I was born and raised in a small town in East Texas, and had never ventured far from there until after I graduated college in May of 1971. I graduated high school in May of 1966. I had no clear directions about what I wanted to do with my life after graduating high school. I had gone to an all-Black-rural elementary, junior high, and high school, where my education had been neglected for most of the time. None of my teachers paid me any attention. In addition, I had a severe stuttering problem. I never had any preschool, head start, day care, or kindergarten before entering school; and my parents gave me little preparation for school. When I started school I didn’t even have knowledge of basic things like colors, geometric shapes, numbers, and my basic coordination skills were poorly developed. I had a lot of catching up to do.
To top that off, my parents didn’t believe in formal education for their children, and made no effort to see that they had a good basic education. We also lived an isolated existence on a farm. All my parents seemed to care about was maintaining that small-dirt farm. I found myself going along with the program set up for me.
My elementary school, junior high, and high school were one step up from the old one-room schoolhouse depicted in the literature. Not much attention was paid to basic grammar and basic mathematics in elementary school. In high school we wrote very few papers, read few nov-els, and made fewer field trips. I’m afraid it didn’t help me to develop or discover any special talents. There was no library in that small town, and very little outside reading was required. Not much emphasis was placed on reading. Most of us probably didn’t even read our textbooks. We did only what the teachers required us to do. Later in high school there was an attempt to create a small library in place of one of the classrooms, but it got very little use, and most of the books eventually somehow disappeared. The library eventually became defunct.
But I was certain I wanted to attend college. There were several students in my class who talked about their plans for college, and I tried to imitate them. I also observed several students who graduated before me and went to college; most of them eventually dropped out, but a few were successful in getting their degrees. I always somehow felt a sense of pride in, and looked up to those who went to college as role models. I had cousins who taught me in elementary and high school who had gone to college. For some reason, I knew I didn’t want to be like my brothers, always looking for a job, and never finding a desirable one, being unable to adequately support their families. I figured college would put me in a more advantaged position with respect to stay-ing employed in a more desirable job. For all these reasons I was determine to attend college.
I wasn’t sure about what college I wanted to attend. A friend suggested Adelphi State, not far from my home in East Texas. I felt that was just as good as any, so I applied. I knew I wouldn’t have a lot of money for transportation, so being close to home was an important con-sideration at the time. I always felt this friend was intelligent, and he said he was considering Adelphi. I thought it might be a good place to attend. It turned out that he joined the Army in-stead. Most of the people in my community had little knowledge about higher education or col-leges, and could give me no information about choosing a college. My counselor and teachers had little to say to me about colleges. They probably thought I was wasting my time. Of course my parents, sisters and brothers, nor relatives could give me any advice. I was the first in my immediate family to attempt college. Several of my classmates were going to Lone Star State, and my friend Craig suggested I go there, but I was fed up with Black education. I wanted to see what the other side of education was like. I didn’t want to continue getting a neglected education. In addition, it was a time when integration was emphasized, and I wanted to do my thing for in-tegration. I applied to Adelphi State and was accepted, so I entered in the fall of 1966.
My main objective for attending a traditionally white university was because I wanted to not be a part of the cycle being perpetuated by Blacks attending inferior elementary, junior high, high school, university; and coming back to teach in those same inferior schools. Many older Blacks were victims of this cycle. I thought I could help to correct this cycle, and get a good education at the same time.
From the beginning I didn’t like Adelphi very much. It was a picturesque campus that was nice and clean, beautiful landscaping; nice, clean, modern dormitories; and plenty of old-southern charm. However, you could feel a certain amount of tension. It was understood that you were to be tolerated for the greater good—rather than integrated. Black students weren’t encour-aged to join fraternities, sororities, or other clubs, nor to actively participate in the social life of the campus. At most of the events Blacks sat separately from other students. Discrimination was subtle, but it occurred in such a way to let you know you were still a second-class citizen. In most of my classes I was the only Black student, and I felt extremely uncomfortable. The school had only recently integrated, probably no longer than the previous year, as a result of the fight for civil rights, and there were only about three hundred Black students out of a total of a fifteen-thousand student body. The school was growing by leaps and bounds.