Interview of Vera Jones Allen. Interviewed by George Gilliam, Mason Mills, of The Ground Beneath Our Feet project.

Vera Jones Allen worked for the Prince Edward County school system at the time of the 1951 student strike. She is the mother of Edwilda Allen Isaac, who was a student leader in the student strike of 1951 in Prince Edward County, an event that led to Dorothy Davis v. Prince Edward County School Board, one of the five cases decided in the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954.

This interview was taken in 2000 for "Massive Resistance," episode four of "The Ground Beneath Our Feet: Virginia's History Since the Civil War," a production of George H. Gilliam and the Central Virginia Educational Television Corporation. George H. Gilliam is the Producer of the series, William G. Thomas, III the Assistant Producer, and Mason Mills the Director of Photography.

The transcripts represent what was said in the interview to the best of our ability. It is possible that some words, particularly names, have been misspelled. We have made no attempt to correct mistakes in grammar.

Mrs. Allen: My name is Vera Jones Allen.
Mr. Gilliam: Mrs. Allen, where did you grow up?
Mrs. Allen: I grew up in Charles City, Virginia, east of Richmond.
Mr. Gilliam: And you went away to college?
Mrs. Allen: I went away to Virginia State College at Petersburg.
Mr. Gilliam: And when did you go to Virginia State College in Petersburg?
Mrs. Allen: I went to Virginia State in '35.
Mr. Gilliam: While you were in Petersburg, you met your future husband?
Mrs. Allen: I did. Edward.
Mr. Gilliam: And was he from Prince Edward County?
Mrs. Allen: Yeah. He's a native of Farmville.
Mr. Gilliam: So after you finished college, were you married right?
Mrs. Allen: No. I taught for a couple of years.
Mr. Gilliam: And where did you teach?
Mrs. Allen: Taught one year in Albemarle County and the next year in the county of my birth in Charles City and then I married.
Mr. Gilliam: And you - then you came here to Prince Edward County
Mrs. Allen: Yes. That's right.
Mr. Gilliam: And have you lived in Prince Edward County ever since around 1940, '41?
Mrs. Allen: Yes. Except the years the schools were closed and I went away to work. I worked ten years in North Carolina in Goldsboro and Waynesboro County and I worked five years in Caroline County, Virginia.
Mr. Gilliam: Now when you say you worked. Were you teaching there?
Mrs. Allen: Yes. Yes. That's right.
Mr. Gilliam: What were you teaching?
Mrs. Allen: I taught first in high school secondary subjects, but I didn't like that very much. That was the year I was in Albemarle, I was in high school. And then I went back to school and took elementary education at Virginia State and since then I've been in elementary education and I've been a principal. I've been a teacher, a principal. I've been Assistant to the Superintendent and ended up retired as Director of Instruction. With forty-three years of service in public education.
Mr. Gilliam: When you were teaching in North Carolina and then in Caroline County, did you commute to school, or how did you do that?
Mrs. Allen: Just came home weekends, unless there was something going on that was school connected. But almost all weekends I came home because my children were here. I had two children and my husband was taking care of them. And we were living here then but I came home weekends so that I could be with the children and with him.
Mr. Gilliam: So that would have been from the late 1950s to the middle 1960s?
Mrs. Allen: Yes, that's right.
Mr. Gilliam: But other than that you've lived in Prince Edward -
Mrs. Allen: Yes. Yes, that's right.
Mr. Gilliam: Now, you have two daughters?
Mrs. Allen: Two daughters. That's right.
Mr. Gilliam: What were their names?
Mrs. Allen: The first-born was Edwilda and the second was Edna.
Mr. Gilliam: And did - were they in schools in Prince Edward County during the late 1940s and early 1950s -
Mrs. Allen: Yes. They were.
Mr. Gilliam: Were you aware - could you describe what the conditions were like for black children in the schools? Were they - Were the schools adequate? Were they crowded? What sort of buildings did they have?
Segregated Schools
Mrs. Allen: Well, in the first place, the county did not provide schools beyond the seventh grade for black people. But both of my children were able to finish within that period and they went to college from here. They wanted to take subjects that the colleges here didn't offer; so both of them had to go out of state to college. Edwilda went to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a Catholic school. Edna went to Springfield College in Massachusetts. And they both were graduated from those schools. Edna then went and got a Masters degree from New York University because she got a job in New York when she finished. And Edwilda married and went to California to live and she taught there awhile.
Mr. Gilliam: In the schools that they were in as youngsters, were the school facilities adequate?
Mrs. Allen: School facilities were very inadequate. They were crowded. They had persons teaching in the schools who weren't always prepared to teach. Very little in facilities. We had to furnish all the materials that they worked with. The School Board did not furnish anything for them to work with. We spent a lot of our money buying extra materials, like workbooks and things of that sort they could have more. They were always crowded. And the first secondary school they had here was on the second floor of - on Main Street, and the elementary section was on the first floor. But we had a group of women, the Martha Foster counselor for women that organized to help our children get better schools. Ms. Foster had come from Richmond. She was a native of Richmond. But all those other women were women here in Farmville who had families, but wanted better facilities for their children and so they went to work. And worked it until we got better facilities because when they first built the high school over here, it was just eight small classrooms. We had about 400 children that had to go in it. That wasn't adequate at all.
Mr. Gilliam: Did the county provide - did the county - did Prince Edward County construct some additional structures near the Moton High School building?
Mrs. Allen: Yes. We called them tarpaper shacks. They really looked like barracks that you would find at an army base. On the front lawn and two behind, those buildings were - did not have any facilities at all. They didn't even have heat in them, hardly. And the children had to come into the main building if they wanted to go to the bathroom. But - and they were very, very inadequate. Not enough space and not enough of anything. And so, that's when the students themselves protested and decided they wanted better and this is when they went on strike.
Mr. Gilliam: Tell me what the students did. You were a teacher - not at the school, but you were good with the kids -
Mrs. Allen: I was a mother.
Student Strike
Mr. Gilliam: - you were a mother. And your daughter Edwilda got up one morning - tell me what happened when Edwilda got up and, did you have any clue?
Mrs. Allen: No, I had no clue whatever. She got up and had her breakfast and got dressed and went off to school. We didn't know anything was happening that day. And I went on wherever I had to go to work and Barbara Johns called - just called the children together over the P.A. system at the school and they selected a person from each room to be captain, or representative, of that room and she asked the teachers to also pick up their things and go. And then they just marched on downtown. But by that time they had just - the people downtown had heard that they were coming and they met them on the steps of the courthouse. And someone met my husband and said, "Didn't I see your daughter walking with the children downtown." He said, "I don't know. You might have." And then he said, "Well why didn't you take her out of the line." And he said, "I didn't put her in." The end of that conversation.
Mr. Gilliam: How did Barbara Johns - how did she get started? I mean were there any parents or any teachers involved in getting her started in this strike?
Mrs. Allen: Barbara had always been, sort of head of her household. Her parents worked away from home a lot and she had charge of the household. And then Barbara had some relatives who lived other places and were much more advanced than we were because her uncle, Dr. Vernon Johns, you know, was the pastor of a church in Georgia. And when the parents went to work, Barbara had charge of the children. And whenever there was anything going on at our schools at night, a lot of those children spent the night at our house because they were friends of my children and they had to be somewhere and they are still thankful for that. But then - when Barbara finished high school, she went on to Philadelphia and she married there.
Mr. Gilliam: Well, Barbara was unhappy with the condition of the schools.
Mrs. Allen: She was a very unhappy and she was a very smart girl. Very good in her books and very good with a lot of good sense. And then this uncle had shared with her how these other schools were operating and what they had and this is what you ought to have.
Mr. Gilliam: So Barbara took it on her own?
Mrs. Allen: Yes. She did. She took it on.
Mr. Gilliam: And what did she do?
Mrs. Allen: She just organized the classrooms and had a representative from each classroom to form the committee.
Mr. Gilliam: And the teachers didn't know anything about it?
Mrs. Allen: Not a thing; and she said to the teachers, "get your things and you can go too."
Mr. Gilliam: What did she do - you said that she took over the public address system and got everybody to come in -
Mrs. Allen: Yes. She did.
Mr. Gilliam: - how did she do that?
Mrs. Allen: She just spoke over the system. They had - it was up on the stage in the auditorium and then she had those members of the faculty who were working with her and - we had -I think, two people in particular - Sammy Williams was a good student. He didn't never get his lessons, but he was a good student nevertheless. And he was in with them and several other good students and they just went with her and helped her.
Mr. Gilliam: Well, how did she take control and get the kids into the auditorium? How did that happen?
Mrs. Allen: She just over the P.A. system she just told them to come in there.
Mr. Gilliam: And how did she get control of the P.A. system? What - did she get the principal out of the school?
Mrs. Allen: She had got the principal out of the school. Sent him downtown because she told him somebody was downtown in trouble and needed him. And he went. And when he came back, everything was happening. And of course the School Board even thinks to this day that he did it but he did not. They fired him of course. He didn't have a job. And he'd just gotten married and had a new wife and new baby and no job.
Mr. Gilliam: Had the parents, prior to Barbara Johns's strike - what had the parents been doing to try to push things along?
Mrs. Allen: The parents who were working with this Mrs. Forrester because she had been there all the time and she had - when she organized, she had ten strong women in the community who were church women and they were women with families and they just went along with her.
Mr. Gilliam: What did they do? What types of things did they do?
Mrs. Allen: They would go to all the meetings that the School Board had and ask them to give the children better schools. They went to everybody they could in this town that had any influence, but they didn't pay them any mind. But they kept going and they were always very mild. No violence, you know, just kept going. And Mrs. Forrester who was leading them was a very intelligent woman and very mild mannered and really knew how to work with people as she knew what they needed or what they should have for she came out of city schools originally and she had come from a better family life than we had here and she just pushed it all the time.
Mr. Gilliam: The student strike was - or at least the assembly was on April 23, 1951.
Mrs. Allen: That's right.
Mr. Gilliam: And a couple of weeks before that on April 12th of 1951, the School Board started a process to buy land for a new Negro high school. What had - Who had gotten to the School Board? What had gotten them to the point where they said they were going to buy some land?
Mrs. Allen: Well, the NAACP by that time had come into things, and Reverend Griffin, our pastor, was handling all of this and had a very strong chapter of the NAACP here. And the NAACP was not interested in changing schools here. They were changing - Griffin wanted schools changed everywhere, in the whole United States. They were not willing to work just for Prince Edward.
Mr. Gilliam: But if they didn't start the litigation.
Mrs. Allen: No.
Mr. Gilliam: The litigation was started how? What happened after the student strike? Did Barbara Johns take some steps to get the litigation going?
Mrs. Allen: I think the grown people still sort of took the NAACP started it.
Mr. Gilliam: I had heard that Barbara Johns actually got on the phone and called Oliver Hill and said we've started -
Mrs. Allen: Yeah. She did. Yeah, she did. And they came.
Mr. Gilliam: All right. Let me ask you to back up -
Mrs. Allen: And he was just beginning law. You know, the study of law.
Mr. Gilliam: Let me go back and get you to tell me the story in your words. Did Barbara Johns do something after the student strike? Did she make some phone calls?
Mrs. Allen: Yes. She did. She did. And by that time we learned later that she was getting some help but that help, we didn't know until after it was all over.
Mr. Gilliam: What did she do? Who did she call?
Mrs. Allen: She called some of her relatives, like Vernon Johns and then her mother - Barbara - Vernon Johns' wife's father was a president of a college in North Carolina and all of them were willing to help and all of them knew what to do.
Mr. Gilliam: Now I had heard that she actually called Oliver Hill on the phone.
Mrs. Allen: She did. She did. She did. She did and he had another young lawyer who was just beginning to study - Marsh in Richmond - and he was just beginning to get into law - studying law - and he was with them too.
Mr. Gilliam: And did they come for a visit?
Mrs. Allen: Yes. They did. They came for a lot of visits. They came often.
Mr. Gilliam: Did they say that we should bring a suit against the Prince Edward County School Board?
Mrs. Allen: No. They were willing to bring it for us so it would be a national thing. It wouldn't be Prince Edward. It would be for everybody. Yeah, they wanted it for everybody.
Mr. Gilliam: Now what - your daughters at this time in the early 1950s - what grade was Edwilda in?
Mrs. Allen: The year they walked out she was seventh grade.
Mr. Gilliam: She was seventh grade?
Mrs. Allen: Seventh grade.
Mr. Gilliam: And the schools here didn't close until 1959.
Mrs. Allen: Yes. That's right. So that gave them a chance to finish high school. And so they weren't really closed out. They didn't miss any time.
Mr. Gilliam: So both of your daughters were able to graduate from -
Mrs. Allen: Yes. That's right.
Mr. Gilliam: From Moton?
Mrs. Allen: Yes. That's right. And went to college.
Mr. Gilliam: Was a new school built?
Mrs. Allen: Yeah, we had a new school but they didn't pay it any mind. They just - they were on their way because you see the school was just taking care of Prince Edward. But they didn't want it for Prince Edward. They want it for everybody. That's only - they were the only conditions under which the NAACP would take it.
Mr. Gilliam: Now, Oliver Hill and Spotswood Robinson came down here I think about two days after the strike. Where did they meet? Do you remember?
Mrs. Allen: Yes. Well, the first meeting place was always in the basement of the First Baptist Church. But then they - the NAACP was renting a house over on Main Street. The person who was living in that house was put out of her job. She was - had gone to live somewhere else and her house was empty and the NAACP had an office in that house.
Mr. Gilliam: So the, let's see, the new Moton school came into - was started being used in 1953 about two years after the strike?
Mrs. Allen: Yeah. That's right.
Mr. Gilliam: Did that provide any relief? Were people satisfied with that?
Mrs. Allen: Satisfied with the building as such, but not satisfied with what they planned to do. It still looked like it was Prince Edward, see.
Mr. Gilliam: Were the teachers paid the same?
Mrs. Allen: No. No. And they didn't have the same materials. We didn't get paid the same. I went to school in the meantime to increase my credentials and I thought we'd get more money but they didn't want - necessarily want you to go to school because you would ask for more money. I did but I didn't get it.
Mr. Gilliam: Do you remember how much you were paid?
Mrs. Allen: I really don't.
Mr. Gilliam: Was it as much as a thousand dollars a year?
Mrs. Allen: Yes. But, I don't remember how much I was paid.
Mr. Gilliam: I think at one point I read something that there was a difference of almost 50%?
Mrs. Allen: Yes. It was. That's right. And people were brought in. I remember they brought in a lady to be an assistant to the superintendent and she didn't have her Masters but the rest of us had our Masters degrees. And when we found out that she was getting more money than we were, well we went talk to them and complained and they gave us some more money. Not as much as she was making. But -
School Closings
Mr. Gilliam: Now when the schools closed in 1960, they started this tuition grant program and then some of the whites started the Prince Edward Academy.
Mrs. Allen: That's right.
Mr. Gilliam: Could they have started that school without the tuition grants?
Mrs. Allen: We don't think so. You never know and we thought they were getting - they did get some money out of the bank you know at midnight. Went into the bank and gave the people tuition grants for their children.
Mr. Gilliam: Who did that?
Mrs. Allen: Well, whoever had charge of the bank. They went there and they did it in the night.
Mr. Gilliam: So nobody would see?
Mrs. Allen: And then there were two people that we knew it because there were two people who were on our side who had children. One was a minister of the church at Hampden Sydney College and the other one was a teacher at Longwood. He had a son, he put his the public schools and he finished. He was the first one to graduate. And he told us about this money that they had taken out. And he gave us his money and you know that - and he and the minister both were out of their jobs, but they gave us their money.
Mr. Gilliam: Now these tuition grants were paid for out of tax money, weren't they?
Mrs. Allen: Yeah. Yes. That's right. We said that's what we said that we had paid for it. And we were - that's what we said when they charged us $300,000 for this building up here. We said we'd paid for it a few times.
Mr. Gilliam: Tell me how you felt about having your tax money used to pay for these tuition grants.
Mrs. Allen: Terrible feeling. What could you do? You did. That's right.
Mr. Gilliam: What did the black children do?
Mrs. Allen: Some of them didn't do anything. Some of them went in nearby counties to live with relatives. Some moved to other states. Some counties wouldn't take our children. And during the summer, those of us who were working away would help those children, have classes with those children. Worked in the basement of all the churches in the county. All of the churches offered - all of the black churches offered us their churches to have classrooms for the teachers and we worked them. And some of us - we weren't getting anything for it. Nobody was getting paid.
Mr. Gilliam: I have never seen any statistics about how many of the kids who were in the school when the schools closed were able to finish school. Do you have any idea just based on your knowledge of the community? How many just simply didn't not finish school?
Mrs. Allen: I really couldn't, you know, in feeling that I was telling what I knew but I really couldn't. Some of our children were entering school six, seven and eight years old, just in the first grade because Reverend Buren himself had a son. This is our church - our house across the street that belongs to our church, this is where he lived. And he had a son that was entering school and he was seven years old in the first grade, you see. We had allow him come late. But then we started - I was principal of the elementary school, then we started doing a process of team teaching. If you - we had children there who were seven years old and eight years old and had never been to school, if they could move faster we moved them and we moved them - maybe, this teacher over here was doing all the children who were slow in math or all the children who were slow in reading, she would work with those who were slow with English studies and we did team teaching and that worked out very well. I did very well with that as a creator of it. And I got to go move around over the state and introduce it to other teachers.
Mr. Gilliam: Now were you able to get some of the kids caught up -
Mrs. Allen: Yes.
Mr. Gilliam: - or were they still behind?
Mrs. Allen: Yes. We were able to. And then we had some people come in from the next counties to help us, you know. And I know a fellow who has just come out of the state department - Hill. I don't know whether you knew him or not. But he had been a principal, a teacher and everything and he came up after school was out, he came up every day to help us. He wasn't getting a penny, and then he retired a couple of years ago.
Mr. Mills: About the team teaching, she was playing with the microphone. So if you really want that -
Mr. Gilliam: Okay. All right. Let me go back and ask you to tell me what was involved in the team teaching. What did you do? This program that you started.
Mrs. Allen: Several example is a child who was seven years old and he should have been having certain things at the first grade level. If he - we had some teachers who would do that - just do the math for the children. Then somebody else would take those that were slow in reading or those who were fast in reading and put them in groups according to the way they could achieve. And it worked very, very well. And then the teachers liked it and then we used to go to school early in the morning and stay late, you know, so that we could work with the children extra hours and all.
Mr. Gilliam: What effect did this program that you started have on the kids who had gotten a couple of years behind?
Mrs. Allen: It helped them. It brought them up, if they could get up - if they were smart enough academically to come up, they would, and they liked it, and parents liked it. And their parents would help us with buying some extra materials for them and all of that. And I would - at that time, you know, we had two organizations in the state of teachers, you know, we had our meetings in October and November and they had theirs too but we were in separate places. And it always met in Richmond. And I gave demonstrations at those meetings for the teachers.
Mr. Gilliam: You were active before the strike -
Mrs. Allen: Yeah.
Mr. Gilliam: - and some other parents were active.
Mrs. Allen: Yeah.
Mr. Gilliam: But not everybody in the black community was active.
Mrs. Allen: No. No. That's right.
Mr. Gilliam: Tell me about those that weren't active. Why weren't they? Why weren't they stirred up about this?
Mrs. Allen: Well, a lot of them were sorry that the whole thing ever started. They were reasonably happy with what we had. They didn't want it to happen. But those of us who were in favor couldn't back up. Didn't ever want to back up really.
Mr. Gilliam: Were these parents who were sort of happy with the status quo, were they afraid for their jobs? Why -
Mrs. Allen: Yeah, they were. They were afraid for their jobs. That's right. And I was too. But I went on just the same and lost my job, you know, for a while. All of us were afraid. We were afraid.
Mr. Gilliam: Were there threats?
Mrs. Allen: Yes.
Mr. Gilliam: What were the threats?
Mrs. Allen: Just you wouldn't have a job. You wouldn't get a contract. And that was the only way we could live. A lot of us were buying homes. We had children and we wanted - and I thought about all those women who came in with Ms. Forrester to make this committee. All those women had children and not many of them had been to college or anything, but they were women who wanted the best for their children.
Mr. Gilliam: Did people - apart from teachers during the time schools were closed - did people actually lose their jobs over this?
Mrs. Allen: Yes. Yes. Yes. A lot of people lost jobs.
Mr. Gilliam: What types of jobs were they - who were they working for?
Mrs. Allen: Well, I mean, those who were working for the school system lost their jobs.
Mr. Gilliam: How about others that were not working in the school system? Were there people who worked in stores or people who worked in the mills?
Mrs. Allen: No. No. We didn't have any evidence in particular about that.
Mr. Gilliam: Were there any cross burnings or any other racial acts?
Mrs. Allen: No. They had a few dogs one time but minimum of violence. That's - everybody was so surprised there wasn't. They put a few of them in jail for a few days. They went down and sat on the church steps and were singing loud but that was wrong. We didn't favor that. We didn't favor that at all. They didn't have any business disturbing a church service.
Views of White Community
Mr. Gilliam: Mrs. Allen, let me ask you about the white community. Was the white community unified in opposition to any integration of the schools?
Mrs. Allen: Not totally. There was some who were not. There were some of them who didn't have the money to pay that tuition to go to that private school cause one man told me himself. He just left the county to go some - to next county because he couldn't pay it. And at Christmas time his Santa Claus brought his little boy a bicycle. And said, somebody over there told him, "see now, if you didn't have buy your son a bicycle, you could have paid your tuition." They didn't - a lot of them didn't want to do it. And a lot of them couldn't afford to do it.
Mr. Gilliam: So, was there pressure within the white community -
Mrs. Allen: Yes.
Mr. Gilliam: - from other whites -
Mrs. Allen: Yes.
Mr. Gilliam: - to conform?
Mrs. Allen: Yes. Very definitely. Very definitely.
Mr. Gilliam: What other - Do you remember any other specific stories besides the man who bought the bicycle?
Mrs. Allen: No. They just would tell us, you know, that we can't afford to pay the tuition and this is why we moved from there. People you knew, you wouldn't particularly know their names.
Mr. Gilliam: So, whites had to move as well as blacks?
Mrs. Allen: Yes. Yes. And all the white people weren't rich people. There were some poor ones, just like we were.
Mr. Gilliam: Now, the impression that I get is that the black community, through the schools and through moving people to other places and through the churches, were able to get most people educated. But I get the impression that the whites - that there were a lot of the poor whites just fell through the cracks.
Mrs. Allen: They did. They did. They did. They certainly did.
Mr. Gilliam: Where are they now? What kinds of jobs do they have now?
Mrs. Allen: Well, any kind that they can find. See, we've gotten a little more here in jobs than we did at that time. We have some industry here. We didn't have any one time and we couldn't understand why they didn't want it here. See, we had a shoe factory and of course that has closed down now. And we had a -
Mr. Gilliam: What's the great big factory in the Industrial Park in back of the Craddock Terry factory?
Mrs. Allen: I don't know what they make now. I really don't. But, they're still operating, but the shoe factory sold out. They weren't doing so well. And then we have a jail here now too, you know. We had a jail but not much of a jail. But we have a jail out in the county and a lot of people working at the jail.
Mr. Gilliam: During the time the schools were closed, you were working up in Caroline County?
Mrs. Allen: Yes.
Mr. Gilliam: What were people doing to try to get the schools reopened? Was there any talk about reopening as segregated schools?
Mrs. Allen: Yeah. These people were working all of the time. All of the time and they never stopped. Going to the School Board meetings. Going to Board of Supervisors meetings. And when they didn't have a secondary school for us, they had one for the white in every magisterial district in the county. And didn't have a single one for us. Nothing beyond the seventh grade. And I had come from Charles City and we had a high school. Wasn't the best in the world but you could take another subject or two and you were ready for college. And we thought that was right much of an advantage.
Mr. Gilliam: Both of your girls graduated from high school?
Mrs. Allen: Yes. Yes.
Mr. Gilliam: And then went on to college?
Mrs. Allen: Yes.
Race Relations
Mr. Gilliam: What is your assessment of racial conditions in Prince Edward now? Is this behind people or is the wound still open?
Mrs. Allen: There's still some healing to be done. It's better, but it's not as good as it ought to be. I don't think it will ever be the same. Like one of these ladies who was up with me on Saturday up at the school. She said I remember my parents moved but we were too young to understand why they were moving. But as I grew older, I found that they were moving because they couldn't pay the tuition and they didn't want us to go to those private schools. But, she said I was grown when I found that out. But I didn't know when they moved and say, we didn't like the idea that they were moving because we were moving away from our friends.
Mr. Gilliam: This was a white woman?
Mrs. Allen: Yes. Yes. We had a lot of confessions up there Saturday. They were talking. But it was good. All of it was good. Everybody just said what they had to say. We didn't say don't you speak because I'm afraid of what you will say.
Mr. Gilliam: Did any of the black children who were - of course, they're all grown now - but who were out of school for those few years - those five years - did any of them feel, "geez if we had just kept things the way they were, we could have just kept going to school?" Was there any of that feeling?
Mrs. Allen: There was some of it. But I don't think it was the majority. But there was some of it. Because there was - I showed you the picture in that book of that man who was standing with his head bowed down. Now he was one of them. That was a big family of children. The father owned a lot of land and he had a lot of children. And they were going off to different schools cause we helped when the American Friends - the Quaker organization - took a lot of our children. And we were very busy getting those children ready to go away. We had to get them clothes and get them to the bus station or airport or wherever. And that man - I guess there were about four or five in his family that were going to different places - but he was the only one who got sent back. And he said that when he got to Philadelphia and he told them why he was there they told him sorry they couldn't take him. He came back to Prince Edward and then he went to Ohio and that's where he ended up and he's here now. His mother is still living in Farmersdale. He built a home and married there, and became a minister there. But all the other brothers and sisters didn't get sent back but they were smarter. One of them worked with the last governor we had; worked in his office. She was a Bolden - I can't think of her name right now. She -
Mr. Gilliam: Worked with George Allen?
Mrs. Allen: Huh?
Mr. Gilliam: Worked with George Allen?
Mrs. Allen: Yes. She did.
Mr. Gilliam: What a shame.
Mrs. Allen: Yes. And then she was furnishing us with a lot of information too she was real good. She could tell us what was coming, not only what had been, but what was coming. I don't know what she's doing now, but the family were very poor people and lived under poor circumstances. But they had good ability.
Mr. Gilliam: It was quite a fight.
Mrs. Allen: It was. It was. It really was. It was a scary thing, you know. You just didn't know what to do next. And you were afraid to do anything most of the time. But it was a terrible fight and a terrible feeling, you know, to think that you had to live this way. And we thought we were doing all right, you know. We were law abiding citizens, you know. So anyway, you know.
Mr. Gilliam: It's a - it's hard to believe that in the 20th century that people would close the schools.
Mrs. Allen: Yeah, we did. And the - we were running a little behind with our money up here at the time that we was supposed to pay it off. So we got word from the inner circles that what they might do to us. So we got our folks together and we decided we had to do something. And we have a young man here who writes for the Farmville Herald. He's really an editor now. And he says what he has to say and I said well he's not going to be here long. Somebody's going to take him out. But he found out some information and we said that we were going downtown and talk to the people and asked him to go with us. And one of the people who was sitting there on the Board of Supervisors had said he didn't remember getting letters from us about that time, but he did. And he talked more than anybody else. So the Board was meeting the next day and we had to get a letter ready for the Board. And this man from Farmville wrote the letter for us.
Mr. Gilliam: Was this Ken Woodly?
Mrs. Allen: Yeah.
Mr. Gilliam: He seems like a decent -
Mrs. Allen: He is real decent. You'd be surprised how decent Ken can be; and he's a smart man, and he lives at Appomattox, you know. He has a wife and two children and his wife has cancer. She's been sick. And I work with the cancer board and we have a cancer walk in the spring, you know. And Ken was down there walking with her hand in hand, you know. And I saw her not long ago and I didn't know her. I really hadn't seen her for a long time and she spoke to me. She said well, I'm Ken's wife. And I said yes, we think so much of Ken. She said yes, he thinks a lot of you all too.
Mr. Gilliam: Different from Barrye Wall?
Mrs. Allen: Oh heavenly days, yes. He wasn't even a friend of Barrye Wall. He would tackle him.
Mr. Gilliam: Tell me about Barrye Wall. He seemed to be sort of a central figure.
Mrs. Allen: Well, the young one now - there's a young one who's working down there and he's been pretty nice. My daughter knows him. She goes down there sometimes.
Mr. Gilliam: What about the older one?
Mrs. Allen: Well, he's dead you know. But he was tough. You wouldn't dare go to him for anything. I wouldn't.
Mr. Gilliam: He was on a crusade.
Mrs. Allen: I know it. I know it. He was on everything. But he was tough. But he was meeting some tough people, you know. And we were bringing in some lawyers, people like Julian Bond and different strong people. We were bringing them in, you know, and they could talk back to him. But this one who is there now is a little different, I think.
Mr. Gilliam: I got the feeling that during the '50s Barrye Wall wanted to run everything.
Mrs. Allen: Oh, he did. He just about did.
Mr. Gilliam: What did he do? What pots did he have his fingers in?
Mrs. Allen: All the pots. You name the pot and his finger was in it. And then he wrote such ugly editorials in his paper. Just ugly editorials. Very ugly. Very ugly. But we gained some nice editorials cause Ken writes well.
Mr. Gilliam: During the '50s, the Farmville Herald didn't cover a lot of School Board meetings. There's no way anybody could know what was going on.
Mrs. Allen: That's right. Didn't cover anything hardly. But we got a nice paper now. We really are proud of it. They're celebrating now the 200th anniversary. And I'm in there - right in there with my two children, right in there.
Mr. Gilliam: Great.
Mrs. Allen: Right in there. I think he's waiting for you, isn't he. Are you waiting for him?
Mr. Mills: Oh no, I'm fine.
Mr. Gilliam: Do you have any questions Mason?
Segregated Schools
Mr. Mills: Well, I do have one and that is could you describe what it was like teaching back then and some of the resources that you had? Recount that.
Mr. Gilliam: Look at me.
Mr. Mills: And you can ask it again.
Mrs. Allen: I don't know if I have any words that would describe it, but was much uncertainty and you really didn't know where you were. You didn't know what to say or what to do and that's a bad place to be in. Our children were walking to school and the white children would throw things off the bus and hit them, you know. And of course I was working in a two-room school one time and my friend lived right up the street here. And, so they threw some things at our children. So Cameron and I - she was brave too, you know. She was real talkative, let's go in and tell the Superintendent. And we went in and told the Superintendent that the children were throwing rocks at our children. But they stopped. They stopped them. And they got and those same people after that were law officers - the sheriff and whatever we needed from the law people - they got mad at the time. But they started acting better, you know, after and we learned to like them better. Because we were teaching in their community - that was our home community, you know. And they got better and then where he worked at a service station, they were servicing our vehicle and he took my vehicle one day and made a dent on it. But he, you know, got nicer after that. And I saw him not long ago and he said Ms. Allen you look like you're doing all right. And I said yes chief, I don't buy nothing I can't pay for. He said I wish you would tell my wife that.
Mr. Gilliam: Now, when you were teaching, did you - the kids have to pay for their own textbooks?
Mrs. Allen: Yes. Yes. And then - let me tell you this. I don't know how I forgot this. We didn't ever get new books. We always got the books that the state had discarded and you had to turn them in. They were the only books we got. And we had to pay for those. At the bookstore downtown. And we used the books that the state was no longer using. I don't know how I forgot that because that was really something. I hated that more than -
Mr. Gilliam: What about supplies? What about paper and pencils?
Mrs. Allen: About what?
Mr. Gilliam: Supplies. Paper and pencils.
Mrs. Allen: Nothing. We had to buy our own. They didn't give us anything. Nothing. Cammy and I would come home from school in the evening and go over to the five and ten store and buy stuff, you know. So that we would have things for our children the next day. But we had - we ran a nice little school and we spent a lot of our money. She didn't have any children, I did. But she didn't have any children. And of course she liked me so much that when she died she left me her house. I liked that - and I'm renting it. That's my income. But it was a terrible feeling, you know. You were afraid so much, you know. And part of the time we didn't sleep at night cause you didn't know what was going to happen the next day.
Mr. Gilliam: Did you ever feel physically threatened?
Mrs. Allen: Not necessarily. I didn't as such. But a lot of people did. Because I know this - I remember the night that we had a public meeting and when they decided to take this building up here, somebody said now what are we going to do with it. Mr. G. wanted it but we didn't want him to have it and we didn't want to tell him that. Somebody got up and made a motion that our organization would take it. And that shocked me terribly. But I didn't say nothing. Then they walked down the aisle and they put down $1200. But the next morning we went and opened up a bank account and there we were in business.
Mr. Gilliam: Well, thank you very much. Thank you.
Mrs. Allen: I hope I've been helpful.
Mr. Gilliam: It's been wonderful.

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