Edward H. Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History & Culture Enduring Connections: Exploring Delmarva's Black History


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Interview with Samuel Everett, 13 July 2004

Audio Recording

About This Recording

Samuel Everett is an Educator in the Wicomico County Public Schools. In the interview, he describes his early education, his life in a segregated city, his attendance at the Maryland State College (now UMES) and his experience with integration in the mid-1960s.

This interview is part of the Teaching American History Program. For more information, see the Edward H. Nabb Center Finding Aid.


Interviewers: Robin Simmons and Kathy Malone
Narrator: Samuel Everett
Date: July 13th, 2004

Robin Simmons (RS): —Samuel Everett of Salisbury, Maryland, at his home on July 13th, 2004. The interviewers are Robin Simmons and Kathy Malone. We are doing this in conjunction with the Teaching American History Institute, and our main interests are integration and the Civil Rights Movement. Sammy, can you give us your full name please?

Samuel Everett (SE): Samuel Everett.

RS: And telephone number?

SE: [lists his telephone number].

RS: And your address?

SE: [lists address]

RS: Date of birth, please?

SE: April 27th, 1945.

RS: And place of birth?

SE: Salisbury, Maryland.

RS: About the education, sorry, the primary education, elementary school that you attended?

SE: I went to Salisbury Elementary School.

RS: Okay, and that would be, the dates for that, remember when?

[Simmons speaks away from the microphone, audio cuts and restarts at 1:18]

RS: Primary education?

SE: I started 1951, and sixth grade in 1957.

RS: Okay, and where did you attend high school?

SE: I attended high school at Salisbury High School, in Salisbury, Maryland.

RS: And that would have been from 1957 until?

SE: I graduated in 1963.

RS: And then you went on to college?

SE: I went to Maryland State College in Princess Anne, Maryland.

RS: Okay, and that's now UMES, correct?

SE: Yeah.

RS: So that would have been from 1963 until?

SE: I graduated 1968.

RS: Okay, and your profession is teaching. Have you had any other jobs through the years?

SE: I've had jobs starting, well as an adult, the only regular job I've had is teaching and working my way through college, I had a variety of jobs, from farm work through Coca Cola Bottling Company, janitorial work, catering. Those were my part time jobs that I used to get through school with.

RS: Okay, and then when you started your teaching career, what are some of the schools that you've taught in?

SE: The first year I taught was in Chestertown Middle, Chestertown, Maryland. I taught there for one year. Then the next year I started teaching at Salisbury, in Salisbury at the former Wicomico Junior High School, which is now Wicomico Middle School, and I've been there the whole term.

RS: And how many years is that?

SE: A total of 36.

RS: Wow. Yeah. Okay, let's see. These are things that, you know, we would be interested in, but you certainly don't have to share everything or anything with us. Have you held any government offices?

SE: No. No, I haven't.

RS: Okay. Political party. Any, if you care to share that?

SE: Well, I'm registered as a Democrat.

RS: Okay. Were you in the service at all?

SE: No.

RS: And how about are you involved in any civic or community activities?

SE: Basically with, I'm a docent at the Salisbury Zoo.

RS: Okay. Religious affiliation and activities?

SE: Basically, I just consider myself Christian. No particular church affiliation.

RS: Okay. Thank you. All right. We're going to take a look at your family here, your father's full name?

SE: Solomon Cleonard Everett.

RS: Okay. Do you recall his date of birth?

SE: No.

RS: That's okay. How about his occupation?

SE: Before his retiring, he retired from the school system as a custodian.

RS: Okay. And your mother's name?

SE: Enola Elizabeth Everett

RS: And we'll skip over birth on that, too. How about her occupation?

SE: She was a housewife.

RS: And your spouse's name?

SE: Carolyn Antoinette Everett

RS: And when did you get married?

SE: [audio cuts] I got married in 1978.

RS: Let's see, you have two children, Stacy and Tracy, and they are twins. And what was their date of birth?

SE: 1981, in August.

RS: Okay. Have you published any books or articles?

SE: No.

RS: Okay. All right. Well, we want to go on and talk a little bit about segregated schools, integrated schools, the civil rights movement. So, we're going to start talking about your school days a little bit. What do you remember about your school days? Like, the early years.

SE: The early years in elementary school, I remember [pauses] it was a fun time. It was the time I the chance to be with other children. I lived on a farm and the only person that I had to play with was the person that owned the farm, he had a son, and we played a lot together. Other than that, every now and then my cousins would come over, or I would go over there but school was a chance to be with a variety of different children.

RS: Okay. Can you describe your teachers?

SE: I remember my, a few of the teachers at my elementary school. Mrs. Forcey(?), Mrs. Wallace(?), I think were my first and second grade teachers. Mrs. Wallace was the stronger one, I remember getting tapped on my fingers because I didn't know my times tables, I remember that. My best year, I think was in the fourth grade. I had a teacher named Mrs. Dashiells(?), and at that time I got straight As, first time, I think I had a crush on the teacher. Fifth grade, I think was Mrs. Nutter(?), and sixth grade was another teacher, Mrs. McLennon(?). And those are my elementary teachers. They were fun days. [pauses] Recess was great. We have a great big field, and that's where I started probably doing a lot of my running because we would have a field day and field day consisted of a lot of running events.

RS: Okay. You do like to do a lot of running now?

SE: I still do.

RS: Can you tell us a little bit about the high school years?

SE: High school was a transition, we were in a new high school, seventh grade and I was at the bottom of the ladder. Lots of kids were, seniors and juniors and sophomores, were much bigger than we were and we were quite intimidated, but we were still a unit. There was no animosity. We were just smaller and we couldn't do as many things as they could do as well, but when our turn came later in the years, it was great. High school was great. I was a monitor for three years, high school hall monitor. And I got to know a lot of people and a lot of people got to know me. So, they were fun days. I could like to relive some of those once more.

RS: Did you attend a segregated or an integrated school?

SE: I guess it was a segregated school, we did not have any contact with—well, I remember the first time we had contact with a white school. I think I was in the junior or senior year and we ran against the white school, which was Wicomico High, at a track meet. And that was the first time that we had contact between schools, and it was great. Everything went well.

RS: And you were a great runner then like you are now and were you successful in your races?

SE: Well, I wasn't. That was my beginning. I began as a junior primarily because the juniors and seniors ahead of us were so much better that there was no room for us, and they didn't have programs where you would have a, like a, junior team. So, you kind of had to wait your turn, and yes, that's where I really got started on.

RS: Okay. Do you feel as though you received a quality education?

SE: Ah, yes, I do. The teachers were tough. They required a lot, and they were also inspiring. They tried to motivate you as much as possible. They tried to alert us to real life situations, and I feel as though I did get a quality education.

RS: Even though the schools were segregated, you didn't feel like that held you back in any way?

SE: No.

RS: Now, you said you graduated in '63, right? Yeah. Okay. And the school didn't desegregate until '66.

SE: Right.

RS: So, you were already out at that point.

SE: Right.

RS: Did you have some opinions about that at the time, though, how were you feeling about that?

SE: Well, I encountered some situations as a child, the landowner whose house we rented was white and the son and I played together quite a bit, and we were just like human beings playing and not encountering any differences in our color. We just had fun playing together. When I got to, well even before then, as a child that was traveling with my parents and my father sometimes would always have to go to the back of a certain store and purchase certain things. And that was, what, I guess it was real strange then. Maybe it wasn't, but it was the norm, and it wasn't until later when things started to change that I look back upon it and realize how difficult it may have been. As I moved through high school, when I was a senior, we had a chance to get employment through some program. I was selected with two other people to work at the Coca-Cola Bottling Company, which was segregated prior to our coming. We were the first three, worked there for the summer and we were accepted. Never, I can't recall any incidents where there was any problems and we got along well. And after that it seemed like we opened up the door for people to come there and work on a permanent basis. Blacks came in for the next year, there were blacks employed as we came back for the second time for a summer job. When I got to college, by now, we're getting into the Civil Rights Movement and in the town of Princess Anne there was a very strict segregation, and we were organized marches through the town of Princess Anne. And probably the most, one of the most scary times that I've had was our march, where we were going to march into the town and we were met at the end of the road that led into the town by the fire department, police with canines, and they turned hoses on us, and the guards. They used them to back us back down to the campus. It was a rather trying time. Eventually, we did get permits to march downtown and we did so.

RS: And the marches downtown were peaceful with no conflict with the police at that time, or?

SE: No, I don't recall any.

RS: Okay. Just going back to this school thing for just a minute. Did you think, you know, when you first heard that there was going to be, going to move forward in Wicomico County with integration did you think that that would be a good thing or a bad thing or?

SE: Oh, probably, I probably was thinking that that was a good thing, in terms of people getting along, in terms of people who had been denied certain things that should now be on an equal basis. Separate but equal, and now we're changing over to equal and together. So, it was something to look forward to. When you watch TV and saw how some people are treated in other places, you are bit on the edge, a bit scared about it, but here in this county it seemed to go rather smoothly.

RS: Okay. And that was my next question, we came across a quote by a historian from the area who said that the transition of Wicomico County schools from segregated schools to integrated schools occurred more peacefully here, without a lot of the upheaval in other places. So, you would agree with that?

SE: Yeah, I do remember one incident when I had gone out of town for a bowling tournament and I came back and there had been some disturbances, whereas I believe some people sort of rioted a little bit, and they had blocked off some of the areas and I remember some looting going on at a music store. I remember the drum being rolled, rolling across the street as we came down the street. It was kind of frightening but, it was settled rather quickly. After that, there were no more incidents that I recall.

RS: You said the what rolling across the street?

SE: A drum from the music store.

RS: Oh, okay [laughs].

SE: They were ransacking the music store. I remember it was a store that was owned by whites in a more blacker area, business area.

RS: Okay. All right, so we went on through college, and you told us a few little events from that time. Once you began teaching at Wicomico Junior, you know by then that you had had integration, so you now had a classroom full of black and white students, so how was that different for you—you know, other than the obvious there's both black and white kids there—how was that different from the segregated schools?

SE: Well, I was of course, I was as the instructor, and the instructor gets a little bit more respect due to their position. The children, in my classes, we never really had a difficult—I don't recall many, I can't recall any major incidents that stick in my mind. I remember, in my classroom [pauses] everybody got along. If there was any differences then, you know, seating arrangements were made, but I was always treated okay. I was treated very well by black and white.

RS: Now, would that be true, I mean, as far as, you know, like in other teacher's classrooms, how did that compare to your experiences?

SE: I think that it was about the same. Sometimes you have a certain segment of students that will have prejudices that lend themselves to act it out with verbal, or maybe even just non-conforming, depending on the attitude of that particular teacher and how they conduct the class. Sometimes people use a secondary reason to not agree with their teacher, even though that's not the right reason why they're agreeing with it.

RS: In the beginning, you know, when the transition first took place, would you say that the integration was better or worse for the African-American children?

SE: In the beginning there was, I suppose [pauses] probably you didn't quite know what to expect so you're just going along with the flow. Well, I think there was the prep(?) maybe in high school there were probably more instances of maybe a problem within the lower grades. But in terms of what children got in our classroom, I think it was [pauses] good in the beginning, but as time went by I think it began to decrease.

RS: I'm not sure I know what you mean here, that the quality of education?

SE: Well, I said, the quality of education is the material being taught the same for all and how they received it and use it was the difference. If students do not get an equal start process where maybe where things, where we had the most problems over the years, that I've seen, was that if you don't come in on an equal footing, then you get in the position where you cannot make up the ground and you are placed in classes where you are considered to be perhaps less intelligent. But the only reason is because you have not had a chance to get started evenly with everybody else and you kind of get stuck.

RS: And you see that specifically as a problem for some African-American children.

SE: Yes, yeah, I think the biggest problem is that they don't get off to an even start and then they get locked into a certain area and this is where they seem to stay and didn't get polarization, and that sort of continues on down through the family line. From one older child to the less older child, and run down through it. Instances where you have children that get off to an even start and they have the proper motivation and attention to schooling, you usually don't have that problem.

RS: Okay. Have you seen attitudes and behaviors change over the years? You know, other than what you just described?

SE: Yes. The [pauses] like I said, where attitudes become polarized within a segment of society, the black kids, depending on their economic status, their social commitment to being the best that they can be, the availability of economics. Several factors have polarized them into the point where they have sort of set their own goals that they can achieve without going through education. In terms of, they were just relying on sports or music and not realizing how much education has to go along with those two things together.

RS: Okay. What was life like for African-Americans growing up on Eastern Shore? You talked earlier about your dad having to go to the back door and, you know, any other?

SE: I think that [pauses] I think one thing was that they had more pride and ownership of their own businesses and that was a major plus that we've lost today. You would go to go to black stores, like restaurants, of course the barber shop, which still exists today, and most of the black people lived in rural areas and they (inaudible) to themselves. They may not have had a lot of the opportunity to maybe move up the ladder, so to speak, but what they had, they used very well [pauses]

RS: Okay.

SE: But I don't remember any, I can't re—I don't remember instances happening around here that like, we read about happening in the South in terms of lynchings and things like that. People around here they did farm work, and just a lot of, some factory work. I also don't recall anything like that in my childhood.

RS: Hopefully those things occurred before.

SE: Yeah.

RS: Well throughout your life, I mean, there certainly have been times when there have been injustices. How have you dealt with those things?

SE: Well, I guess the biggest part that I played was probably going through Civil Rights marches, and protesting, and helping to bring that about. That's been the biggest change that I've participated in.

RS: So, you had something to do with actually organizing them?

SE: No, not organizing, just participating, just being a marcher and helping to be part of the masses in the protest. [Interviewer speaks, inaudible]. Those are local cases, I was assigned local cases.

RS: Did you participate in anything on a more national level or state level?

SE: No.

RS: Okay. When you were faced with situations that, you know, like events of injustices or poor treatment, what got you through that? Anything in particular?

SE: I can't think of many situations where I felt like, well, to go back to going to a place to make a life Woolworth's department store, and being able to shop in there, but not being able to eat at the counter, once the laws had changed, and they said that they had to. Then, you know, I just can't recall going when I was not treated differently. Maybe it's because I just didn't go to those places that much.

RS: Kind of avoided places that?

SE: Well, I just can't think of any, where that happened. I've always been very, the type of person who did a lot of moving about, you know, going here and there. I'd get up, go to work, come home, go to the store, (inaudible), school.

RS: Okay. What advice would you give to young people today who are facing injustice or adversity?

SE: Well, I would advise them to, first of all, seek out the legal aspect of it. Find out what's being violated, legally, and then seek the advice of someone that can direct them to how to (inaudible), file a grievance, whether it's with the organization you're dealing with or, if it was in school, you have your (inaudible) to go to somebody, go to your parents first, but then after that, there are guidance counselors, or teachers that they feel they can talk to.

RS: Okay. How is the world different for your children than when you were a child?

SE: Well enough that they can go to any place that they want to without having to be denied because of their color. The opportunities [pauses] in employment are much greater. They are much more accepted by different races than when I was.

RS: Okay. Did you have anything else that you can think of that you'd like to share with us?

[Audio cuts, restarts]

RS: Well, the last, I think I said it on the tape already, just if there was anything else that you'd like to share with us.

SE: Just my viewpoints on the way life is going for, as a result of integration. I think there's always going to be polarization due to your ethnic, ethnicity, and that's quite all right. We should recognize that and support it, but at the same time realize that there are more and more of us coming together in this country, the population is increasing, there are other nationalities in our area. For example, we've had an influx of the Spanish-speaking people, Mexican or Puerto Rican or whatever, and when we go to different events, some events are more integrated than others. We have yet to reach the point where, I think, where we're going to have to be able to work with one another on a daily basis, I look at the number of people that are doing the field jobs and the number of people who are in the restaurant business, all different nationalities. Children coming to school, or to our schools has increased this year. We have quite a few Spanish-speaking people and I had no problem getting along with my students, no matter what race they are, but I think that it’s just not—what happens in the classroom, is not happening in the community, also. I have not been out into the community to see how close knit these communities are, but I do know that things have to happen where we have to come together as total people, and yet at the same time, maintaining our ethnic heritage. Education-wise, I think things have got to change. Not so much in favor of the charter schools. I'd like to see us find ways to better—

[recording cuts abruptly, interview ends]