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Benham / Race Relations and Education

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Interviewer: The school buses- Benham: We didn't have school buses. Interviewer: You didn't have school buses? Benham: No. Interviewer: Wow. Benham: I don't remember school buses until I went to high school. They probably had school buses in North Lufkin, because we weren't living in North Lufkin anymore. We were living, I'm not sure, somewhere in Lufkin Lane and right near Downtown, so there weren't any buses. But I do remember, I think, I started walking from school to my Grandmother's house on Chestnut, in order to not walk in front of those businesses- Interviewer: Wow. Benham: -and then my mom would come to my grandmother's house on Chestnut, pick me up, and take me home. Interviewer: Wow. Benham: Now I am not sure what kind of hardship it put on my parents, you know, because my mother was teaching and stuff, I know, but they were both teaching school, so I would have to wait there, and umm- Interviewer: With your grandma? Benham: Yeah, with my grandmother. And go home. Interviewer: Do you remember if the white children at the same time had school buses? Benham: That's a good question. Interviewer: No, you don't remember. Benham: No, I don't remember. Interviewer: So what kind of similar segregated experiences in elementary school did you have? Benham: Okay, now see, Lufkin didn't integrate until the seventies, it was what, I think '71. So it would have been segregated, I went to a segregated elementary school. Um, then after elementary school, I went to a white school, which was Lufkin Junior High. At that time it was freedom of choice, black students had a choice of whether they would go to a black school or a white school. And I decided to go to the white school. And my mother said it was okay because we were leaning toward integration. But when I look back on it, at this time in my life, I wouldn't have done it. Interviewer: Why? Benham: It was such a lonely time of my life, um, going to the white junior high school, it was only, I'm trying to remember, maybe only, probably not even ten blacks at the whole school. And I was usually the only black in my classes. And it was really lonely, because nobody wanted to talk to me. I remember going to lunch, and I think lunch was 25 cents or 35 cents, and um, I had one black friend who didn't always have lunch money, so I would bring extra money, and give her lunch money. Sometimes she wouldn't even eat lunch because people were so mean. And I think, I said, No, please, because I didn't want to eat by myself at lunch. But then, people don't realize racism and segregation, and then tried to integrate, it could be very lonely if you were black. A lonely time in your life. Mmm. Now something else is coming back to me. Uh- my mother gave me a knife to carry to school. A little pocket knife and they weren't doing no searches and I kept in my purse, and she said if anybody did anything to harm you, you have the right to stab 'em. 'Cause she feared that something could happen, but it never did. Interviewer: So what grade was this- Benham: I was in seventh grade. Interviewer: And you were the oldest, so did your siblings stay in the black schools, or- Benham: They stayed in the black school. Interviewer: So you were the only child- Benham: No, since my mother was teaching, she would take my younger siblings to school with her, whenever she taught school, because she taught in an elementary school. Interviewer: So you were the only one of your siblings who went to the integrated school?

Interview Interview with Betell Benham
Subjects Family
Family › Extended Family Networks
Work › Occupations
Race Relations › Black-White Race Relations
Discrimination or Segregation › Discrimination or Segregation at School
Education › All-Black Education
Education › All-White Education
Education › Secondary Education
Education › Education and Integration › Busing
Historic Periods › 1970s [Exact Date Unknown]
Work › Types of Work
Education › Education and Integration › Freedom of Choice
Family › Parents
Tags Lufkin Junior High School, Lufkin, TX
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Interview date 2016-06-27
Interview source CRBB Summer 2016
Interviewees Benham, Betell
Locations Lufkin, TX
Duration 00:04:30
Citation "Race Relations and Education," from Betell Benham oral history interview with ,  June 27, 2016, Lufkin, TX, Civil Rights in Black and Brown Interview Database,, accessed June 18, 2019