Charles Price

Mr. Price taught high school during the integration of the schools. He is now the assistant principal of Groveton High School and has been working there since the early seventies. He discussed integration and how a lot of changes, particularly in the sixties, have taken place during his teaching career.

When they integrated schools in the sixties, the Fairfax County School system set up a program where they would teach black teachers how to work with white teachers and as we say, wasted $57,000. We had had 400 years of knowing how to work with white people, and the thing should’ve been just the opposite. They should've been taught how to work with us. In fact in these sessions, out of eight or nine different groups, only one black teacher was in charge, the others were white teachers and we were integrated into these groups and they'ed end up asking us all the questions, although they got paid for twice as much as we did to run these sessions.

Let's take the situation of Luther Jackson which was the only black high school in Northern Fairfax County. All the students from the Fort Hunt area, Fort Belvoir area, McLean, all around, went to that one high school. In that school we had the activities that we have here at Groveton and this is something that has been lost. We had class officers, student government, the band, the choir, the football team, basketball team and this type thing. Since the sixties mst of the black students have been involved in athletic programs of the different high schools.

With some of the students in the sixties it never worked out, with white getting used to black students and black students getting used to white students, but today in Fairfax County there are very few confrontations between black and white students like they used to have. It's sad that more of the black students aren't involved in the whole process of the school and in the near future this will improve.

I have two children, a son Harold, who at this time is assistant principal of Dogwood Elementary School in Fairfax County. My daughter is a teacher at Groveton Elementary School. It wasn’t too bad being a parent in the sixties, because of the location in which we lived; I imagine if I had been in the inner city there might've been some problems. My children were young coming through the sixties, and you needed a car to transport them everywhere they needed to go. So we had pretty good control. When my son reached the age to drive, the instructions we had given him from early childhood up to that time, paid off.

I was born in Alexandria, Virginia, and if you’ve done any research you know that Alexandria was one of the biggest slave market areas on the whole eastern coast. When I started school ...even in elementary school you knew your place. That was the term we used back then. You knew you couldn’t go to the movies,you knew you couldn’t go to the white schools and I lived in what you would call an integrated neighborhood! Most of Alexandria, except for about two sections, there were whites and blacks in the same neighborhood so we got along fine. You played football games and stickball games in the empty lots and that type thing.

The section where I lived was called “the hill,” near Franklin and Columbus Streets, right there near Green’s Undertaker. The blacks would go towards the "uptown" as we called the school and the whites came across town. Sometimes you'd have rock battles with them and get chased away from school. The white students that lived on the hill went through the same thing right along with us.

As far as jobs and things like that, you were a paper boy or you worked in a corner grocery store. For girls it was mostly domestic work; no jobs in any stores. Teenage boys, at that time, had the jobs. Usually the girls worked in somebody's house or somebody's kitchen, or as somebody's maid. So there has been a lot of changes right in this area since I was a child.

I never would’ve been able to live in this area. Now you can buy homes anywhere you have the dollar bills. You can go in any store and you can go in any theater. It is now a matter of dollar's and cents. There're some places still, that the atmosphere is a little cool. So you don't go back to those places once you've experienced it.

In this county I don't think there are enough black teachers in each school. I don't think there are enough teachers of any ethnic group where you have students. The county says there is no ratio as far as teachers to students. I think that is a big mistake throughout the state of Virginia. I think there should be more teachers in the school, black and white, so that the students will have somebody to talk to and relate to. When I first came to Groveton, I think there were ten of us. But now through transfers and people quitting and going to other counties we have lost a number of our teachers.

The black schools didn’t have dress codes. During those days boys didn’t wear hats in the classrooms, not even inside the building. You took your hat off, or some teacher took it off for you, and not too gently at that! I can remember when I was at Langley, some of the girl's dressed very scantily and you had to send them home to change their outfits. Sometimes their parents wou1d back them up in these different costumes and they’d go all the way to the superintendent. We didn’t think they were dressed appropriately. I can remember one girl coming to school in a bikini. She walked around school all day in a bikini outfit. At that time we (Langley) had a large courtyard and some people thought it was like a beach. You dressed with your see-through things to go out there and it was supposed to be all right.

As the sixties and the seventies went on the whole set of values changed among the high school students. In the sixties high school students were copying after the college students and kinda of feeling their way and just going to see how much they could get away with and found out it wouldn’t be accepted.

Martin Luther King, as far as the black people are concerned, affected the people here like Mahatma Ghandi did the people in India. He was a leader. He made, I would say, 99% of the black people proud of the whole issue of non-violence. T.V. helped a great deal because those of us who couldn’t go through Alabama or those places with him could keep up with it on T.V. It gave a total population a sort of togetherness that it never had before.

Then turmoil hit the whole country when he was assassinated. People went up in arms, and burned and looted and this type of thing, a way of showing the fact that they didn't like what had happened to their leader.

During my early childhood up to the sixties as a young adult "colored" and "Negro" were the "in" names. When I grew up if a black student called you "black" or "nigger" you went up side his head. There was a fight. We didn't have too many because white kids in our neighborhood to even think about using those names back then, cause they knew it would be a fight.

In the sixties people of my age and older had to put these names aside and accept the word "black." It wasn't hard to accept because we knew what the movement was about. It was just a matter of erasing the other two names out of our vocabulary, You know, you’d walk in a class and say something to a student about being a Negro, and he'd say, "don't say I’m a Negro; I’m black." You know you didn’t mean to offend him.

Now it is no problem. But the first year that this became popular, I had a problem with my boys in physical education, I was teaching physical education then, and everytime I would slip up, somebody would tell me about it. We'd have an argument. Just a matter of, "Coach, you're old fashioned,” or something like that.

I have a grandmother that is still living. You better not tell her anything about being "black." She doesn't want to hear it, you know, because of her age that’s all she's known.

Volume Three, Table of Contents
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