . . . group here?
STOKES: Yes, yes, he was and he is still living. Dad is ninety-four years old. He is at Rock Haven Nursing Home and if you get a chance I would like to throw this in there too, I mentioned it to you the other day. There is a display on of him at the public library in those glass cases [open of front door and sound of rain]. Will be there probably till maybe Wednesday, I'll go take that down. But he was very much a part of that, that era and I've lost my thought. Repeat your question.
WIESEMAN: Oh okay, if your father, he was involved with the N-double A-C-P?
STOKES: Yes, Yes, very much so. He was the president of the [local chapter of the] N-double A-C-P for twenty years. He's very proud of that fact. He's, at ninety-four he can still relay a lot of those stories and talk about that time. Now, as a, as a member of the N-double A-C-P he just, he just was unbelievable to me that my dad with an eighth grade education [thunder] could take on [thunder] the things he did [thunder] and try to make changes in [thunder] this community. It was, it was [thunder] actually, there was a group of men that worked right along with him, side by side with him, and some females. And they again, working with lawyers from all over, members from SFA [Stephen F. Austin State University] who would come in and work with them and they say, "We're going make some change here, we're going to get jobs for people," because we could not, not only, we were segregated at the time, but you couldn't, you know, Blacks couldn't work different places, you had wherever you went you had to stand. You couldn't go to the restaurants, you couldn't, there was just many areas where you could not participate in and they decided, and dad in particular, that we got to make some changes here. And, and they started making these changes, they started encouraging people to march, to boycott, and to do those things to make a difference and make some changes here in Nacogdoches.
WIESEMAN: Okay. Were you specifically involved with any civil rights movements, where you were during that time period or . . .
STOKES: You know, its, I, I'm really sad to say and I was, I was, I will tell you this, I was interviewed in 1999 by another college student from SFA and I'm, and I read through this a little bit before you came here. I'm all, I just been so disappointed that I was not, I was not here. But I remember thinking dad and mom would call us all the time in those early sixties and tell us what was going on. I was really very fearful for dad at the time because when your reading various things that happened in East Texas and West Texas and all over the country when someone speaks out become a, a basically by name a civil rights leader, they had to be some scary times. But I was not a part of it, directly, but indirectly I was a part of it because they would call me and tell me that we're gonna, we're gonna, march today, we're gonna boycott, we gotta do this, we gotta make some changes. So, from that stand point, I knew and was aware of what was going on with him almost on a day to day basis.
WIESEMAN: So you felt fear for your father that he might be harmed by these . . .
WIESEMAN: . . . by certain individuals, groups, or was it just . . .
STOKES: Well, it could've been individuals, it could've been groups because I remember one time, and there is someone else that I'll call that name, I think you need to, that would be a good person for you to interview because she was right there and a part of all this. Her name is Helena Abdullah. I don't think we've ever mentioned her name and she is younger than I am. But she was a part of that marching and everything and I think she would be a good person for you to interview. But, yeah . . .
WIESEMAN: She was, was she an important person . . .
STOKES: Yes, she, she was a part of that march and what I, I can remember [noise, Wieseman writing something down] once and it was a major march, people lined up and I understand that the people on top of the building downtown with shotguns. It was just, It was just mind boggling when you hear about it and dad had a strategy to, because you know whenever you're going to make change you have to have other people helping you, other people behind the scenes working with you. But he always [hands hitting table top] said when he got ready to ride downtown and go to those [noise of something dropping] parades, to those marches, and things, he always had a White [something hitting table top] female in the car with him [laughter]. He felt, and this was all part of that strategy. If I have this White female in this car with me that I'm not going to be hurt, I'm not going to be harmed, and thank god he was, he has been safe all these, you know all those years.
WIESEMAN: Well that's good. I guess do you remember being segregated, what school did you attend to then since you were segregated?
STOKES: I, when we moved back home in 1946, I believe, and I started to go to school at E. J. Campbell. At the same building now, that's on Shawnee. The old E. J. Campbell building, I started going to school there when I was in second grade. And I can remember that, I mean that was, that was really, as young as I was at the time that was really a culture shock, because we had been living in integrated situations in, in Bremerton, Washington all those years. And then we come here and it was really different, you know, in a predominantly Black school, all Black teachers, which was wonderful, I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world, but it was different for us coming in. And also from the stand point, also, we were, we would go in, in Bremerton, we'd go to any restaurant, any school, and sit down at any, at any table and all those in any restaurant, and we couldn't do that here. So when we got here we knew if we went to, if we were gonna ride the bus, we had to get a ticket in the back of the bus station. If you were gonna eat anything you had to order your food from the back, and generally you had to stand up to do it. We also knew if we went out into any of the stores downtown that there were two fountains that you had, that was marked [Stokes hitting hand on table top] "White" and "Colored." I believe the word colored is what they had on there. And we knew that's what we had to do. If we went in, we couldn't, there was no such thing as going into Strickland's Drugstore and sitting at the counter having ice cream or anything like that, just was not, that was not the time.
WIESEMAN: So, that spurs on another question that I have. When you do see these public like places like I know that the theater sometimes people weren't allowed to sit up. Does it spur up any emotions or anything for you?
STOKES: You mean now?
WIESEMAN: Yes. Now, I suppose.
STOKES: Well actually now that [ring hitting the table top] you say that I haven't thought about this in quite some time but when I pass by the old theater, on main, that's where we went to all [ring hitting the table top] those theaters, all those years [ring hitting the table] and we had to go upstairs. We [ring hitting the table top] could not sit downstairs and I'm telling we had to be some good folks because I mean we didn't do bad things. We didn't throw things down below. Now I was, some of my classmates and friends say, "Well, Charlotte you just didn't know but we did that." But I'm not sure, but we were basically good kids, but we had to go upstairs, and there is another incident that I read about in this morning and talked about too. When we came back home not having the experience of being in, having, not having been [noise from hand on table top] just on one side or the other. I remember coming out of the theater one day and there was someone, I was a teenager at that time, and some young White kid that was probably just a little older than me looked up and saw me and my cousin, and a few of us other kids that was there. And he stomped his feet and said, "Shoo Black bird" [ringing hitting table top] and I, me I was a little bit, you know, kind of bold at the time and I just stamped my feet right back at him and said, "Shoo White bird." And at that point my cousin, who was older and understood better than I did, Emma, she really, literally, she couldn't believe I said that. It really, she was just petrified. So those are the kinds, those kinds of little things you think about. Like I say when I pass by there every now and then I will think about Emma and of course she's gone on to glory, [ring hitting table top] but I think about what that must of felt like for her because there have been folks hurt just by saying something like that. Nothing happened to us so on that day, thank god for that, but yeah, a lot of memories.
WIESEMAN: So, back then did you feel more unsafe or when you were living in Nacogdoches or . . .
STOKES: Well you know I didn't, you know what I'll tell you what, our parents brought us up in such a way, all these parents all across Nacogdoches, across East Texas, for the most part we had wonderful, caring parents who taught us not to fear things. We accepted the times because they were the times. We were not fearful for our lives. We were concerned when things would happen, we would read about things and all that, but my parents could not walk around and we couldn't walk around everyday saying, "Oh something might happen to you today or something might happen to us today." That kind of fear was not there. It's just as you get older you realize, you know, you realize more about that being separate but equal, and you figuring out what does this really mean. We're, we suppose to be equal here, but we're not really equal. So as you get older you, you see some of that.
WIESEMAN: Okay, did the integration affect your home life personally in any way or . . .
STOKES: Let's see did it affect my home life. Oh . . . you know we had such fun in our household, but all things considered in some ways I guess it did because we couldn't get certain jobs. I always worked in White homes as a kid, taking care of babies or cleaning house, or trying to cook, things like that. And my brothers, particularly my older brother, cut lawns and did things like that, which means that we couldn't have, get those other jobs. We couldn't get a job at store. We couldn't get those. So we were affected in some ways, in some ways [Stokes gets up to change temperature in room and clears her throat].
WIESEMAN: Since you did work with the White families and their children and stuff, did you form any kind of affectionate feelings or friendships with these people?
STOKES: You mean like in Nacogdoches? Or when we were other places?
WIESEMAN: Either or.
STOKES: When we were in, when we were living in Bremerton, Washington where everybody lived and played and worked together. My parents went to PTA meetings together, it was all togetherness and we just had a great time. And of course, and that was in those, that was early years. So we developed good friendships and relationships. And I would say that over the years, even in Nacogdoches we've had good relationships with various families that we have met. And particularly in later life as you start working jobs and everything, you develop friendships and relationships, but at the same time, I remember another dear friend of mine who was White and I said to her, I worked for her, we worked together for a number of years, we were very close, but I said to her "If we were of the same color our relationship would be a lot different." We were friends, but there was kind of a line there somewhere, if I can have you understand that, but I've never, I've always felt, you know, again, we, we grew up just not feeling inferior to anyone and I brought my son up that way. He, and his young years, he had visitors of Whites, Hispanics. They spent nights together and he spent nights with them. So we didn't have that kind of situation. You also still knew though, that there was a difference, there was a difference, yeah.
WIESEMAN: So when you're growing up in Nacogdoches, I know that you're talking about the school books being all [unintelligible; sounds like "questions"] was there any playground or anything with that, that affected you in any way that since you wouldn't get to use anything or . . .
STOKES: Now, you know, we had so much fun on those playgrounds but when you really stop and think about it, our playgrounds, schoolyard playgrounds, were always inferior. You know you just didn't have, I can remember having a big circular, what are those things? A merry-go-rounds. And we loved to have fun on it. But the truth be known we didn't have the equipment on those playgrounds that they had on the play camp, White campuses. But at the same time from a sports, sports sides, those young women that had, we had the best athletes in the world, and that playground even now that [hand hitting the table top] red dirt is still there. Those young ladies played, I never understood that, I didn't play, but they ran up and down that court on that dirt. Now I don't really know what the White kids did. We played outside on the dirt. Whether the White kids at that point had gyms and all that, probably did, I'm not, I can't attest to that, probably did, but we enjoyed it. It was fun and so we were, we became stronger, you might say, as a result of the way we were brought up.
WIESEMAN: And then also in public would you feel more, would it be hard to maybe answer questions or to speak up in public, sometimes?
STOKES: Let's see, you mean if you were out in a mixed, with the, say if you were speaking to someone White or . . .
WIESEMAN: Yes, ma'm.
STOKES: . . . something like that? Mmm . . . let's see, I can't, I, let me think how that, I can't remember, remember [hitting hand on table top]. That's . . . that requires a little thought there. So you, if you had any issues or any difficulties speaking out or expressing oneself as a result, you mean of being in a mixed group or something, like that, mmm. Let me just tell you this, I remember once and this was after I moved back home. I wrote an article [See image # Stokes001] and I also remember when I was interviewed for a job by a White male and he sort of asked a question like you ought to know, how did I feel about having dinner, did I ever have dinner with any White folks while we were traveling around in Bremerton, Washington? Did we ever do that, did we ever invite anybody into our homes and what did I feel about these? This was an interview and that, that just, that I have not forgot. But I did tell him that we had no difficulty with that. But I wrote an article about that later, and I have it on my wall in there, and I said in the article I have dined at every table. I have no fear of talking or working with anyone, something to that effect. So but, but that's when you have to feel okay about who you are, but at the [hand hitting the table top] same time you also need to learn that there is a place for you, in some ways. You understand what I'm saying? So you're not going to say anything ridiculous that's going to get you in trouble and I say that that way because you might say well what is ridiculous. So, you just, you just know how to balance that act, you learn how to do that. And where as I might not have had any difficulties, there were a lot of other children who had a lot more difficulties than I did, trying to struggle and make, you know, make these adjustments as they weave through their life.
WIESEMAN: Okay, do you think that also that your education being segregated may have disallowed you from maybe proceeding to other further education?
STOKES: I tell you, you don't realize until you leave home. I remember leaving home going to Jarvis Christian College [historically African American private college in Hawkins, Texas] and I remember, let me think how to, the book that we were, we were using at college, this is a Black university, and when I started teaching some years later in Washington, D. C. those [hands hitting the table top] eighth and ninth graders were using the same books that we used in college, you understand my point? So I think in some ways as a result of not getting all of the books, all of the resources that we could have got that other children did get, it might have made a difference in what we decided to pursue as a career. I don't, I'm still glad that I went into home economics cause I had a great mentor, talked with her yesterday in fact. I had a great mentor, wonderful lady, and I wouldn't, I'm glad that she was in my world, but had I had other experiences I might had majored in something else. So it might have made a difference.
WIESEMAN: So, you were a teacher then in . . .
STOKES: In Washington, D. C., yes.
WIESEMAN: Okay, how did that like was that, what time was, did you start teaching?
STOKES: I'm saying in Washington, D. C., I'm getting los, I'm getting, wait a minute, I'm getting my St. Louis and Washington, D. C. all this mixed up, hold on a minute. I was in, give me a minute, let me think, that was four years somewhere and eleven years somewhere. Most of my years in Washington, D. C., yeah I was, I was teaching at Woodson Junior High and I was single at the time. I have to think [laughs] through all this . . .
WIESEMAN: That's alright.
STOKES: . . . and it was a predominantly Black school, interestingly enough. And we had mixed teachers and a few mixed kids, but that experience [hands hitting the table] for me was, was something else, because there again when you leave Texas you think you're going, you're going to find everything going to be so different and so rosy and peachy and everything. And you run into situations where you have one of the kids, but there's lot of kids that, even in Washington, D. C. had missed out on many, many opportunities. They missed out on more than I did and I would have thought that those children would've had all kinds of opportunities, but they did not. But I enjoyed though, I enjoyed my experiences there, wouldn't trade it for anything in the world because I think I was able to bring to some of those children a new experience. I had to learn, I really had to get there right out of college and, and figure this thing out. How am I going to, it was, it was like a different way of life almost. The way some of those children were brought up, but they were good children and we, and it was, it was a wonderful time for me.
WIESEMAN: That's good. Now I was also going to ask that, since you were working with integrated children, like this, classrooms were integrated, did the children seem to feel comfortable with each other or discomfort?
STOKES: Now let, let me make this clear now, most of the children I worked with in Washington, D. C. and St. Louis, Missouri, most of those situations were segreg[ated], you know what I mean, you, you'd like to think they were integrated but you did not, [hands hitting table top] but those schools that I worked in for the most part were largely predominantly Black. But those students that were there and particularly there was a, there was a time when I was subbing also, actually the kids got along very well. They really got along very well. I didn't see, in, in other words I often wonder sometimes, some of the kids that were of, of White, Hispanic, or whatever, sometimes you had to be where your parents are, and I had wonder sometimes where they would be if their parents could've afforded to take, afforded to take them to another place. But overall, I think that all the children doing, in those situations I was, that I encountered, encountered, I never saw any particular racial problems.
WIESEMAN: Okay, so how do you feel about integration itself?
STOKES: How do I feel about integration as it exists today? Well, again I was, as I was looking through something, I was talking about in 1999. I think we still have a long way to go. And I remember when South Africa, you know, got the apartheid, all that change and everything, and I said "I hope thirty years from now they're not going to be like the United States." So when, when we went [hands hitting table top] from segregation to integration, what happened. I kind of mentioned this earlier on. In other words, no one sat us down, we were so happy we were just "Oh, we're integrated. Oh we all can go to the same school, we can go to restaurants." But no one sat down and talked about that transition and what was going to really happen. And as a result of that integration as far as I'm concerned we lost something as a Black race. We took on something, but, an, and which would've been a good thing and is still suppose to be, supposedly a good thing. But we lost something in the transition. We were so happy, so elated to be moving on and going on to bigger and better things until we lost a lot of our cultural beliefs, a lot of our family ties, a lot of the cultural foods and things that we eat. So we became so mainstream we lost some of our identity. And hopefully, and with me and my son and his children as when, when that time happens for him, his marriage and children, I'm hoping and I tried to pass on to them and other young people don't, you want to embrace this integration. You want to embrace it, but you going to have to make it work for you, it's not just going to sit there, and it just can't sit there, and say, "Oh, everything is fine," cause everything is not fine. There is still a lot of work to be done.
WIESEMAN: Okay, so what would you like, I guess suggest that maybe would help to have done other than just remembering keeping with your identity and your cultural identity?
STOKES: Well, you know I remember during the time that I was working at Head Start, as a Head Start director, we would have various opportunities to have diversity training. And there was always a number of opportunities to go to diversity training around here Nacogdoches. But actually so many times you wouldn't find that many people participating. You might have this group over here going to one diversity training, this group over here going to something else, and it was not a good mixture of people, where you can get together and talk about differences. I remember bringing a young man in one time from, from California,
[End of audio one]
and we brought in people from all across Nacogdoches, police officers, people from the school district, people from the medical field, all over, all colors and everything. So we can sit there and this, this young, this guy was terrific. We sat there in that grand ballroom at SFA and he mixed up everybody. Talk about who you are, what you are, hold hands with somebody you don't know about. And I think we need to do more of that because I think there still, I don't want to say a fear, but there still something there that keeps us from having those relationships that we should have as a people. That we shouldn't be concerned about as a race.
WIESEMAN: Then I was also going to go back to during the time of integration in Nacogdoches, do you remember if there was any kind of events leading up to, like resistance from different communities towards integration for their children?
STOKES: Now I, you know I might be confusing this civil rights part all of that together, but I do remember when were, as I said earlier now whether or not this was specifically, but I think all this had to do with integration, all this was interwoven there. There were people that were resisting by, as I said, they decided that they were going, because the jobs, the schools, and all this, and they decided they were going to boycott Nacogdoches and they did that effectively. And they did that effectively until some of them got jobs downtown and also I don't think with, with school, even with, even in the school system for many years you did not have Blacks that were in those administrative positions, you know you could be a teacher for twenty, thirty years, but very few of you would getting a principal or assistant position, principals assistant position, principal positions. But I think some of that changed as a result of when integration came. I think people began say, "Okay we got all these children here we going to have to make this match somewhat. We need to, if we have twenty-five percent of our population is Black, we need to look more at what kind of, what kind of teachers, and what kind of principals we have here." So.
WIESEMAN: By boycotting Nacogdoches, what do you mean by that?
STOKES: Okay, they stopped going to the stores. What they did, I mean this is again back to my dad and I [laughs], he spoken of this, he spoken to people, we've interviewed him recently through the AAHP [African American Heritage Project of Nacogdoches] and the research center, but he said, they said that we're not going to go to the stores in Nacogdoches. They got cars, like carpools, and they went to Lufkin. They stopped shopping in Nacogdoches and I don't know how long that lasted but it lasted longer than enough for them to feel that they would not making the money and they changed some things as a result of that.
WIESEMAN: So was Lufkin integrated by this time?
STOKES: I think they were having their difficulties too. But I [laughs] think Nacogdoches decided we'll go there for the lesser of evil, you know, of the two evils, will go there because we, we need to make some, we need to make a point here and they did that for quite a while.
WIESEMAN: Okay, so integration in Nacogdoches took longer than some areas, is that correct?
STOKES: You know I don't really know how, well when I say, well when you think about what happened in 1954, oh my, my years . . . Thurgood Marshall . . . I can't get all my thoughts together. It might've taken longer. You talking about 1968, that's not, you know that, that should of happened back there in 1954, or 1955, or whatever. It took, now I can't say how much longer it took Nacogdoches compared to Lufkin or Longview or something like that, but 1968 is still quite a while to wait for someone to say all of a sudden, "We're going to abolish segregation, we're going to, we're going to become integrated and we're going to be sure that everybody gets to equal education." It took a long time for that to happen, too long.
WIESEMAN: Okay, then also I was going to ask you that if the integration with your father's involvement with the civil rights and the N- double A-C-P, did he start before the question of integration was coming up with the N- double A-C-P, like the civil rights movement or . . . ?
STOKES: Oh, he was, yeah, he was working before all of that started. He and his little group, there was a N- double A-C-P and there was a voter's league, so he was big in getting people out to vote. So all of the, dad became very active and very busy probably in the mid-fifties. So he was very active before 1967, '68, '69, trying to do some things and get, make some changes in this community.
WIESEMAN: Did they, other than integration, were there anymore changes during this time period that they did win or achieve?
STOKES: You know we, we got better jobs, we, we integrated the schools we could go to the restaurants and theaters and all of that, all that was good. Mind pulling a blank here, but I can't, you know. All those things were good in that we were a people who were basically second class citizens in our own country. And that is a sad state when you really think about it, and, and it's even sad now, when you really think about it and really look at it, because some things are still the same, yeah.
WIESEMAN: How so that they're still the same?
STOKES: Well, and in, in another words we still have issues, we still have issues between the races, we still have now even though we're going to the same schools and all this, and a lot of this might have to do with our society in general. And sometimes our young people don't know whether they fit and I think sometimes there's a plea, their, their crying out, you know there is so much violence now. In another words all the violence that's happening now was not necessarily taking place in, in '68. So the question becomes why is all this happening? What is it about our society that is causing our kids, Black on Black crime, White on White crime, so I'm saying this, we made some impact but then we're going backwards. You know how they say we were shackled. And now we're shackled again by not getting our education, by not pursuing that education and there's really no reason for us for instance now to drop out of school, but it's happening. The dropout rate is unbelievable. So we've made some strides, but I'm saying we have a long way to go. We got to make more changes.
WIESEMAN: And with, you mentioned that you guys were, well the African American community were able to get better jobs, what kind of jobs would that be?
STOKES: Well, you know as I said when I was coming along and even when my parents and grandparents, you know, in those early early years you were picking cotton, you were going into the fields. I went into the fields a few times myself. I had someone say, "Charlotte you didn't pick cotton." I picked a little bit, [laughs] but cause I want to go to see what it was like but there was some serious cotton picking for a lot of, of young people in my period, they picked cotton for months at a time for a living. So then . . . so many of the Black community worked in homes cleaning and cooking and things like that. And after that some of them were able to get jobs at some of the industries around. A few got jobs in banks, a few got jobs in some of the restaurants, but we could not do that before. And so now, and in hospitals, so now you see, you see Blacks and Hispanics in every walk of life around here. And I think that is a good thing.
WIESEMAN: Now I also wanted to ask for the integration was it just African Americans that were in the segregated schools or was it also the Hispanics as well. Were they also in the same schools as you or?
STOKES: No, they were with the, everybody else except Blacks were in the White schools.
STOKES: Yeah as far as I know they were all in the White schools.
STOKES: Yeah, but I heard a question, is, you have a, I heard a question the other night. I was at SFA Saturday in fact and there was a professor there it was a wonderful, wonderful session. Dr. Wright, Herman Wright someone in the asked a question. [Herman Wright, who does not have a Ph. D. and is not a professor, founded and heads a regional East Texan African American heritage organization called TheLongBlackLine.Org that co-sponsored (with the SFA history department) a symposium on African American education in Texas, 1920-1950, at SFA on June 26, 2010.] "How many of you grew up in segregated schools?" And all the Blacks raised their hands. But then he said, "Wait a minute, I'm talking about everybody in here, whatever color you were, did you grow up in a segregated school?" So if you were in a mixed school, whether your Black or White, so some hands went up, you see, I hadn't thought about it like that. And they hadn't thought about it like that. When you put that way, if you were in a predominantly White school, a predominantly Black school, it still was in some ways segregated. I might've had the best of books, and materials, and all of that, but in some ways you were because you were mixed with people, yeah.
WIESEMAN: Okay, I guess also were you, I guess with the media coverage of civil right movements did you watch those since you maybe didn't participate in the civil . . .
STOKES: Say it, wait a minute, say it again. Let me understand what you're saying.
WIESEMAN: Like did you remember watching any marches that Martin Luther King . . .
STOKES: Oh, oh lord yes. Yes . . . and I'm, living in Washington, D. C. I say this, in nineteen, when was he, was it 1968, when did I move back home. Okay, I was in D. C. during that, when Martin Luther King was a powerful man, doing a lot of things. And I remember when he did that, one of the saddest things in my life though in 1963, when they had that, what was it? Walk on the monument, Washington Monument. And they had thousands, and thousands of people there and I'm living in Washington, D. C. I was working a second job and they would not let me off from work. I missed an opportunity of a lifetime, right then and there. But I . . . I've, I mean, I was there in spirit and I saw all of that taking place. I was also there when they, what happened, how did this come about, well that's sixty oh gosh, maybe when Martin Luther King killed was '68 and then everything broke out and they started the rioting and all of this. I was working during that time. I was teaching at Woodson Junior High and I was living in an area that was outside of that lot, the lot of that conflict was, but in the area where I was living there were few lights, few windows broken and some lights tails broken out and things like that. But I remember during that time when it was one of the saddest things that could've happened, because when you're rioting what you're doing is your destroying your community. And I think all these kids out there throwing and looting and doing all that and, then, how long did it take to rebuild those cities, those stores, and many never did come back. So yes, I've seen a lot of that. And I certainly enjoy watching Eye on the Prize [1987 PBS documentary; also available at the SFA Ralph W. Steen Library, Call # VIDEO-C 93-72], all those things I watched all of that. Every year, whenever something comes up, it's just we, and I, tried to encourage my son to watch it. We need to be reminded and we need to be share that information, because it was a time in our history and we don't need to forget it.
WIESEMAN: So, how do you feel, do you think Martin Luther King played a major role in the integration?
STOKES: Yes, without a doubt. That was a great man. He was a great man. President [John F.] Kennedy was a great man, Bobby Kennedy [Robert F. Kennedy] was a great man, all gone to soon, fighting for the rights of people. Martin Luther King was ahead of his time. Anybody as young as he was, I think he got started on this, just threw him out there, I think he was about twenty-nine years old, educated though with a Ph. D and just took on the world. He didn't know what he was doing, but, honey, he had some divine interventions all I have to say, divine intervention. He was working to make a difference in this world through non-violent means and I admire him. I'll always admire him for that. He will always have a place in this society, in this world. Did he get the Nobel Prize? He did, yes.
WIESEMAN: Okay, I guess how do you feel about Nacogdoches as a city right now? Do you think it's more of like a secure place that you like since it's been integrated?
STOKES: Oh yeah, you know I think Nacogdoches is fine. I feel secure and I think most people feel secure. We have people in the city and we have a mixture of people on our city and county boards and commissions and councils and I think all that's good. I would recommend anybody to come to Nacogdoches and live. But again, you know, no city's perfect, and we have to work together as a people to be sure that we appreciate and understand each other's culture. I think that's important, yeah.
WIESEMAN: I guess how was your first couple of days at school? I know that didn't go to an integrated school but when you're in a segregated school how did you feel knowing that you were segregated?
STOKES: Wait a minute, you mean, when I was, wait a minute, I didn't . . .
WIESEMAN: When you went to your own, like the E. J. Campbell school, how did you feel knowing that you had to go to that school?
STOKES: Oh. Oh, you know, I didn't feel anything about it. I was happy-go-lucky. We had good teachers, wonderful friends. Now as I told you earlier the fact that we were, had these books that belonged to other people, that kind of got in the way of things. And as you get older you realize, hey, maybe I'm not getting everything I need. But you don't feel inferior, you don't hurt as a result of it. Because again we had such strong parents that let us know that we could do anything or be anyone we wanted to be. And they were all working hard in these kitchens, in these fields, most of our parents were working to be that sure we got an education. And education is most of them didn't have. My father had an eighth grade education. My mother had a, she graduated, but she had it, was eleventh grade. So I am thankful that they had the mindset to think we want to get our kids out of here. We want them at least go to college or get some kind of background so to get good decent jobs. No, we were, when we were in the school, you know, you, you again we were the project, wait minute, we were . . . it was the times, that's the way it was. And I wish I could've been here in 1978, '79 to witness what it must have been like to walk on that campus, an integrated campus and see how that was, see what that was all about. Now at the same time my son was able to go to an, an integrated situations both elementary and all the way through high school here.
WIESEMAN: Did your father share any stories of the first days after integration occurred in Nacogdoches, like going onto campus or seeing the children altogether?
STOKES: Not really. I think what dad would always kind of focused on was the fact that he worked with a lot of lawyers and a lot of them opposed him, but how they got together afterwards and they kind of shook hands together and said let's move on, we going to move on we worked, we made this thing happen and we're going to go ahead because the courts made a decision and we're going to move on. He's kind of proud of his relationship with these lawyers because a lot of times he would take lawyers to the task, take them to court. I mean dad was something else with that [laughs] eighth grade education. But he, he pride, he had a lot of pride about himself being able to get those things done. But I don't remember anything in particular about those immediate days and how he might have reacted to. I'll ask him about that when I see him tomorrow.
WIESEMAN: I also remember you talking about the marches that he did. Was it more of just the African American community in Nacogdoches that did the marches?
STOKES: Believe me. And I didn't see any of this. But there were university professors, SFA students, White, participated right along in that march right along with the Blacks. That's my understanding. So, you know, and anytime when you're trying to make change or movements there are other people that share that thought, that share that movement with you. So there, there was a mixture of students, most of them predominantly Black to my understanding, but there were Whites students and professors that marched right along with the Blacks.
WIESEMAN: Okay, and then other than marches was there any other activities that he set up like any sit-ins?
STOKES: I don't know about sit-ins, but they had a lot of meetings. They had a lot of meetings behind the scenes. They had a lot of meetings in his house. That's located on Martin Luther King Boulevard now. They had, they, they met and my mother right in amidst of all that. They had private meetings Blacks, Whites, Hispanic meetings in coming up with their strategies. How they were going to get it done. They, they did a lot of that and, but as far as any other means other than the marching and the boycotting, I don't remember sit-ins, I don't remember sit-ins. But I do remember Strickland's Drugstore. Now there might've been a sit in there, I can't remember, but I can always remember Strickland's Drugstore was one of those drugstores was, it was off limits at that time to Black kids.
WIESEMAN: So you mentioned your mother being involved as well is there, was there a specific role she played in integration with your father?
STOKES: She was a stay at home mom. She was a mom that saw to that we had everything that we needed for school and all that. She was the person who kept that house open for his meetings, took the phone calls, did all of that. She was like the secretary for him, the, for N-double A-C-P. She was very, she was low key, but she, she worked behind the scenes with dad very much so. She didn't participate in the marches but she was there as a visible person in other ways.
WIESEMAN: Okay, Did you have any other family members in Nacogdoches involved with integration . . .
STOKES: My, my oldest brother was here during that period, Charles. He was a school teacher and I remember reading something in here that I wrote in '99. Someone asked a question about how was he affected by that. And he was teaching here and I think he felt before all the integration happened, he felt that he needed to leave because of daddy's involvement and people coming at dad, you know. There was people after dad from the standpoint, you know, of who are you. He'd get these phone calls and this, this n word and all that. So my brother opt to leave Nacogdoches and went to work in another community.
WIESEMAN: Which community did he go to work?
STOKES: Grapeland [Texas], I think was the first place that he went to work, yeah.
WIESEMAN: And what was the previous school that he was working at?
STOKES: He was working here at E. J. Campbell [School].
WIESEMAN: At E. J. Campbell.
STOKES: He was a history and music, choir director.
WIESEMAN: Okay, so there was more, there was more of a, people going after your father?
STOKES: Yes, see he would get phone calls. He'd get threatening phone calls from whomever. I mean, you know, and of course no one wants to give up, if you're fighting to get equal rights for Blacks and everybody else wants to and you don't want to give up that. So you going to have people that are going to be resisting that and don't want that to happen. So he got a lot of phone calls. And I remember he, he used to talk about someone hang, what you call that, an effigy in his yard one time. That was scary for me when I heard about that. That was one of those times that I was really afraid and I wanted him to stop. I wanted him to give all, give it all up, but there was no such thing for dad.
WIESEMAN: Did it take a longer time for the White community to be accepting of integration in Nacogdoches, do you feel?
STOKES: Probably, probably. And I would imagine that, you know, education makes a difference too. I would imagine if I had to, if I had to think about that I would say that I would imagine most of the people, the educated Whites, I . . . this is kind of putting it out there, I don't know what. But I would say most of the educated, compassionate kind of folks understood what was trying to happen. And I think the other folks might've not have had that education, might have been trying to hold on to more. And that also goes for other people could've been holding onto were maybe some of those people who had powers that be, and what they were going to lose I don't know. But they felt that they were going to lose something as a result of that.
WIESEMAN: Okay, and I also wanted to ask before when you lived here in Nacogdoches, before integration, how did the stores you were allowed to go in compared to the I guess the White stores that only Whites were allowed to go in? Were they much different?
STOKES: No we could go in all the stores.
WIESEMAN: Oh, okay.
STOKES: You could shop in the stores and you could pay your money and buy things. They weren't going to stop that. But it's just you knew you couldn't work there, and you knew you had to go to a separate fountain in the store. All the fountains had a Black and White fountain. But you could certainly, I, now . . . now there might have been private clubs and things like that that no Blacks went to, except my brother. My brother was a great musician and he was invited all over Nacogdoches to play at homes and clubs all over, White homes. But, no, it wasn't that we couldn't go in the stores downtown, because you could spend your money. They wanted your money. But they didn't, you know, you just couldn't work there and you couldn't drink from the fountain.
STOKES: So, you know.
WIESEMAN: Alright, and then I guess one of my last questions I was going to ask is that . . . I know that you said that Nacogdoches you think has some more headway to make for integration. But do you see it as being mostly there I guess to the point like, or, is there still a lot more that we have
STOKES: You mean we just got about where we need to be with integration or with mixing of races or with racial things . . .
WIESEMAN: With integration . . .
STOKES: So you said do I think were there or we have a long way to go . . .
WIESEMAN: Yeah, basically.
STOKES: A lot what we have to do might be on, some might be on our part. I think we still have quite a ways to go. You know prejudice in all can be on both sides. So we as a race, a people, need to sit down and talk to our children and grandchildren about being more understanding and compassionate about each other. So that we understand that we won't have these feelings of fear or hatred or whatever it is that exists between the races. I think we still have a ways to go with that.
WIESEMAN: Okay, and then also do you feel that sharing the stories about integration with future generations will help?
STOKES: . . . will help. Yes. I think it would help a great deal.
WIESEMAN: Okay, and then I guess one of my final questions is going to be is there anything you wanted to discuss about integration that I haven't covered yet or, or anything you just want to share about like a story or something?
STOKES: Oh, boy. Oh. Well, I would say that, and I'm going back to this again because someone asked about who is suppose to pick up the banner now, and I say, "You are." And so, you know we, we tried the lay, lay what, lay whatever foundation is there but we had to depend on this younger generation to get more understanding of the past. Look at it and say what can I do to make a difference here and I remember giving a story here, somewhere, sometime when you're in an audience, Black or White, and someone is talking negatively about someone, about a race and we sit there and we don't do anything about it, we just sit there and just going along with it. I think we need to be able to speak up. Let people know how we feel about it. This is not good. I just think we need to again share all of this information. Let the young people know your generation, and generation behind you, that in order to make this a more perfect society we're going to just have to, we're going to have to learn to get along. What is it Rodney King said: "Why can't we all get along" [laughs]. We need to try to do that.
WIESEMAN: And, then, I guess do you think integration affected you as a person greatly or . . .
STOKES: I'm happy in my skin. If I had to change anything I don't know what it would be, I mean I'm just thankful I had the life that I've had. I would say if I had been another skin, things, some things might have been different, but I will never know that. So I wouldn't change anything. And if I can do anything at all, it's to continue talk to my son, to try to be sure that you're a good person, you're a better person, you're going to learn from all these experiences that we shared with you. And you're going to share that somewhere down the line. Hopefully with your, with his children.
[End of audio two]
[End of Interview]