Interview with Vanessa Venable
QUESTION 17
INTERVIEWER:

DO YOU THINK THE PRICE THAT THE WHITES PAID WAS HIGHER THAN JUST THE ECONOMIC PRICE?

Vanessa Venable:

Yes, I think it was because, after all, since we have to live together now, and perhaps the rest of our lives, I think that we lost a lot of contact that was necessary in the growing up process. I think that had we integrated at once and gone on and gotten over the pains of integration earlier, I think that everything would have moved on much smoother.

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

STOP. MARK 11.

Vanessa Venable:

The price that was paid for integration will last for a long time in the lives of both the whites and the blacks in Prince Edward County. It is something that you would like to forget. . .(INTERRUPT.) The price was very great for both the blacks and the whites. It is something that we won't get over in a long time because for generations we will always think about the midnight raid on the county treasurer. We'll think about other incidents, for instance I can think very readily now of an occasion when the- a member of the school board and I were in a discussion and he said because I had said that I didn't think that there was anything fair about what was going on, and so he decided that he was going to take me aside and kind of smooth it over. So he says to me, he says, "Now Vanessa," he says, "I couldn't think about sitting [sending?] in my little child out here among all these colored children." And I said, "Well, yes sir, I guess you've got a point there." I said, "You remind me of myself." I said, "Suppose I go home this evening"—you see he was on the school board and he was making the rules and regulations and appropriations for the black schools. So I said "I'll go home this evening, I said and I'll fix a good dinner for my husband, I'll fix him all his favorite foods and put out a beautiful tablecloth and serve it beautifully and then when he gets ready to sit down to eat, I'll say to him, ‘Now you eat and enjoy yourself honey, but I can't that stuff, I'm going downtown into a hotel someplace and get myself a good meal.'" I said, "You['re] preparing for the black children but you saying that it's not good enough for your child. It's fine for them, but it's not good enough for your child." So I laughed at him and we ended that conversation, but that's the thing that usually happened. The school board members would do what they thought they wanted done for the black children and felt that the black children and the parents too should accept it.

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

MARK 12.

Vanessa Venable:

This whole experience was something that has left a mark on all of us, and on all of us in our own family lives. The fact that we had to break up our home life and go other places to look for work or for school, you see my problem was I had this girl who was going in the tenth grade and she had had one year of Spanish. And it wasn't easy for me to find another school where she could pick up the second year of Spanish. And I found job openings in many places, so I had to be choosy and that was the reason I selected Charlottesville: I had to select a school where she could get this final year of Spanish, because at that time in the high school curriculum any person had to have at least two units of foreign language to graduate. And she had had one unit and she had to find this other unit, and so I brought her to Charlottesville with me where she could get this other year of Spanish. I had to leave my husband at home, alone while my mother, my daughter and I came to Charlottesville. My son was away in college at the time. And that was a matter of destroying our home life almost completely. Weekends on Friday evenings and some Friday evenings, I had to work the football game here and that meant that it would be eleven or twelve o'clock before I could finally get back home, and that made it very hard for us. Saturdays and Sundays were the only two days that we would have at home as a family. So I would go back in on Friday evenings and start getting [ leave ] Sunday evening again. And it was- it made it very miserable and of course we didn't have any idea how long it was going to last, we thought maybe the breaking up of the schools and what-not would just last for one year, but then when it happened the second year and the third year and the fourth year, we said, "Well, we don't know what's going to happen." So then finally, as I said, they opened up these free schools in Prince Edward and they very kindly invited all of us back to work again when they finally opened up the public schools again, but I was working here in Charlottesville and the superintendent of school did not agree to our release because we didn't know the schools were going to open again until after we'd signed contracts here. So when we went down to him to talk about—when I say "we," there were three of us from Farmville teaching here in Charlottesville. So we went down to talk with the superintendent and ask for release from our contracts. And he said, "Well, as much as I am in sympathy with the Prince Edward case," he said, "If I release three teachers now, what am I going to do about opening my schools here in Charlottesville?" So he said, "We, we, wouldn't like to do that," and we were too dedicated a [ teacher ] among us to just break the contract, so we stayed that year out, and just didn't [ the ] next year's contract.