Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Integrated Schools

BOND: Now, when you were growing up and going to school in Akron, what kind of schools did you go to? Were they integrated, segregated, segregated by neighborhood? What were they like?

DOVE: They were integrated. The Akron Public Schools were integrated actually in the '30s and so the idea of having a segregated school was something that just didn't happen in Akron, Ohio. However, there were natural segregations due to the zoning and where one lived and in fact we knew that Firestone High School — we called them the cake eaters — because in the class system, these were the rich kids and it was whiter than the other schools. I grew up always on the cusp of a white flight in terms of my school, so that even in grade school and in junior high school and in high school, I would enter and it would be 30% black and when I left, it was 30% white pretty much, but the interesting thing about that was that I had many white classmates. We actually learned to get along together because things were — It was an interesting mix and we still at class reunions, it's kind of remarkable that everyone's out on the dance floor, black and white doing the same dance — oh, I remember this — and a few years later, that didn't happen because I have two younger sisters and their experience at the same schools is remarkably different because by that time the neighborhoods had begun to shift and they were predominantly black and it was a different sensibility.

BOND: And the dancing was different?

DOVE: [laughs] The dancing had changed. There were two different sorts of dancing.

BOND: These must've been good schools. You were a good student but you became a Presidential Scholar.

DOVE: I did, yes.

BOND: One out a hundred in the country.

DOVE: That's true, I did, and I had a remarkable education. I was really lucky to have teachers who believed in teaching, were dedicated. I had quite a few white teachers. My first black teacher was in 5th grade, Miss Ford, and I remember being tremendously excited to have my first black teacher. She was phenomenal. After that point there were others, but most of my teachers actually were white and didn't seem to show any kind of discrimination, so we were pushed.