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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
LUM 80 A /
May 26, l'7
Interviewed by Brenda.Brooks(BB)
:emtrore, Norch Carolina
BB: Mr. Brooks,/I would like for you to state your name and vital statistics pertaining to
your person, birth date, and so on.
Mr: My name is pX#f Dexter Brooks,and I was born May 15, 1943.
BB: And your parents are ?
BB: And your parents are (Mr. repeats mother and adds 's)
Mr; My father was John J.(initial only) Brooks. My/AM erl's maiden name was Leila Hammond
(without the s).
BB: How many members are there in your immediate family? -brothers and sisters of yours.
ME: My mother had eight children. Their first child, a girl, was still born. She had, then
had five boys, two girls.
BB: Would you name ~
Those members for me jus for record.
Mrs In order of decreasing age brother, Earl Cornell Brooks; sister, Maggie Loyce Brooks
Mercer; brother, John Mark Brooks;sister,Vivian Brooks Aha ;brother, Stephen Andrew
Brooks; now deceased; brother, Larry Trent Brooks. I am the second youngest son.
BB: OK. Let's talk some about your educational experience, first. Have you always resided
in this immediate area, meaning the Pembroke area?
Mr; I was born in the Union Community, Approximately one month after I was born,
my family moved to Pembroke,and we resided in a house( now destroyed which was at that
time situated neMt to the, what was called the Gospel Hall Church).
BB: And your education was,uh,maiag ana experience in this locale, then? Your primary education
in grammar school would you7discuss where you went to grammar school.
Mr: Yes, I went to grammar school at Pembroke Grade. I believe there was grade one through
seven there. I.At the time,the eighth grade in the eighth grade we didn't move those who
wanted. Now, in the junior high school,which was in the senior high school, I spent the
next five years at that school and graduatedfrom high school here in pembroke in 1961.
BB: Did you complete any college experience?
Mr: Yes, I had a sister who spent one year at Morris Hill and,/also, another person in this
community who was who I knew who attended Morris Hill Mr. Landwood Sampson, and so I
decided to go to the Morris Hill Junior College for my Freahman year. After a year at
Morris Hill, I was not satisfied with the school. It wasn't what I expected. It was
much too strict as far as the controls that the administration exercised on the students.
BB: The scholastic controls? or the social
BB: Social controls.
Mrs The social controls/ I was not at all satisfied with the academic program. The school
seemed to me to be un- substandard. And since I, my ultimate goal wqs to get a degree
Mr:- in engineering, I felt and if I remained at Morris Hill for two years, I would handicap
myself so I kbansferred to North Carolina State at the end of the Freshman year.
BB: Did you try to pursue your ambition to get a .. in engineering and if you succeed
such an objective idea, where did you complete it?
Mr: I transferred to North Carolina r:tate uh and majored in electrical engineering and
graduated in the Spring of 1965. I, also, had uh major in applied mathematics.
BB: Let's go back and talk a little about your elementary and high school education. You
said that Norris Hill, according to your opinion' you said that it was substandard
Do you feel that any way our educational process -. in Robeson County handicapped
you as far as your ability to compete with students/al over the S fate of North Carolina
at Morris Hill and your further education at N.C. Stqte? How do you relate the two?
as far as your education in Robeson County preparing you to go into higher education'
MrWell, in some respects, my education here was very limited and in others I was
quite pleased For example, in mathematics, I found it to be the case that uh even though
Pembroke at the tije didn't offer as many courses, in mathematics as most other schools
those that they did offer were quite good so IreG al we ahead of the game in mathematics.
BBt: 'hibt courues do you recall havin taken in the Pejrroke High School while you were a
student there? Were there any advanced courses there such as trigonometry, and higher ones
Mr: INd, there was two years of algebra and one year of plain geometry.
BB: So with your two years of algebra and one year of geometry you made a decision
to go into electrical engineering and you feel like you were not handicapped init.
Mri-Not in mathmetids, no. I had to take uh a noncredit course in solid geometry my
first semester at Morris Hill.
BB: And how did you do i that?
Mr: I made an A, of course.
BE: And the other courses/you had following high school in Pembroke you might have had
trouble with./ Which areas did you feel weak? Can you name some of those? Maybe it
was not necessarily/the svste in Robeson County, but you experienced a weakness..in
;1r: The __ weakness I had was uh the skills in communication uh writing and
peaking. I think uh most of my weakness wqs could be termed uh lack of exposure.
BB: 4ell, in view of your activity here in the last few months, I can't necessarily
agree with you that your weakness is in writing and speaking because I find that
you have been very vital part of our political efforts in Robeson County and in
the State on various issues pertaining to Indians in Robeson County, but how do
how would you sugg-st
you surmise the overall picture of your education, and maybe/if you had the chance
to change some of the conditions in our schools that are serving mainly Indian
people. What kind of changes would you hope to see that would better equip one
to pursue higher education?
Mrs I would stress two basic series of courses. One English and when I say English,
I would mean the grammar, the ability to speak, the ability to write, /e.aeiallyI think,
curricular activities could, also, be used by involving people in clubs,etc.
uh have some extra they.-ter
that would force them to have/ in public speaking before college.
BB: Do you see any comparison or contrast with our system, today's school system,
as far as doing these things for students? Do we have more clubs or more
opportunity to expose the Indian students to activities, such as debating teams
that would, perhaps, cultivate the potential within us. Do you see any change at
Mr: I don't really believe there's that much. It seems like most of the clubs
functioning now were, also, in existence at the time I finished high school.
BB: There are so many areas that we could discuss, I think, maybe, one of your
special interests is the educational system in our county as well as mine,
and I would like to Let's just discuss the education and the conditions that
exist amo ng us today. First, would you, since you have done a lot of the
research concerning our school district, would you explain to me what presently
exists as far as the educational opportunities for children from kindergarten to
What kind of institutions do we. ayve? And how are they compared or2
high school. / related?
I think, quality of,
Mr: -ersontlly, there's been a decline in the / education, and the schools in the
Pembroke area, anyway, from the time that I attended high school.
Mr:(continued) I can see some of the same teachers continuing to teach who taught
not much -
me when I was is high school and at the time, I had/a very low opinion of these
people and the work they were doing, and from what I can observe, it is even worse
BB: How many schools do you refer to when you think of Indian schools in Robeson
County? How many school districts or school systems do we have to educate
Indians in Robeson County'
Mr: There are six school systems, each of which has a number of Indian students, but
by far the most Indian students are found in what is called the Robeson County
Administrative Unit. think
BB: How many students do you think an dsudeniso/t end'the Robeson County School
a rn unwd
Mr: I'dsay seven thousand.
BB: Seven thous and. How may blacks and whites attend this same system?
Mr: Probably, about three thousand of each.
BB: Uh, what are the other school systems within Robeson Couhty?
Mr: You have the city systems for Red Springs, St. Paul's, Lumberton, Maxton, and
BB: And what kind of student population- Indian/population might we find in Red.
Springs, for example. Do you have any idea?
Mr: I believe, I have those figures. According to statistics,collected
in the Fall of 1970 by HEW. Maybe I should give percentages. Well, I'll give
both.' Fairmont City Schools -831 Indian students,or 28%.
BB: OK. And while we are talking about Fairmont, to your know ledge, how many
Indian members served on the Fairmont School Bo ard?
BB: I believe there's one Indian out of seven, who was appointed.
Mr. None elected. And let's take each school district like that and see what kind
of situation exists.
BB: You may suggest the next one.
Mr: While I am on Fairmont, I believe there's fourteen Indian teachers for twelve
percent. For Luj berton City Schools we have 458 Indians for 9%, we have ten Indian
teachers for 6%.
BB: What do you mean when you say ten Indian teachers for 6% ? What does that actually
Mr: That means ten Indian teachers is 6% of the total number of teachers.
BB: OK, OK
Mr: We have uh in Lumbertea, I believe, there's one Indian on the Board of Education,
and one Black.
BB: Was the one Indian elected? or appointed?
Mr: Elected. For Red Springs City Schools, we have 421 Indians which is 24%. Teachers-
we have six Indian teachers which is 8%. There are no Indians on the Red Springs
Board of Education. There's one Black, I believe, out of five. For Mackston City
Schools, we have 410 Indians for 28% and thirteen Indian teachers for 20%. And
finally for St. Paul's, we have 220 Indian students for thirteen percent(13%)and
only two Indian teachers which is 3%. There's no Indians on the St.Paul's
Board of Education.
Mr: Where is Pembroke in relation to these city school districts? We think of
Pembroke, generally, as the heart of Indian community in the County, so
geographically, how is Pembroke situated in respect to these various city units?
Mr: Pembroke is located in the approximate geographical center of the County.
BH: Do you have any figures as to the student population in the Pembroke -- Well, we'll
have to take it-the whole county system-would we not? I mean the specific figures
about the student population.
Mrs Yes. For the county system, there were 7,510 Indians for 57% of the student
population. We had 314 Indian teachers for 58% of the teaching population.
For the town of Pembroke, there're three schools located in Pembroke. At Pembroke
Mr: Elementary you have 825 Indian students 29 Black, and 60 White. Teaching staff is
twenty-eight Indians, three Black, two White. These are for 1970. I think there's
been quite a change since then.
BB: Are there more or more integrated situation now?
Mr: Yes, let me get my current -Ok, for Pembroke Elementary now we have 308
Indians, twenty-three Blacks, and thirty-nine Whites,which seems to be a drastic
droo in the number of White students. Let 's see. We have teachers twenty-seven
Indians,two Black and six White so there has been a dramatic increase in the
number of White teachers.
BB: The White student population decreased and the White teacher population increased.
Mr: That's right. That's true, yes.
BB: Uh, what in your opinion accounts for no city administrative unit takin in
so-called Indian schools. For example, there are Indian schools that are closely
located near city schoodstri lines. In your opinion, what accounts for this
kind of messing of school/lines?
Mr: Political pressure. The individual schools,/cities which have special districts
were able to command them while the Indian population was not able to do so.
iB: Howwere these/city units established about something that has to be done in a
legal method? And if so,/why couldn't Indians establish or get a charter for a
city school unit, especially in the Pembroke area?
Mr: They are established by special acts of the Legislature.
BB: And can you/very briefly tell me how old some of these city administrative units
Mrs I believe the oldest is Lumberton whi.ph was established in 1907. Then came Red
Springs which was established in 1913. Uh, then, we have, if I may glance at
Fairmont, I believe was established in 1939. The4 came,in 1953,St. Paul's and
BB: St. Paul's and Maxton. Do you have any knowledge that anyone who ever tried to
BB: get legislation introduced to establish a city school unit for the Pembroke area?
Have you ever heard of any talk or knowledge of such an effort?
There was uh to my knowledge talk of that/the past year. Uh, nothing came of it.
Other than that, uh, not to my knowledge, but I would suspect that such a thing
has been tried.
BB: Well, considering the city administrative unit and based on White and Black what
most of the population may also control the Board of Education though there are
Indians residing within those city units. In the county administrative unit how
does your Board elections reflect the population of the students being educated
by that system?
Mr: 'Til May the first, there was a seven-member board. Uh, only four two Indian
and five White.
BB: And has this/traditionally happened? Have we been able to elect an Indian to
the Board of Education in the county unit?
Mr: No. Indian had ran for the Board of Education and always defeated. The first
Indian was appointed by a Erecial act of the legislature. Since then
this particular Indian that ran for re-election and won. The first Indian to
actually go on the Board initially by the elective process. This was done
in the last primary.
BB: This official being
Mr: Mrs. Aliig ___ Holmes.
BLb: o sh&s the first woman, Indian at that, to be elected/6aypopular vote. Now
what kind of political structures do you think has been so successful in the
in the vote of the Indian people? In not giving them any
voice, how has this been achieved by the power structure? I'd like you to
relate to the real technicalities of it. Exactly how have they been able to
outvote us or,at least, keep control of the Board considering the population
in the county. We have the greater population. How has this been accomplished?
Mr: Well, the Whites have always had control of the election machinery. Did you
Mr: know North Carolina was one of the states requiring a literacy test to vote? 3o
for anyone to be able to become registered to vote they have to read and interpret
a section of the Constitution. This test since the registrar s, all of whom at
that time were White, was discriminatory against-apparently used to deny any
Indians and Blacks, of course, the right to vote. Until this test was suspended
by the Voters' Right Act in 1965, really very few Indians were registered to vote
with the consequence the White found it very easy to outvote.
BB: Do you have any idea of some kind of figure that may effect the number of registered
voters prior to '65?
Mr: About 3,000 people were registered.
BB: And how many Indians do you think reside in Robeson County ?
the census this out,
Mr: I would say uh is cutting some of/but I would say approximately 30,000.
BB: And since uh change in use of the Voters' Right Act of '65, what has happened to
increase participation on the part of Indians specifically,but it has affected
non- 'hite :n Robeson County.
Mr: I think the most dramatic -- There are two things. One: pressure was brought to
bear on the Board of Elections and so they began to appoint what is called
"registration commissioners". This was registrars who were special registrars
who are allowed to register peornle regardless of precinct. That is, anywhere in
the county. Of course, they appointed a couple of Indians to these slots and
these people were able to uh put several thousand Indians on the books.
BB: What is the voting potential now not potential, but what is the number of
registered voters among the Indians now compared to the 3,000 less, maybe before
'65 ? How does it compare with today?
Mr: I would say we have little over 11,000 Indians registered to vote.
BB: So though the Act gave us a right without being able to read and writeand, then,
the other obstacles we have had to overcome we have nirdressed.
BB: Now, even though we have registered people, what accounts for our codi lacenc'r
or non-participation in the elective process, do you think?
Mr: I believe- some people defeatism they never won so they say, "Well, you
can't win." Also, uh another kind of people take refuge in themselves
and see themselves an individual against the world and they don't see any point
in registering as they had no confidence in anyone who could represent them.
BB: How does economy p lay a part in our non-participating, do you thin k?
Is the because the
Is the because the politics is controlled in Robeson County by the select few- or
the Whites? Consequently the economy is controlled. Does this play a part in
encouraging or discouraging the participation on the part of non-Whites in
Mr: Of course, the capital income in Robeson County is very low and poor people and
uneducated peoples are usually one in the same so it's difficult to reach a
person who is poor and uneducated.
BB: You referred to the Robeson County school unit Bonrd of Education as having
been seven until May 1. What kind of changes have taken place on that Board
since May 1 or what were you referring to?
Mr: It was an act passed by this session of the General Assembly which increased
the size of the Board to eleven. This added four members. These four members
are elected only by those people who resided within the Robeson County School
Unit. Heretofore, the entire Board was elected by all the voters in the
county, regardless of what saool unit the particular voter resided.
BB: And why -Dexter, can you give me kind of a brief history of immediate
preceding events that may have happened/eore the birth of this zr bill
BB ,1 es Why
BB: iai creacoa a larger school board? ; did this come about in the Lg inning?
Mr: Well, maybe I should go back to the early sixties. When DR. Martin Luther Brooks
receive: his MD in Michigan and returned to the area, he became very interested
in politics because of the amount of political control which was excerised by the
Whites over the Indians at the time. So in the early sixties, I believe, he ran
Mr: ior the Botard of Education a couple of times. He was not able to get on the
Board. The last time he ran, I think,there was a deal worked out with some of
the White political leaders that they realized an Indian,probably, would not be
elected because every person living within the county was able to vote on the
county unit -chonl Board which limited the voting power of the Indians
since most of the Indiansllived in the county school unit, and at the time, all
of their children n attended school within the county school unit because of the
policies of segregation. The White political leaders agreed that since there
were, I believe, two or three Indians running for office, that they would select
the top vote-getter among the Indians and by special act of the legislature. I
say again-through a special act of the legislature, they were going to appoint
the Indian with the highest Dr. Brooks, I beliwe, received the highest
votes total, However, he was not appointed to the Board of
Education. The-they expanded the Board to seven appointed an Indian and a
Black. The Indian was Mr.Harry West Iocklayer(?). The Black was Mr. Thurman
Anderson. So, you see, the Indian for three years had been trying without
success to get an Indian elected to the school board, even though^the majority
of the students in the particular school unit were Indians. Of course, several
things were coming into play the Voters' Right Act we discussed earlier, more
and more Indian people were being placed on the voting roll. OK. We're now in
the period of the late '60's. The segregation push was reaching about highestt
I-oint. I mentioned earlier we had six different school systems. You see, at this
time, as far as pupil assignment the lines went north for Indian students. That
is, Indian students living within any of the city systems were bused out of the
city systems to the county system because none of the city systems of the tide
had any Indian schools.
BB. Are you saying there were no Indian students at all, probably, going to the
Lumberton City system before the desegregation forced them to put Indians in there?
Mr: Yes, that's wha-
BB: Indians whodid live within these school districts were bussed out into the
county district to be educated?
Mr: Yes, that's true. Uh.
BB: So we had bussing before bussing became an issue.
Mr: Right. We had quite a bit of bussing and the bussing always fell/ uSlStainly
on the Indian people since they tended to live scattered out in the rural areas
whereas Whites were more or less concentrated in towns. Of course,you always have
a few White families scattered in the Indian communities and these Whites, of course,
were cross bus ed from the county units-foom the county units into the city units.
For example, the White kids liv in and around Pembroke were bussed to Red Springs,
into the Red Springs City School Unit.
BB: "here were the Blacks in Pembroke bussed to? before the desegregation?
Mr: Well, I in Pembroke were bussed to _______ Henley Branch which is south
of Lumberton on 301. The Blacks in Pembroke were bussed to Henley Branch which is
and, also, to Roland I believe
south of Lumberton on 3Ol0to what was then called.Southside School.
B;' What kind of distance in miles is this? How far were the Whites bussed out
of Pembroke to a White school?
Mr: I would say a distance of, at least, ten or twelve miles.
BB: And the Blacks were bussed how far out of Pembroke?
Mr: Roughly, the same distance.
BB: And, then, what do you say was the extent of bussing Indian students to Indian
schoolsecause we'te scattered in about seventeen different communities throughout
the county. What kind of distances were Indians bussed to Indian schools? Can you?
Mr: The school which had the most bussing was Magnolia High School which is situated,
in Shallow Creek Township _- .north of Lumberton on highway 301. This school
had to serve all the Indians in the northern part of the county md bussing there
sometimes entailed distances in excess of twenty miles.
LUNr; 80 A
BB: And now, what since they've had to integrate and they have got city unitshow do
the students within those units compare wr what kind of district lines have they
set up to involve Indians who geographically reside in that district but formerly
attended Indian schools. What hanoened there?
Mr: Well, these during the late '60'd, as we saw a rash of annexations to the city
units For example'e in the case of Lumberton, until about 1967 the Lumberton
School Unit coincided with the city limits of Lumberton. When HEW entered the
picture and started demanding that thdchools be desegrated,Whites around the
city of Lumberton began to fear that their children would be forced to attend
predominately Indian schools inside the county unit. This brought on a series
of annexations to the city unit. For example, Lumberton, I believe, there was,
at least, thre-' possibly four, areas annexed to the Lumberton city unit between
the period of time '67 through '71.
BB: These were areas outside the city units that were really in the county units.
Mr: Thnt would annex to the city units.
BB: What about Indians who may have lived in that little county segment? What happened?
They were also pulling in Indians were they not?
Mr: Yes, the-they brought in Ind ians,also, but the areas which were brought in were
Ub: Did they exclude any areas that are obviously exclusions?
Mr: Yes, they uh for Lumberton anyway there's an area populated by Indians within the
county unit which is completely surrounded landwise by the Lumberton City Unit.
BB: Who is responsible for drt.wing the school district lines?
Mr: These lines were drawn by uh special acts of the legislature.
BB;: So actually the body that would have the jurisdiction to change a line would be
Mr: The legislature can change the lines. I might add that in the case of F.irmont,
there were two acts affecting it. One in 1969, I believe, which brought in
Mr: approximately half of Sterling's Township which is predominately White. This was
taken into the LrNi the Fairmont City Unit. Also, Fairgrove School,which at
which before desegration was an all Indian School,actually was within the
boundaries of the Fairmont City Unit. This,then,necessitated a special act of
the legislature in 1971 which removed Fairgrove from the Fairmont City Unit and
placed it within the county unit.
BB: there parents living in the Fairmont City.now whose children use to
go to Fairgrove, the Indian school that now have to go to Fairmont .School?
vir: Yes, any person living with'the Fairmont City School Unit legally has to attend
the Faiirmlnt City Schools.
BB: Do .:u have any idea as to how many Indians this might involve this new
section of Fair-mont district?
Mr: I'd say approximately 800 Indian students.
BB: What kind of participation did we have on the part of voters in the Fairmont City
:-chool Unit electing board members?
Mr: Well, before I answer that, I'd like to talk about the Red Springs City Schools.
The uh all of the -of course, all of these school units were established by acts
of the legislature. And for Fairmont-Lumberton anytime there was a change in the
boundaries of the particular city uhit you can find an act of the legislature which
did this. Now in the case of Red Springs, we had been unable to establish how the
lines of the Red Springs School Unit were initially set up. For example, when the
lines were closed in 1970, the property line S____ school which at
the time was all Indian was made the boundary of the Red Springs City School Unit.
BB: To accomplish what?
Mr: To keep Oxidine geographically within the county unit.
BU: And outside of the Red Springs City Unit?
Mr: Yes. We have been unable to determine exactly how the lines of the Red Sprinps
schooll Unit were established.
LUM 80 A
BB: Now, you want to answer my question about the voter participation in the areas
that were once outside of the city administrative units and now they are Indian
residents who vote on the Fairmont School Board because they have been forced to
go to the Fairmont City School Unit.
Ir: Yes. At one time, the uh most of the school boardsin Robeson County were
appointed. The elected ones-
BB: Appointed by whom?
Mr: The General Assembly. The elected ones were Red Springs, St.Paul, and Lumberton.
St.Paul's School Board conducted its own election. That is, the school board
itself was largely responsible for holding the election determining who was
eligible to vote and this election was held at the St.Paul's School itself.
The County Board of Llections did the elections for the city school system
of Lumberton. OK. When the city limits no longer were the same as the
school limits, a problem was created in the case of Lumberton, anyway where you
have a special voter a voter who lived outside the city limits, but at the
same time within the school unit. Singe the Lumberton schooll Board had its
election at the same time as the Lumberton City Council and the elections were
conducted by Robeson County Board of Elections, the Board of Elections,at that
time,requested of Mr. Luther Britt(or Gritt) who was, then, and still is the
attorney for the city of Lumberton to request an opinion of the attorney general's
office as to whether these special voters wre eligible to vote on the Lumberton
City School Board, and if so, would their regular voting places have to be open
for them to vote.
BB: Let me see if I underst00d that. You're sayin that they questioned the right
of a resident within a school district to vote on that school board?
Mr: That is correct. Yes. They, also, asked if they have the right to vote. Now
by the way.
this is true even though these people had to pay special school taxes* They,also,
Mr: asked did their regular voting ..lces have to be made available for these
peoi le to vo te. The they received a letter from the attorney general's
office an opinion which was written by Mr. James Bullock(or Bullet). He
said that yes, these particular people would have to be allowed to vote. He
further stated that in his oiinirn, he didn't feel that it was necessary to
,SIDj'I WO .- ITf..,VI.,.ING DPI.'43.R BP, ',..S:
Mr: said only tha6 the polls in the eight Lumberton presincts
would be open in their school election. This ignored the fact that the
territory Sound orSaddle Tree
Luimbrton City Unit included^within Less 1Sw6ap4 precinct, Shallow
Creek presinct,and, also, West presinct. In other words, it
appeared that the election board ig ored the second part of the opinion of the
Attorney General's office. This seemed to indicate a feeling on the part
of the election board, especially their asking for such an opinion
in the first place.
BB: Just repeat your complete statement.
Mr: This seems to indicate to me,anyway, and there was apparently a feeling on the
members of the election board that people living outside the city limits of
these particular of all the city school units really had no business
voting on the.board of education in the first place.
BB: Though their children went to these schools, they were outside the city limit
and their children went to the city schools still had no business voting on
the school board.
Mrr: Right. This is, also, true,even more than this, these people in the case of
Red Springs and Lumberton were actually payin special taxes for the support
Mr: of city schools. Now, the board of elections, at that time, then had to devise
a method whereby they could identify people living outside the city limits but
inside the school unit. Y'see Robeson County at the time utilized the loose-leaf
syateri of registration. Each individual voter's name and pertinent information
was placed on a loose-leaf card. Cards for the cities' residents were in green.
Cards for all other people were in yellow, so they decided to indicate voters
living within the school units from outside the city limits to use the letters
SD in the upper right-hand corner of the card. This process took place before the
school board elections of 1972 primary, and they took place they were done by
what I call the"roll board of elections"since the board has since gone -underlone
a dramatic change. The old board was composed of three Whites, whereas the new
board is triracial one Black, one White, and one Indian. OK. Examining the
election returns in the 1972 School Board Electionq we found,,for example, in the
case of Fairmont, the Fairmont School Unit comprises parts of Gettys Township,
Thompson Township, BoLg,Bac wamp Township, Sterans all of Marrietta or
what is called Whitehouse, I believe, and all except a very small portion of
Fairmont, which is the territory mentioned previously v uh around Fairgrove
schooll. In examining the returns, we found that hardly any votes were cast in
the Gettys -Thompson-B ack Swamp- S presincts. These all of these
precincts are Oredomina white. For example, in Thompson ,there was only about
thirteen totes cast on the Fairmont Board of Education. Now, contrast that with
a se-i-Wite area of Sterlings. Sterlings is probably better than 90% White,
and they had, at least, 133 people to vote. This, perhaps, indicates some
discrimination on the part of the old board in the matter of these
in that it seems that rural Whites wre by rural Indians were not
-1 It .1was -the
taxed JU' Even harder to understqnds- in the case of Fairmont, where
Fairmont Township is divided into two prestncts. The presinct Fairmont Number
One, I believe, it is called, which south of highway 130 and east of Highway 41.
,1r: All of this precinct lies within the airmont School Unit. However, when we
checked books at the board of elections we found that the tag-in system
had been used there adaonly approximately 50% of the people registered in that
presinct had been tagged to vote on the Fairmont City Board. So this is pretty
hard to explain unless you talk about outright elections' fraud.
B3i: Docs 50% that you did find who ere tagged in presinct number one^Fairont ?
Mr: Most of these people were White.
BB: Were White. What about the uh other city school districts? Is there a common
pattern in the Red Springs City School District? for example, as far as
participants in the rural part of that school district voting on the school
Mr: Yes. In looking at returns for Red Springs, we found that for two precincts
which are predominately Indian ____ and there
were no votes cast on the Red 3Srint;s Board of Education. And, in fact, we
believe the ballots were not even available afterwards at these presincts for
the registering of voters. In Smiths Township again which is predominately
Indian approxinal.ely 25% of the land area of Smith Township lies within the
red Springs City Unit. However, only about 30 some people voted on the Red
250 to 400
Springs Board even though you will probably be talking about,at least, people in that
area who are actually registered to vote.
BB: How much of the precinct geographically is are you speaking of when talking
of the segment of people who could vote on the Red Springs School Board but
could heretofore had not been doing so? How much of the presinct does this involve?
Mr: I would say uh at least 25% ofAregistered voters at Smiths live inside the
Red Springs School Unit. However,there has been minimal participation in the
iIed _'rrinp:s School Elections by these people.
BK: Unless you have something else about your school district, I have a question I
wanted to see what your response might be-Do you?
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Mr: I only other comment is that in the case of Red Springs their board has
been elected for several years. How another question you might ask was- would
be that what happened previous to 1971- that is, before they instituted this SD
system of tagging. In the Red springs s School Electiohs did only the White
residents of Red Snrings vote? that is something which needs to be looked into.
BB; Well, I am not suggesting an answer ,but did they ever have a Black serve on that
board prior to this tagging or school district notation on registration forms,
did they have Blacks on the board traditionally?
Mr: No. The first Black to serve on the Red Springs was elected in this past election
and as a matter of fact, he was the top man on the ticket.
BB: So for the first time in the history of the system, they have a Black man and
r-robably since the change of^election board we have witnessed quite a few firsts,
but one question I definitely want you to respond to is what kind of complexity
has been created by new legislation which states that only residents of the county
unit will elect theappointe, s. According to our old election process it seems
to me that there's going to be more confusion which might difc -urag:e particioation
unless the board of election tukes a positive approach and response to this
Mr: My answer to that is the election laws are not that are
revised Now all special district elections and this is including school
units The elections all take place at the same time and this is let me
re-phrase that- In ioweson Countjall the city school units'elections now take
pl-ce on the same day as all the city elections. This will be in November.
Some of these have been taking place in May, with Uerregular primary so now
we will have in November elections for all the city boards and at the same day
all the city elections Then, in May,athe regular Democratic primary. You'll
have only the c-iunty board of education being voted on as far as boards of
education. You will have then at that time, I imagine, two kinds of ballots.
LUM 80 A
Mr: One ballot will be available to all the people in the county and one ballot will
be available only to those residents of the county school unit.
BB: So actually the voting process will not be that complex but the problem will be
getting someone in the field informing people that they are to vote on the
candidates that they qualify to vote on. For example, those who are in city
units who have not been voting on city boards will have to be made aware that
they can vote on the city boards.
Mr: Yes,you have the problem that several of these boards were appointed and until
the past couple of years, no one voted on them,and the ones, for example, in the
case of Red Springs where -which were elected since the Indians a* the time,
were bussed out of the units, most of them are-Well, I'm sure most of them
were not aware that they were indeed, eligible to vote on theboards. Uh, this
seems to be the feeling of a lot of the Indians in these rural areas is that
they really are not aware of the fact that they are eligible to vote on these
city boards of education.
Bl: Is there activity to correct this' problem?
Mr: There's a group' of Indians that met with the Robeson County Board of Elections -
uh, less than two weeks ago. We discussed this problem at length. This, I
might add, is the triracial board, and what we found was a situation where
we had beautiful co-operation and understanding from the two nonWhite members of
this board, which is quite a contret to on the one hand, you see what the
old board elections which was all White did. It seems to us to actually stymie
the elections process, whereas under the new board there seems to be a willingness
to co-operate and tooorrect past, shall we say, injustices.
Bc: I'm sure that there have been a lot of fast changes politically since 1970, I'll
say. Uh, just to mention a few, I would like for you to rusp -nd/if you want to,
just in a statement about each success because we have a first and it's a result
BB: of seeds that were planted years and years ago that maybe unduly we are taking
the credit for,but some of our pioneers, so to speak, have r ally paved the way
for us, and we are just beginning to see the returns. For example, I think, one
on the starting points was the defeat of an Indian man to the Senate. I think
this defeat really was a blessing in disguise because it motivated a lot of
youth that had not been involved in the political arena before. I'd like for
you to just comment,if you would like to,on the election returns when Darlton
Brooks ran for the Senate. What does this all mean to you? the experience in
that "rticular election year?
Mr: That took place in 1970. At the time, I was away- not in this area. Iwas
away ^school and not very active politically. However, in my opinion,
it seemed to me that it was the first time that an Indian had ever really
waged a very serious, intensive campaign for a county office. correction a
state office. I believe the returns showed uh Britt something
like 8,t000 votes vs Darlton had something like 5,000. What was interesting
was the tremendous support Darlton(or Dowling) received in some of the
Indian presincts. For example, here in Pembroke the vote total ^something
like 1,060 some Darlen vs something like a hundred thirty one (131) Britt.
BB: So really it shows that Indians want an Indian representative, but we have
filled it Our votes have been deluded by the system or just by being out-
voted and we've failed to get a representative.
Mr: Well, in his case you not only had an Indian candidate but an attractive
Indian candidate with aj organization behind him which seemed to have
been very active.
BB* Now, the next First, I think we could respond to is uh campaign to save
Old Main. What do you think actually this really meant to the Indian people
in zobeson County?
Mr: Old Main is the oldest building/on the Pembroke State University campus, and,
I believe, was constructed in 1921. Of course, at the time it was constructed
the Pembroke State University was an all Indian school educating practically
all the Indians who were receiving an education in Robeson County. It was ,also,
as I understand it, the first brick structure in the Pembroke area. A lot of the
older people in and around Pembroke well were_ a lot of older/people are
.obeson that is, those who received any sort of education. Of course, had uh
an attachment for the building. think what the issue itself is is that is
motivated a lot of younger people to become active in the political process
around them. That is, it seemed to them that something was about to be destroyed
that they could see that honestly had meaning for the people in the community,
and yet they had no input into that decision and at the time seemed quite
powerless to do anything about it, so, I think, it took some of the younger
people and then sayin they had to have more of an input into the/decisions
that were being made all around them. It also seemed to say that the
Indian people were saying to the state and to the world, "We're Indians.
This building has special meaning for usand we feel that it should be
preserved as a monument to the struggle of Indian people to better themselves.
BB: I think this was also reinforced by people who had very, very limited education
identifying with this campaign. Some of the real, rural, grass/people who
probably had more than a third or fourth grade education, and they felt
as strongly about this campaign as people who were right up to the forefront
pushing the campaign,don't you think?
Mr: Exactly. Old Main apparently as the issue grew in intensity, it got to the
point that it seemed like uh two-sided issue. The one if you were for
Old Main, then you were a poor Indianist and if you were against Old Main,
you were against Indians. So everyone who believed in Indians seemed to be
able to relate to Old Main to the saving of Old Main.
LUM* 80 A
BB: So we could just use Old Main as a on our political structure in the
county and pretty much see which side was going Indian and which was not.
But do you think that Old Main campaign served as a positive vehicle to get
more Indian people involved in the election process?
r'r: I think so. Yes. A lot of people who be fore Old Main had not been involved
in the political process. During the Old Main issue which involved first
let me say the decision to tear Old Main down was a really a decision made
by politicians and in the campriign to save Old Main really it was waged
very much like a political campaign so there was very natural spilling over
of people who were involved in the campaign into the political arena. For
example, one person who had never been involved in politics and/was active
in the Old Main campaign decided to run for county commissioner. This person
not only ran for county commissioner seat, he was successful in defeating
the man who had been on the commissioner board for over twenty years.
BB And do you account for your success by the involvement of
people like myself who maybe 4^%^ to vote but we were J iust t of complacent
and we had done our duty by going to vote and we didn't see that there was
any need toit out to inform our j%$%/f/__ brother that his opportunity
and right was to support the candidate of his choice. Do you think young people
are the reason that we now have two Indian commissioners on the county board
Mr: I think so. A number of people are involved in the Old Main issue. And this
issue was still going on during this particular election and a registration
effort which placed hundreds of people on the books and this particular
commissioner was aided by the Old Main issue posters and this kind of thing.
So this particular person was elected by what seemed to be a young pecr.le's
BB: I've got a hundred more questions, but if I can ask you one more, I'll just
LUM 80 A
BB: let you talk to that one if you want to J4 ifyu are willing to sit longer/
we will. How did we manage to get the first Indian in the House of Represent-tives
in the State of North Carolina?
Mr: To answer that I would have to go back to the Democratic/convention here in
Robeson. Th as I said before effective political massive political participation
by Indians was almost negligible let's not say negligible, but was ineffective
'til '70. After 1970, seems to be the turning point when many things started
happening. For example, in the precinct structure of the Democratic Party,
precinct meetings are held after the primary or after Brooks was defeated for
the Senate in 1970. There was a strategy planning session whereby young Indian
people who had supported Brooks for the Senate decided that simultaneously over
the county they would try to go to these presinct meetings which,heretofore, had
been the property of what we call old line politician and take control of these
precinct committees. This was a these meetings were held at the same time
in every precinct all over the county. OK. These forces were successful in
talking over a number of these presincts,and, of course, each presinct elected
commithe men and delegates to the county convention. These people then went to
the county convention and the White structure bargained with then before or
right after he convention was in session to gain for the Indians the first
major concession was tiat the regular White Democratic Party had given up to
this time. In 1972, and after the last primary in which we saw an Indian
county commissioner elected and an Indian elected to the county school board,
Indians turned out in mass at all these presinct meetings without any grand
strategy session triggering the whole thing. That is, then, groups of Indians
in each presinct young people took control of I would say, every predominately
Indian presinct in the county. We, then, had a meeting a strategy meeting
of all these presincts before the county convention and when we reached the
co unty convention in Lumberton, most of the-well, there was a better
LUM 80 A
Mr: organization then there had ever been before so what we saw was the really
first convention of the Democratic 'arty in Robeson County. There
was a heated struggle for chairman of the Democratic Party- A Black, an Indian,
and a White being nominated for the position. The voting on the first ballot
was pretty well strictly racial Whites voted for the Whites, Indians for
Indians, Blacks for Blacks. We had a series of caucuses and in the caucuses
again they were strictly racial. Each racial grouping had its own caucus.
by the way
Indians and Blacks/lef t the main room which was left to the Whites. The
Whites apparently had already outlined their strategy and it seemed to the
Indians, aiyway, that a very small group of Whites were calling the shots,
whereas the Indians, anyway, necessitated a caucus where every individual
was allowed a vote. Anyway, the Blacks were most of the Blacks threw
their support to the Indian candidate since some of the presincts which had
White and Black delegates and they on the first ballot had split their vote
down the middle White/Black ad on the second ballot some of these precincts
threw their vote to the White because no Blacks from that presinct were
present to contest the action of the White delegates so the White candidate
won in a very close race. We, then, got a resolution out of the convention
that in the future the chairmanship would be rotated among the three racial
groupings. However, such a resolution is not binding on any future conventions.
BB: Had you not had some kind of resolution in a previous convention some years back?
Mr: Yes, I understand the last convention a similar resolution had been passed
concerning do you recall what?
BB: The chairmanship I think. I think the chairmanship was what we had a
resolution about prior to this convention.
MIr: This resolution was ignored so I would imagine the same fate is in store
for the second one. The Whites, of course, everyone at this time was pretty well
LUM 80 A
r: tired out. The chairman the man presiding over the convention, was
dripping in sweat. The White delegates were apparently
tired, The whole thing so a compromise was hammered out whereby allihe
delegates to the district convention ,and a number of committees would be
apportioned out on a racial basis aid each racial grouping then would
be allowed/its members on these committees. You recall the figures for the
delegates to the district convention
BH: Forty-eight ? Forty-eight delegates from Robeson County.
Mr: Broken down how? Broken down by how?
BB: I don't recall how the three races were made up in the -
Mr: Well, anyway, the White excuse me- the Black and Indian combined did
have the majority of the delegates.
BB: I know when we went there, he wanted to split our forty-eight votes with the
White having twenty and the Black and Indian each having twelve because he
had forty-eight votes from the county, but to the district convention.
Mr: As I said before, each of these committees were appointed in the manner I
outlined. One of these was a Carls District Committee which was
composed of one Black and one Indian. OK. In the last session of the
General Assembly an act was passed whereby anytime a vacancy occurred in the
House either by death, resignation, or whatever, instead of reconvening
county conventions to select a person to fill the vacancy the new act
gavethis responsibility t--, Lhese committees which were appointed
in these county conventions which in the case of this particular house
the name of
district a White person from Pembroke was elected by/Frank White who died
of cancer while in office. This meant then that this district house
committee which was composed of a Black and an Indian from Robeson would
be able to cast all of Robeson's votes Our district included Scottlahb
County and Hope County. However, the vote of Robeson was sufficient to
Mr: outvote the other two counties c-mbined so what we had in effect was a Black
and an Indian from TRoeson County deciding who was going to replace the now
deceased Frank White. The Blacks and Indians talked ad it was decided that since
all of the three house members one was already Black, and this particular
person had been elected by receiving a majority of the Indian votes The
BlackE agreed to support the Indian in filling this vacant House seat. 'o
when the committee met, we had the Indians and Blacks supporting the Indian
candidate. Also, the Indian excuse me- the Black delegates from Hope and
Scotland. The two White delegates one from Scotland and one from Hope dd not
go along with this. However, they were powerleto do anything in that they were
outvoted so uh the vacant seat was filled by Indian Mr. Hinder joy Oxidine
of near Pembroke.
BB: Uh I said that was my last question but do you foresee this cqAition at the
district louse of _:epreentatives meeting as an indication that
there possibly might be some co-operation or coalition type effect in the
political arena of Blacks and Indians in this county and district?
H!r: I think so and I hope so. For example, in the issue of the double vote
we h the case of this was before Frank White died. Our deleoition in
i;aleigh\then consisted one part Senator, two part House members, and one
Black House member. We met with these people to discuss with them the
possibility of support for our efforts to stop residents of the various city
school units voting on the board of Robeson County School Unit. In the
meeting which was to be attended by all the delegation, Howard Brooks -
Howard Doyle Brooks and myself met with the Black legislator just previ- just
before our regular meeting, we discussed the situation with Rev. Johnson, and
he was in complete agreement. In fact, he had in his possession a piece already
drafted a piece of legislation which would have accomn-lishld exactly what
we were seeking to do. In the meeting itself, we found that we had no co-
Mr: operation whatsoever from the White members of the delegation Hou;;e member
Gus Perrots and Senator Luther Britt. Mr. White at the time was in the
hospital undergoing treatment for cancer so in the weeks to come as the issue
became more heated and more publicity That is, more of the public became
aware of our campaign we had the case where a Black was the only member
of the delegation who was willing to help a group of Indians accomplish
the number of
what the vast majority of/Indian people had been trying to do for some/years.
We met with nothing but indifference and hostility from members of the White
delegation. Since this was widely publicized within the press, I should
think that most of the Indian people are now aware of Rev. Johnson's
efforts on behalf of the Indian people, and I would assume that they are
Also aware of the stand taken by the White members of the delegation so
we see that here a Black was supporting the Indians and an Indian cause
whereas the Whites refused to do so. This seems to me to lay the ground work
for a future Indian-black coalition.
BB: .-.,we know if the Indian representative goes back and the Black representatives
goes back, they 've got to go back because of joint voting on the part of
Indians and Black in Robeson and adjoining counties. Right?
Mr; I would think so since our Indian representative gained his seat through White -
Black excuse me White -Indian co-operation.
Mr: Excuse me Black-Indian co-Operation. It would seem to me that the course of
action he must follow in order to keep that seat would be to somehow put
together enough Black and Indian support to outvote the White since from my
survey of election returns in the past, White support of any nonJhite
candidate has been almost negligible. That is, the Iryan and Black candidate
are guing to have to run sort of as a team and support the idea of a double
LUM 80 A
Mr: shot vote. That is, their sup orderss voting only for two people and leaving the
third slot blank.
BU: OK. I've had you for over two hours and o I know you are re-dy to
quit, but we do have a great opportunity in onr school districts that you've
discussed in doing this very thing because Indian and Black who haven't
participated in elections we can get control will get representation on
several of the school boards so I see where it's really necessary that maybe
we have a continued interview to discuss the whole political change; and
projections, maybe, at some later time, so thank you, Mr. Dexter Brooks
for this very informative interview.
Mr: It was my pleasure.
BB: interruption. Hay I make a correction of he address given -