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African-American Oral Histories

Mrs. Dorothy McPhaul
Clip 4: Transcript

Brown vs. The Board Of Education

Running Time: 7 min 8 sec

AA: Now when you started in La Grange, in 1957, that was right, just three years after the desegregation of the schools in 1954.

DM: Right, that’s right.

AA: So did you notice in that, because I thought about this this weekend, did you see any of the effects of that desegregation? Or how was it working in La Grange?

DM: Well, in La Grange at the time, they had, well I first started working in a all Black school, okay. Three years when that period came in where they was going integrate the schools they picked out so many teachers. In fact, from our school they picked out three teachers. There was myself, well no, actually two teachers. It was myself and another teacher. So I went over to the other school. Allright, now, when I went over to the other school.

AA: You went over to the White school?

DM: To the white school. Well, then the Black school was, at that time, closed down. They closed it down the next year, closed it completely down. And all the students went to the other school. There was, it was, it was hard sometimes for those kids to get along because the Black kids had a little prejudice and the white kids had a little prejudice.

AA: Because they’d never been exposed to each other.

DM: Because they’d never been exposed to each other. Okay, now with me, when I went over knowing, the way I was brought up everybody was equal, well my superintendent, I can always remember with him he was a little prejudiced. But I’m going to tell you he appreciated me because when he asked me what, what do I expect to accomplish at that school and I told him, “One thing I expect to be treated fairly and just like I’m a teacher. No race involved.” I’m one of his teachers. I want to be given credit just like everyone else for doing the work that I perform. And I didn’t want to be made any different no “Black here,” “First Black” or nothing like that. I wanted to be treated as an individual just like he would treat, well he appreciated that. Plus all the teachers, regardless Black and White was afraid of the superintendent! With the exception of me! I figured he was a man just like I was a woman. And I would look him in his eyes and tell him just what I thought, ask him verbatim. So he respected me as an individual. So I never had any personal, because I’ve always been a friendly type person, but yet still, I’m not going to let you walk over me like I’m a mat. That’s one thing I learned from the people my mother worked for. “Jean, you don’t have to take anything from anyone! As long as you’re doing your job, and doing your job well, you don’t have anything to worry about. And you have to gain respect, you have to demand respect.” And those words stuck in my mind all the time and that’s the way I succeeded in school because there was no one that didn’t like me.

Now, the students, when I first started, now, some of the, well the Black students already knew me. Now some of the White students would tell me, like, if I would give some things, that they wasn’t going to do it. But I soon wiped them pronto--put a stop from that. Because I had to gain, if I couldn’t get the students’ respect, me as a Black teacher, then I’d just as soon quit, and I wasn’t going to let that happen. Like I would tell them, my students, “Now when I look at you, I don’t see any color at all. I just see a bunch of students in a classroom. Number One: I am the teacher. Number Two: They are the students.” And that was the end of that! You can ask, you see all of my students come up now, they’d be, I can’t go anywhere without all of my students, and all of my students liked me a lot. Whites and Blacks. And they called me, they used to call me the mean teacher! (laughs) I don’t know why, because I was strict. I always believed that where there was a lot of noise and confusion and playing in the classroom there was no learning taking place. So when you walk in my classroom, you walk into a classroom. Kids had fun, but there was no hanky-panky at all. I let the kids, I respected them as students. Now just because I’m a teacher I wouldn’t infringe your student rights. Now that’s another thing that I got respect for because I would never, I’d never make any differences in my children. That was number one, no differences at all. Whether you was a slow learner or whether you was above expectation. I never make any differences in my children because I didn’t want that, because see that’ll come back on you. Every student, White and Black knew that I was fair. I had the parents even behind me. All, both, both races didn’t, they liked me. And if I had one prejudiced, I remember I had one prejudiced father come in, and oh, he was really, really up and at ‘em. But by the time we finished, I had him on my side. I told him number one: I’m not going to let him walk over me. Number two: I’m going to give him and treat his kids with all the needs that I saw possible to bring him up to his expectations. And number three: he had to follow through. We could communicate together and we could find out the correct means for a situation but I wasn’t going to abuse his kid nor was I going to let him abuse me. So we got to be real good friends, and he, and that went on a long time.

“Oral Narrative as History.” Students received class credit for this work, and were under the supervision of Dr. Martha Norkunas, director of “The Project in Interpreting the Texas Past.”

Every effort has been made to transcribe the audio recordings exactly. On occasion a word, or phrase, was difficult to hear and this is indicated by a question mark in brackets.

Dorothy McPhaul

Dorothy McPhaul

Amber Abbas

Date of Interview:
February 21, February 28, April 7, 2005

Mrs. McPhaul’s home Austin, Texas

Recording Format:
16 bit .wav file recorded using a Griffin iTalk microphone adapter plugged into a 2004 20GB Apple iPod.

Amber Abbas