Ms. Daisy Stroud was born in Charlotte on October 12, 1921. She grew up on Seventh Street in First Ward and attended the Alexander Street School. Her mother was a teacher and her father worked in the insurance business. She went to Second Ward High School, graduating at the age of 15 in a class of 137 students. Mrs. Stroud has many fond memories of attending Second Ward High School, of the teachers, and of singing in the school’s choral group. She speaks about Brooklyn being an exciting place that was reminiscent of New York’s Harlem. After high school, Mrs. Stroud attended Fayetteville State College and became a teacher. She is the founder of the Daisy Spears and Gerson L. Stroud Foundation, a non-profit organization which provides scholarship funds to deserving students wishing to attend Johnson C. Smith University or Fayetteville State College.
Tape Log: Oral History Interview with Daisy Stroud
Interviewed by Dawn Funk
|Time||Description of Interview Contents|
|0:45||Mrs. Stroud talks about when she was born and growing up in First Ward. First Ward’s location in relation to Center City and Brooklyn|
|2:28||Attending elementary school at Alexander Street School and high school at Second Ward High School|
|5:00||Mrs. Stroud’s graduating class of 137 students. County students had to qualify to attend Second Ward High School|
|7:02||What happened to students who were late for school|
|9:07||Mrs. Stroud’s experience at Second Ward High School. Students were given an opportunity to succeed|
|11:00||The relationship between teachers and students was one of respect. Students were encouraged to do the best that they could in order to succeed|
|14:49||[phone rang – paused recording]|
|14:58||Students directed onto certain paths if they indicated interest or exhibited an aptitude|
|16:38||Courses and curriculum at Second Ward High School|
|18:45||Extracurricular activities – sports, cheerleading|
|20:47||Mrs. Stroud talks about participating in the school’s choral group and performing every spring for the student body|
|22:44||Second Ward High School’s theater group|
|23:52||The location of Second Ward High School and Second Street|
|27:30||Graduating early from Second Ward High School and going to college|
|28:05||Trying to find a teaching position in Charlotte after college|
|29:51||The community of First Ward – a good example of living in Charlotte at the time. The development of First Ward, race relations, opportunities for African Americans|
|36:04||Churches and the school held the community together|
|36:55||What made the Brooklyn community special, comparison to New York’s Harlem|
|38:39||Reaction to urban renewal and the tearing down of Brooklyn|
|42:17||Mrs. Stroud’s feelings about current plans and ideas to recreate Second Ward|
|43:52||The effects of urban renewal on Mrs. Stroud’s neighborhood. Displaced residents were encouraged to relocate to West Charlotte|
|47:15||Reasons why Mrs. Stroud’s family left First Ward to move to Oaklawn Avenue|
|48:10||The Daisy Spears and Gerson L. Stroud Foundation – its origins and development|
|1.02:15||The meaning behind the foundation’s motto: “Helping Others Because Others Helped Us”|
Interviewed at the residence of Mrs. Stroud in Charlotte, North Carolina
April 12, 2007
Interviewer: Funk, Dawn
Transcription completed: May 31, 2007
Transcriber: Jennifer Payne
Editor: Karen Flint
Title: Interview with Daisy Stroud
Keywords [subject]: First Ward, Second Ward, Brooklyn, Second Ward High School, Alexander Street School, Biddleville, Hyde Park, Urban Renewal, churches, extracurricular activities, curriculum.
Description [abstract]: Daisy Stroud was born in the First Ward neighborhood of Charlotte, North Carolina in 1921, and attended Second Ward High School before going to Fayetteville State University to earn her degree in education. She married Gershon Stroud, a pioneer in Charlotte education, who was the first principal at York Road High School and later, West Charlotte High School. Mrs. Stroud recalls the atmosphere at Second Ward as well as the activities that were available to students. She also discusses the impact of urban renewal on the Brooklyn and Biddleville communities.
Contributor: Daisy Stroud
Interview Date: April 12, 2007
Format: WAV (1:04 minutes)
Identifier: [file number]
Coverage: Charlotte, North Carolina, 1930’s-2000’s
Interviewer: Dawn Funk
Recorder (if different than interviewer): Jennifer Payne
Transcriber: Jennifer Payne
Birth date: October 12, 1921
Birth location: Charlotte, North Carolina
Residence: Charlotte, North Carolina
Education: Second Ward High School, Fayetteville State University
Setting Description: The residence of Mrs. Stroud in Charlotte, North Carolina
DF: Dawn Funk
DS: Daisy Stroud
DS: Now, the telephone, what, what do you think I should do about the telephone?
DF: You can just leave it. If it rings, we’ll, we can stop the tape.
DS: OK, OK.
DF: All right. You ready to begin? OK. My name is Dawn Funk, and today is April 12, 2007. This interview is being conducted in conjunction with the history department at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte as part of the Voices of the New South series under the direction of Dr. Karen Flint. I am using the Edirol #3 digital recorder. I am here today with Mrs. Daisy Stroud. Mrs. Stroud, thank you so much for speaking with us today.
DS: You’re quite welcome.
DF: To begin, can you tell us when you were born and where you grew up?
DS: I was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, and I was, my, my birthday, I was born on October the twelfth, 1921. And I was born in First Ward, in Charlotte, North Carolina.
DF: And where is that in conjunction to the Brooklyn neighborhood?
DS: Well, at the time that I was born, the city was divided into wards, and each ward had their own alderman, and, so it’s like, First Ward, Second Ward, Third Ward, Fourth Ward. [ DS laughs] And, so, of course, First Ward was close to Second Ward.
DS: I was, being born on Seventh Street, I was about, well, I was more in what you would call the center city.
DS: Of course, Fourth Ward was also but, First Ward was also near the center city and that- we call the center city the intersection of Trade and Tryon Street…
DS: … that’s the square. And that is the center of Charlotte.
DS: And it’s also the highest point of Charlotte. That’s why we always get so amused when we have persons come here from Charlotte and they say they are going downtown. [DF laughs] They are not going downtown [DS and DF laugh], it’s uptown!
DF: That’s where uptown came from.
DS: That’s right. And so anyhow, that way, and so, Second Ward was very close enough, so that, you know, we could walk. Of course, we walked everywhere, but it was, it was close to First Ward- Second Ward.
DF: OK. And so Second Ward was where Brooklyn was.
DF: OK. Can you tell us a little bit where you attended school, starting with elementary and moving up?
DS: OK. Well I went to a school in, a school called Alexander Street School because it was on Alexander Street. And so, because we had one high school for the colored then, all of us went to Second Ward High School. And, also, in Second Ward, all of the black businesses were concentrated there because it was a, it was Brooklyn, and that’s where, you know, we would go. And so, Second Ward was, Second Ward High School, was in Second Ward, and so as soon as I finished Alexander Street School- I think I finished the sixth grade there, and then I went to Second Ward.
DF: So, Second Ward High School started with seventh grade?
DS: Well, it was supposed to start with the seventh grade, but some years, when they had problems maybe with enrollment, we would go, in fact, I think I went to the first year after I left Alexander Street School at a school at an Episcopal Church, because there was not room for us there at Second Ward. So, at this Episcopal Church had a school along with it, and- St. Michael’s and All Angels. It was an all-black concern, so I went there to- and, I think I went there maybe in fifth, sixth grade, sixth or seventh, and then I went over to Second Ward High School for the completion of it and completed eleventh grade. Eleventh grade.
DF: OK. OK. When did you graduate?
DS: I graduated in 1937.
DF: OK. And then you went on to college?
DS: To Fayetteville, to Fayetteville State. Right.
DF: OK. So Second Ward must have been a pretty large school to have, to have enrollment problems so you would have to go to the Episcopal School.
DS: Yes, it did. And also it was something about construction probably at that time…
DF: Oh, was it?
DS: …as maybe more students would come. In my class, we had a hundred and thirty seven students. And the reason we had so many is the students from the outlying county had to come here, so they would, some of them walked and some of them got rides, but there was no bussing, so they got here the best way they could. So, like, there was no like- there maybe have been Plato Price and all of those schools, but all those schools just went to sixth grade and, and then had, maybe an education like, like teaching them to do manual work or something, not like a regular high school.
DS: And so, they would come there. And that is why we had a hundred and thirty-seven.
DF: OK. OK. Now the kids who went to the high school from other areas, did they have to qualify to enter, or was everybody able to get in?
DS: Yeah, they had to, they had to qualify.
DF: What did that entail?
DS: It qualified when they were in the maybe fifth or sixth grade, they had to take an examination…
DS:…and if they passed the examination, they could go to Second Ward.
DF: Was this for everyone? Did people in Second Ward have to do this, do you know? Or..
DS: In, in what do you mean, in Second Ward?
DF: If people were going to, say, Myers Street School….
DS: Oh, you mean like Alexander Street, like, my school?
DF: Well, your school, did you have to take….
DS: Oh, no, that was my school.
DF: OK, so you did not have to qualify.
DS; It’s just because it was county.
DF: OK, OK.
DS: That was a requirement in the county. And so, it meant that, it was like a big achievement to go to high school, and they separated the sheep from the goats, I guess. [DS and DF laugh] Because the ones, I guess they felt the ones with the most promise would go to, would go to Second Ward and get an education because we were all taught that education was the key.
DS: You had education, please, please, please, education. And so, those that were left behind, and I feel so badly, because probably they wanted to be farmers or something like that….
DS: …it wouldn’t bother them to not go higher in education.
DF: Right, right. And did you walk to school?
DS: Oh, no bussing. Yes, I walked.
DF: You didn’t do bussing.
DS: And my friends that lived in Biddleville, they all, everybody walked. No bussing.
DF: Everybody walked.
DS: Right. Everybody walked.
DF: So what happened if you got to school late?
DS: You had to go back home.
DF: You had to go back home?
DF: Did they- was there a gate? And, and they locked it?
DS: Yes, it was all gated and the principal would stand at the gate…
DF: He would?
DS: …he would be about ten minutes before the time to come in and he’d stand there, and as soon as he would look at his watch, then he would lock the gate. And the requirement was you go home and bring your mother back.
DF: Oh, really?
DS: You could not come back. So, you would, the, the student would go home and wait till mother came back [DS makes nervous sound] because they knew what they were going to get. [DF and DS laugh] And that was the only admission back to school.
DF: That was the only way you could get back in.
DS: Right. So, it was excellent because it, it prompted you to be on time. You know, regardless, it would snow, I don’t care what kind of weather they had, nothing closed school.
DS: Nothing, nothing….
DF: So a big snowstorm would not shut it down?
DS:…nothing closed school.
DF: Did that ever happen to you where you had to go back and get your mother?
DS: No, I didn’t do that because I was the bold one but scared. [DF and DS laugh] You know, I would dare to do things but I was scared to really follow through. I talked more than, I talked more than I really acted because I would not want to and I, and see, seeing the example from my brothers and sisters, because I was the youngest and watching what happened to them, I said, “Oh…” [DF and DS laugh]
DF: So it did happen to them.
DS: Oh, yes, maybe, maybe, I must have- see, it was some example I saw given that I did not want there. And my principal was Mr. Grigsby- Mr. JE Grigsby. And, so it was a very interesting experience being in high school, elementary too.
DF: Can you tell me a little bit about your experience with Second Ward?
DS: Well, when I went to Second Ward, it was a sort of thing that- it was like, it’s, it’s, it’s a requirement that we would do that, and there at Second Ward, you would be given an opportunity to succeed and get up in life but it’s all up to you. You know, it was all a personal sort of thing.
DS: And we were told over time that they’re going, they set the example for us and it’s up to us to follow it, and so, they were very strict. And the idea of talking back or being disrespectful was something that- or maybe if you lost your mind, or stuff, then you might do that. But there were not too many problems because we could see the example….
DS: …being set of whatever it is, because there was no, there was no limit to the amount of punishment that you could be given. You know, the principal could whip you just like your mother or father…
DF: Oh, wow.
DS: And then they would just, when you would get your whipping at school, then you would go home and get another one at night, really. So, I mean, you were, very few times, we’d talk a big thing, [DF laughs] but actually doing it, we were in awe of somebody that, they said “Somebody talked back to the teacher!” “What?” You know, that was just “Oh, they’re crazy! They’re crazy!” And all that stuff. It was a different time, really. Right.
DF: How was the relationship between the faculty and the students? Between the teachers…
DS: Well, it was one of true respect. We really respected our teachers and our principal. We would do everything, you know, behind their back, but we respected them. And, I can’t, I can’t recall any so-called, like discipline problems. I just don’t know anyone that would dare to do that. I know, as we say, we would talk about what we would like to do, but I can’t recall anything because everyone feared going to the office.
DS: You know, that was not a pleasant thing to think about.
DS: Because, say for example, I recall a student was told, we could not- chewing gum? No, no chewing gum. [DF laughs] But somebody had some and thought they had mastered the method of holding it in their mouth and not chewing it. And somehow they relaxed, and that student had to go out and pick up every piece of paper in the, around the school.
DS: If you can- just, you know, for that. You know, go to the office and then, that was the punishment. And they willingly did it. They didn’t say “What?” They just went. Because if they said “What,” then they would have to go home and bring their mother back.
DF: Oh my goodness. [DF and DS laugh]
DS: Right, right.
DF: So, did the teachers look out for the students? Did they take a special interest in, in their success?
DS: Yes, they all, all had an interest. They all encouraged us to do whatever it is. And they set the example of, of the necessity of education as the, education being the key. And so, you did, as well as you, as you could. Or, and we had a very good time there because we, we made such good friends, and then the camaraderie of the friends that you had was of such, because that was the only school, you know, so, you in probably groups of friends, but you had some of the best friendships there.
DF: Friendships that probably carried on…
DS: Yes, carried on…
DF: …through the years.
DS: That’s true. That’s true.
DF: If a student wasn’t doing maybe as well as they could, would the teachers talk to your parents, would the parents get involved somehow or would it be really your responsibility to, to succeed or fail?
DS: Well, as far as I can remember, because I didn’t have that experience, I think the teachers would, I don’t know whether they- I think they insisted that the student would do as well as they could do, but I get the idea that they were saying that there are some students that will not do whatever it is, and there are some students that would take longer to get here. So there was no embarrassment or anything, you understand, it was not like, you need to do this. You know, it was like, encouraging and encouraging and encouraging, and unless they saw evidence that they were not doing, they accepted the idea that all people, all students can’t do the same. And, but when they saw something in a student that they thought needed developing, then they focused on that, on that student, and so the pressure was not [phone rings] [pause in recording]
DS: OK, now where were we?
DF: We were discussing the students that may have needed a little bit more development….
DF…and the teachers would take and interest with them…
DF: …and try to move them along.
DS: Yes. I think, say, for example, I think the teachers were so intuitive that they saw in the, in the students there, those that may be good tailors or some particular craft that they would have, and that’s what they would, would, would encourage them to do. And when they saw a student that had probably characteristics of somebody that would go farther, maybe like a doctor, or whatever, then they, they functioned on that. But they didn’t, they never made the student who was not on that level feel ashamed or anything.
DS: It only, it was just insisting that they would, you know, follow that path. And so therefore, there wasn’t, there wasn’t any, the kind of tension that you have today, like someone thinking that they’re, one student thinking that they’re better than the other student. We didn’t, we didn’t, we didn’t have that. The only thing we had at school was the same thing that goes, that was going on in society then, and that is their color.
DS: That was the thing that, that was the main thing that was a determining factor, we thought, was your color. And so, but, otherwise in school, everybody enjoyed school and loved school. And so, it was like my big family.
DF: Oh, that’s great.
DF: What type of courses did they offer?
DS: Well, like, nothing special. I think they had their two foreign languages you could have, either French or Latin.
DS: And you took the- like geography, or certain arithmetics- I imagine it’s a basic curriculum that we have today that we need today. A science, some kind of sciences or things like that. Because we had to do that because when we graduated then our scores had to- would be took. And it had to be sent off to the universities. And as I think about it, with that in mind, we probably were put in certain teacher’s rooms, those of us that might have indicated that we would go to education beyond high school. I imagine it was so that we were put in certain classes, because if we went to college, then they would ask- we had to be examined on certain- math, and whatever, like that.
DS: So I imagine that’s it. And those that would go into fields like cooking or sewing or, I imagine that they were developed that way. That’s the way I…
DF: And they had those type of, of courses there as well?
DS: Oh, yes, they had home economics. You had to take either cooking or- you could choose. It was cooking or sewing.
DF: And that was just for the girls?
DF: Did any boys take those classes, or could they?
DS: I think the boys had- what do you call those things? Like, mechanics…
DS: Shop. Like that. Maybe a little later on they might have gone in there, but as I remember, there were all girls in the cooking and all girls in the sewing, and then maybe a manual training or something with the boys. Right, right.
DF: OK. What about extracurricular activities?
DS: We had excellent football, basketball, and we had to play out the, the yard surrounding the back of it was dirt, so that’s where the football was played, baseball, basketball, and everything. And, so, the only, it was mostly intramural because I can’t remember Plato Price or Torrance when I was there coming and having a games to determine which school- I think we evidently played against each other with different teams.
DS: Maybe, maybe the grades, maybe eleventh grade- I don’t know. But I remember having basketball games and football games, but I don’t remember anyone traveling in….
DF: To play…
DS: …I don’t remember that. It could have been.
DF: So West Charlotte hadn’t been built at that time….
DS: No it hadn’t, hadn’t been built. Right.
DF: OK, OK. Was there anything like cheerleading or anything?
DS: Yeah, we had cheerleading, right. We had cheerleading and I think what we were doing is, we, we were imitating the school, the white schools, you know? Like, I guess, we would, I guess, we were imitating them. If they had football like that, we had football like that. And we were sort of imitating them. Our colors, our mascot, and everything like that. So that is the way we, I think we did that.
DF: Do you remember what your mascot was?
DS: Oh yes, the Second Ward Tigers.
DF: Oh. [DF laughs]
DS: Yeah, right. It was the Second Ward Tigers.
DF: So your colors were…
DS: Blue and white.
DF: Blue and white, OK.
DF: Did you, in particular, do any extracurricular activities? Or, how did you spend your time outside of school?
DS: No, I didn’t have any extra- well I was in the choir…
DF: Oh, were you?
DS: …in the choral group. Yeah, I was in the choral group. Not the choir. I like music, and I was in the choral group. Right, I did do that.
DF: How big were these groups? How many students would you…
DS: I would guess, well we had levels of choral society. It was like the beginners, you know, and then another, and- but the group that did the performing had to be in, reach that stage. You know, so you could go there the first group, and then when you qualified to go up, and all of us did not pass in there, you know, you might do that, but when the teacher would find out that we could not sing [DF and DS laugh] we were out of there. But then when we, if we finally made it, it was a real accomplishment because we performed in the auditorium.
DF: Oh, wonderful. For the entire student body?
DS: Yes, yes. We had, I had chorals every spring, we had a program with the chorus. And that was a real thing. And then we had, oh, I remember we had, I guess it was a fundraiser, we had dance, dancing on the stage, and performance of dancing, like I can’t remember ballet, but it was that type thing. That was the sort of things that we would have. But the choral group was a, it was a, it was a, it was a real privilege to get into the choral group.
DF: You must have had real talent to be able to do that, if, if….
DS: Yes, that’s right. You had to try out, and it was a performance, because you got your uniforms and everything, so it was good.
DS: Right. Right.
DF: Did you have any plays were put on or any theater groups that…
DS: Oh, yes, we had plays that were put on, and journalism, and if you were interested in this particular things then we used to have plays. And then we would have, we would have visitors from colored schools in the area that would bring their plays, and maybe we’d go there and have our plays there too.
DF: Oh, wonderful.
DS: Right. So we had some excellent teachers there that- with plays and everything, right. And the decorum in the auditorium was of such that you had, you know, certain seats too, you had assigned seats when it was time for the, to assembly. You had assigned seats. And you would go there and you know where you would sit and you know, whatever. It was very, you know, very well organized.
DF: Right. It sounds very structured ….
DS: Right, right.
DF:….so everybody knew what they had to do…
DS: That’s right. Everybody knew.
DF: …and how they should behave.
DS: That’s right. Everybody knew.
DF: OK. Now, Second Ward High School, where was that located in Brooklyn? Do you remember what street it was on?
DS: It was on the corner of Second Street and I think that’s maybe, that’s Davidson? And Alexander? I don’t know, I’ll have to look. I know it was Second Street and maybe that was- I’m not sure.
DF: But it was on the corner?
DS: It was on the corner of Second Street, I know that’s Second Street, but I don’t know the street coming up there. I want to say Alexander Street, but I’m not quite sure.
DS: So you put like a question mark…[DF and DS laugh] Yeah, that shouldn’t be hard to find out. Right, right.
DF: And what was around the school?
DS: Well, across the street was a funeral parlor. On the corner there was a funeral parlor on one corner, and on the other corner was a store, a grocery store. And on another corner it was a store. Second Street was reminiscent of, well the whole place was reminiscent of Harlem, and all the black businesses were on Second Street. You know, all of the black businesses were on Second Street and, well, the black churches were there, most of them.
DS: And, it was just the place to go, really. And, like, it was just a privilege to go, to be on Second Street. Right, right, so.
DF: So did you spend time in Brooklyn outside of school with your friends?
DS: Well, I had one very good friend who lived in Brooklyn, but her parents were like my parents. We were kind of sheltered, you know? And, it’s like, you know, you, you can pass by there but you don’t need to go. You know, you might look but some bad things may be happening over there…
DF: Yeah. [DF and DS laugh]
DS:..or whatever. So, we couldn’t do that, in fact, really, it was a sign of being grown up to be able to go to Second Street after a party. And then I would tell my mother, I would say “when am I going to get to go to Second Street?” So, she says, “I’ll let you know.” [DF laughs] So, OK. So, I thought maybe when I, when I went to the junior/senior prom, and by the way I was escorted but my sister had to go along as a, as a chaperone.
DF: Really? [DF laughs]
DS: Yeah. That’s right. My sister- we had a taxi and the young man came to my house and my sister sat in the front seat and then my friend and I, on the way there, my sister sat in the front seat and my date and I were on the back seat and coming back, my sister sat with me on the back seat. [DF and DS laugh] And on the- and so and so. But anyhow, and when I, I couldn’t, I, I didn’t get a chance really to go to Second Street because I was very sheltered.
DF: You were very sheltered.
DF: So there was no going to…..
DS: I was so young too, because I, I graduated when I, from high school when I was fifteen.
DF: Oh, did you really?
DF: I skipped. I started early and then I skipped grades, which is terrible, I think, really.
DF: And then you went to college immediately afterwards?
DS: I went to college, when I went to college- can you imagine going to college at fifteen?
DF: That’s terrifying.
DS: It was. And I was homesick and I cried every day. Yeah, but that’s the way it was with me. I didn’t get that advantage of, if that’s an advantage, of enjoying Brooklyn.
DS: I didn’t.
DF: So, after you, after you finished with college, did you move back to Charlotte?
DS: I finished, when I finished with college, yes, and I came back here, and the first year after I graduated I had a primary certificate. I could not get a job in Charlotte.
DS: Because the rule was that, maybe some of the whites too, but I know in the black, the rule was that only one person out of a family can teach in the schools. And my two sisters were teachers before me.
DS: And they were teaching at Second Ward. My two, my, my sisters taught at Second Ward. And it was a privilege for the second teacher to get there, but then the first teacher graduated from North Carolina College, she got a job teaching history. Then when my second, my other sister graduated, they gave a privilege, but when I graduated, I couldn’t get a job in Charlotte.
DF: You couldn’t.
DS: So I substituted.
DS: I just went around and substituted for a year. And during that time, my husband to be was, was at, at Johnson C. Smith because he had to stay out and work for two years before he graduated in 1936 from Second Ward.
DS: But he had to, he had no money to go to college, so he worked for two years. And then at the end of two years, he went to Johnson C. Smith.
DF: OK. And I know- let me just check my notes. You, so you grew up in First Ward. How was that community like? What was it like?
DS: Well, I think the community showed, was a good example of living in Charlotte at the time. It’s because originally, First Ward was to be housed by only those of the Caucasian race. It- because, that was because it was so close to the center city. And they did not want colored people living close to the center city. So the only way you could, colored people would live there is that they would live in what you call shanties and they would do the domestic work for the whites.
DS: OK. In other words, these are people that were there, but most of them, the aspirations, they knew that they would be nothing but servants of the white. But it so happened that when my father, my father was in insurance, North Carolina Mutual, an that’s another story, sometime I’ll have to tell you about my father and my mother. Because my mother, my mother was a teacher of a, of a, of a one room class room house, and my father was a student.
DF: Oh. [DF laughs]
DS: And, of one of the classes, I’ll tell you that another time. But anyhow. [DF laughs] But, so my mother went to, was favored because, well, the reason she was favored is that her people, her families, were designated as house negroes. So, so they, they had privileges because they were working in the house of the white man. They had privileges. So the master would say, any of the children there that he sired, the black children, then he would say that if they indicated a capacity for education he would pay the bill.
DS: So, it went down that way. It so happened that my mother’s mother was favored and then when my grandmother had my mother so, it was her child, then when she expressed a desire to go to college, then the master sent my mother, asked “What would you like to do?” And she said, “Teach.” So he sent her to Barber Scotia, right up here.
DF: Oh, OK.
DS: And, so, that’s how she got to be a teacher. But anyhow, my father was a very enterprising person. He didn’t have an education, but he was a striver and he went up in the world. And so, anyhow, he needed to come to Charlotte, North Carolina, he was going to be promoted to a district manger of the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company. And he was looking for someplace to live. And during the same time, in the block that I lived in- that’s the five hundred block of East Seventh Street- there was, across the street, a brick house and it had a man living in there whose name, last name was Tate. OK? Now, the rumor has this, and I always say this because I don’t want to be sued, [DF and DS laugh] but the rumor was that Mr. Tate was the illegitimate child of one of the Tates in, from Charlotte.
DF: Oh, OK.
DS: And then that family built this house for him. But when the neighbors in the community that were all white heard about that and the- what happened then was, one block, block, one, one part, just one drop of black blood makes you black. Just one drop, that was the law. If it’s one drop. And because he had, they say he had this consorting with this woman who had a, some black blood in it, then he was designated as black. So but when the neighbors all heard that, they put their homes up for sale. So my father got that house for a song. We had thirteen rooms.
DF: Oh my goodness.
DS: But the people, they could not stand to be near anyone that had that one. So they put their houses up for sale. Because they were deemed to be black people, and negroes. But anyhow, so I was saying that to say that the block that I lived in, of course, when they moved, it was, it filled with all, with black people. So the block that I lived, the homes were nice, you know? And the people that moved in, the parsonage, was right next door to me, and it was, it -very nice homes. But, if, I went over about one block, then there were a row of houses where black people were the servants of whites, so that was a difference. But we were all together.
DS: You know we- so that was the sort of childhood I had over at, over in, in First Ward.
DF: So, what held the community together in your opinion? Was it the closeness…
DS: Well, I think it was the churches.
DF: The churches? OK.
DS: Yeah. I think the churches were very instrumental because everybody went to church. And that was a, that was- school and church. And it was very, very, very prevalent in there. And so there was no, as far- of course, on Saturday night, I guess that was a time to relax, for some people, but everybody went to church. And I think that really kept us together.
DF: I know you didn’t hang out, maybe on Second Street, too much, you went to school at Second Ward, do you know anything about what made the Brooklyn community special? Was it the fact that all the businesses were located there? Do you know what other people might have thought about the Brooklyn community who lived there?
DS: Well, I think the, it’s, I can compare Brooklyn with Harlem. And you ever been to Harlem? OK, if you go in its heyday, it’s so much pride to live in Harlem. And it was a privilege to live there.
DS: And like the black businesses were there, and it was lively and everything and the churches were there, and so I would say that it was a privilege to be there, and I just wanted to go and couldn’t go.
DF: You couldn’t go. [DF and DS laugh]
DS: I couldn’t go but I wanted to go. But they did have- and the theater. We went to the theater.
DF: You did?
DS: The theater was right there in Brooklyn.
DS: And, in fact, we could, it was safe to walk all over Brooklyn at any, at any time. It wasn’t the sort of thing that you were afraid. Now, our parents might have been afraid…
DF: Right. [DF laughs]
DS: …thinking something, but everybody is everybody over there. You know? And, so, I think, I, in fact I really wanted to live in Brooklyn because I admired it. It was like a place that I wanted to go and my mother wouldn’t let me go, so it was just a privilege to be there. And everything happened in Brooklyn.
DS: Everything.[DF laughs] I mean, it was a city in itself, right? So, I’m, I’m glad there was a Brooklyn, really.
DF: Now, where were you when urban renewal started? Where were you living at the time? In the ‘60s?
DS: In the ‘60s I probably was here. I stayed here except, with the exception of going to college, oh, when I, I, after the, after the second year here, and I didn’t get a job, I accepted a job in Rockingham, North Carolina.
DS: So, then I left Rockingham, I came back to Charlotte and that’s when I got married. Yeah, married. And I’ve been in Charlotte ever since. So the majority of my life I’ve lived here in Charlotte.
DF: Did you hear, when you heard about urban renewal and, and that Brooklyn was going to be torn down, what was your reaction?
DS: Well, I was very hurt. Because of the promise that was made, you know, because we really believed them, you know? And we just, I don’t know, we just trusted that they would do that, and if someone would say otherwise, you know, we would say “They said it.” You know? “They said that they would not do that!” And it was a very, very, sad, disappointing time, when they decided to just implode it, you know, just get rid of it.
DS: You know, it really, all of our history and everything just, was just lost. And, in fact, really, the urban renewal that they had, it, it just destroyed our life. And the only thing that, the way I have soothed for myself is I guess that’s progress. That’s what they call progress. [DS laughs]
DF: That’s what they call progress. [DF laughs]
DS: That’s what they call it. So if that’s their definition of progress, you know, it’s- and then they could say now, suppose we had not done that. Charlotte would not be what it is today. And all these statistics of how Charlotte being, oh, it’s way up there. Isn’t it desirable to come here?
DS: And all of that contributed to it. They would say.
DF: They would say, yes. [DF laughs]
DS: They would say that was necessary. And so, that’s it. That’s that.
DF: Now, at first, did they say that they weren’t going to tear Brooklyn down?
DS: Oh, yes.
DF: They did say that at first?
DS: Oh, yes, they promised us at the school, that no tearing down.
DS: They went back on their promise. They really did. Right.
DF: Did, did they say any parts of Brooklyn? I know, some of Brooklyn was considered a slum, blighted areas. Did they mention anything about tearing those houses down and building some more?
DS: Well, I don’t think they had to do that. I think with the plans that started, the master plan came out, and when they shared the master plan, they didn’t have to worry about, all the, everything went down then. You know, that was a sign.
DS: And then they didn’t have to do anything else except take the bids on- they probably had a- some went by this office, a plan of the future of Second Ward. And, and then they would meet and go step by step. This has to go and that has to go, and that- and then you see, that’s what it is over there. That’s not- it’s interesting now that they said they’re going to try to recreate Brooklyn. No way. No way.
DF: It can’t happen.
DS: They say, they say they’re going to do it. They say they’re going to put a high school over there…
DF: Oh, really?
DS: …that’s the latest. Reminiscent of Second Ward High School. But it won’t be…
DF: Wow. It’s not the same.
DS: …but it won’t be anything like that, probably. In fact, that era is just gone. In fact, I’m glad we have some pictures of it and things like that. And have you seen that film? Now, that was good…
DS: …that that was kept, so at least you got. We have that and a lot of others, a lot of other of my friends, I keep encouraging them to clean out their closets. [DS and DF laugh] You know, because sometimes you put things back, and because then they close their eyes, their children [DS makes disappearing noise].
DS: They won’t have the same need for it. So that’s what I’m trying to, trying to do. And I, I have some things, I think in my moving I might have lost some things, because I have a, I had, I can’t find it, it’s a handwritten letter that my mother wrote about the ills of segregation. And she had to write that probably before I was born. But anyhow, I can’t, maybe it will come up, but all of that is…
DF: Did your neighborhood feel any effects from urban renewal other than the emotional ones, probably? Were-did a lot of people relocate into your area after…
DS: Yes. What happened with urban removal, as you call it, [DS laughs] they, they encouraged the colored people to move to the west side.
DS: That’s where most of us moved to, the west side. And so, we were all over there around the university, you know, of Johnson C. Smith University. And farther back over there.
DS: And what they did was, they built what you call high class neighborhoods for those of us that had done very well.
DS: And that’s how Hyde Park came in.
DF: Oh, OK.
DS: And Hyde Park was really imitating maybe what would happen in Myers Park. I mean, big homes, and, and it’s just like, what you wanted all your life, but you’re all with the black people.
DS: You know, over there, all black. And of course, I found out later, it was just, what was really ironic was the house that they would build for us in our community would charge, would be more than in the white community.
DS: That’s right. It would cost more than that. You know, and that, to me, was ironic, you know? But I think it, it’s, it’s because, not greed, but it’s just like, capitalistic society.
DF: Right. They’re taking advantage of the situation.
DS: Right. And I don’t think they’d call it taking advantage, but they’re trying to make it in this capitalistic world. That’s America, you know, we’re capitalism. And they wouldn’t say, “Oh, poor people.” They want to make money.
DF: Yeah, Yeah.
Ds: That’s the way I accepted it, like. But it’s just ironic that that would be there. The ones that had the least were charged the most.
DF: Right. It’s astonishing.
DS: The ones that had the fabulous homes, it was like, you, I guess, some of the black people thought , “I have made it. I have achieved. I live in Hyde Park.” You know? “I have achieved.” So you’re there with the big houses and huge lawns, and it took a while before they were able to hire gardeners. They didn’t reach that right away. And so you’d go there, plenty of times, and see some of my brothers out there, they were tired, but they had a lot of lawn to cut. But they were happy, I guess. But, that’s where it is now, so that was, so what happened to, with, in my case, the reason I left First Ward was as, as the community started to go down, that is, if, as my mother’s people and all our fiends, when they passed away, then their children would not do what we would do. Then my mother said, when the last child is graduated, the youngest child is graduated from college, I’m going to move into my dream home. So, when I graduated in college, we moved into a very nice house on Oaklawn Avenue. Right. So, I haven’t been back. That’s how I left First Ward.
DS: Right. So.
DF: Wonderful. Now you have a non-profit organization. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
DS: Well, what happened was, when my husband got ill, and I would go to see him, and the thing that would give him the most pleasure, one of the things, I think, maybe this is a little bit more, is to say anything about Johnson C. Smith University. He loves Johnson C. Smith University. Of course, I think right under that would be York Road. He started York Road High School…
DF: Did he?
DS: …which is now Kennedy. And then West Charlotte, that’s, they’re kind of close, but he loves Johnson C. Smith. And he loves it so much that he, even after he graduated, he was always there to help Johnson C. Smith. In other words, have you ever been around people that if you’re ever with them for a certain length of time, it was almost a miracle if a certain something didn’t come up?
DS: Because he loved Johnson C. Smith. Because he always said that Johnson C. Smith did so much for him. Because he was a poor person, and with the help of somebody, he was able to get, get something at Johnson C .Smith that he couldn’t have gotten. So he loved it. And so, when, when he graduated and came out of the Army and everything, and, we were here, and they offered him a job teaching there when he got out of the Army and got his, he got his first Master’s from University of Illinois, and so- in marketing and management. And they were not hiring blacks at that time. So, he had to take care of us because I had my baby, my first baby, but anyhow he went into education and he worked at Johnson C. Smith. But to think about Johnson C. Smith, they offered him the job, he taught economics, what he, his field. But they didn’t pay anything at Johnson C. Smith. And so, that’s when he went to New York University and got a degree in education, but he always felt that Johnson C. Smith had done so much for him. So, when he got his job in education, he did everything for Johnson C. Smith. He established Friends of Johnson C. Smith, the community. And all these different things, and he promoted Johnson C. Smith. And that’s his love, Johnson C. Smith. So, I thought, when I go visit him and we’d talk about Johnson C. Smith, I thought that it would be thinking about his plight, when he went to Johnson C. Smith, I thought about the possibility, or maybe the probability that there are young people out here like he was, no money…
DS: …but are really, they have no money but they are capable, their capabilities and everything, but they don’t have the money. So I said to myself, I said now, wouldn’t it be nice to have a vehicle where we can say to the young people that there is a way to go to Johnson C. Smith University. And then you would be following the footsteps of Gershon Stoud, who walked, he walked, the first year he walked from Third Ward to Johnson C. Smith everyday, and then of course, I think he got, maybe the second or third year in the dormitory. But my husband never asked his parents for one penny.
DS: Nothing. Nothing. He always did. But anyhow, so he felt such a, it was such a privilege that he would go there that he promoted it, and I was thinking that there may be some other students out there that could benefit from Johnson C. Smith, because it is not cheap to go to Johnson- it’s a private school.
DS: It’s not a state school. And it’s not cheap. And so, I was thinking that maybe in his name, maybe there are some students out there who would be like him and could get an education like he did. So I called around and I asked about, establishing, what should I do? I asked some of my friends, and I’m a very good friend of, of Harvey Gantt is a very good friend of mine. And anyhow, I talked to him, and I also talked to Mel Watt, who’s up there in the Senate. But anyhow, as I talked about it I said, “I want to start something,” so I said, “I know what I’ll do.” I went to Johnson C. Smith. And I said, “What would be a way that I could have a, have tax deductibility and have a programs or something and let it be in Gershon’s name to go to Johnson C. Smith?” So, they said, “You have to have a 501c3,” so I said, “Well, can I use yours?” They said, excuse me, they says, “No.” And I said “Why?” And they said, “If we let you use it, all of the, everybody…” and that makes sense. [DF laughs]
DS: So they said, “Well you do, well you start one.” And I said, “OK. I want a 501c3.” So, someone said, “Why don’t you start a foundation?” So when I asked my friends, they told me that the experience they had with women starting foundations, these are the characteristics of the women that they know. First, they’re rich. They have plenty of money. They don’t have anything to do. And they’re bored. And being so bored, they said, well, we’ll just start a foundation. And our name will be in perpetuity. So, what’d they do? They start a foundation. And then they started with maybe $25,000, but their name’s out there.
Ds: They live forever. So then my friends said that “You don’t fit any of those characteristics.” And so I said, “I got to do it.” So they said, “OK.” They referred me to the foundation of the Carolinas. I went there, so they said, “How much money do you have to put down?” I said, “I was looking for money.” [DF and DS laugh] And so, they said, “Well, the least we can do for you, and this is a favor to you, you have to give us 5,000. You have to give us 5,000. If you give us 5,000, we will at least instigate your getting, getting a 501c3.”
DS: I have to get it but they would put me in line for it. So, I came back and then I said- I looked at my finances, and I thought about my husband, who was ill and in order to give him the excellent care, the facilities go up every month. No one knows how expensive it is to have your loved one in a facility like that. It is more, it is, and it went up every month. Excellent care. So I said, “I don’t have that $5,000.” So I said, “Well, what am I going to do?” and all that stuff. So I said, I said, “You know what?” I said, Gershon and I- no, no, I went to Harvey Gantt and Harvey said, “The only way you can do that is that you need to enlist the help of your friends.” So, so, he says, “Sit down and think. So, now, who, who is the, who are those persons out there that would say, I am who I am because of Gershon Stroud? Or I am who I am because of Daisy Stroud? And write their names down. Then write them. And say to them, that you’re interested in doing that, and you want their help. This is a way they can give back.”
DS: So then I put it, the Gershon L. and Daisy Spears Foundation and Friends of the Foundation. So I called friends. And the number was long, but it diminished, [DF and DS laugh] it was long, but at the end, it went down low. But that’s OK. But anyhow, that’s how I happened to do it. And, so they volunteered their time, and everything, and so I thought about it. So we’ve got to have something that will be an eye-catcher and something that’s unusual, so God just spoke to me and, as He does all the time, and I was visiting my husband one Christmas, and we have a friend in California. Her name is Jacquelyn Hairston, and she’s a renowned composer. She writes, she composes for a lot of operatic stars, and she is a, she used to be his music teacher at York Road, but now she had risen, and she’s well-known all over. And, so I called her and so I said, “Jackie?” She says, “What are you doing Daisy?” I said, “I’m sitting up here talking to Gershon. Would you like to talk to him?” She said, “Can he speak on the phone?” You know, the rumor would be when he’s in a facility that he can’t do anything….
DS: And she says, “Can he speak on the phone?” And I said, “Would you like to speak to him?” Anyhow, so he says, I said, “Gershon this is Jackie.” And he says, “Hello Jackie, how you doing?” And he was talking and talking and talking. And he says to me, “Jackie wants to speak to you,” talking to me. And she says, “Daisy! Why didn’t you tell me that he could talk like that?” And I said, “Well, you never asked me.” [DF and DS laugh] But anyhow, he said, she said, “Daisy, I want to do something for him.” I said, “You do?” She says, she says, “How about it, how about if I come to Charlotte and give a, a recital for him?” And I said, “Oh that would really be fantastic.” Because she was the first black Woman of the Year, Charlotte Woman of the Year…
DS: And thanks to her- her, her calendar’s full and everything. And she says, “Better than that, I know two other young ladies and they’re related to me. They were born in Charlotte, went to public schools in Charlotte, one is in the field of opera, the other’s in the field of healing music, and I’m in composing,” and she says, “I’m going to work on getting them to come to Charlotte to have a recital, a program for him,” so. So they came, all came, and it was called Three Daughters from Charlotte Return. And it was at the, everything just worked in my favor, I called the First Presbyterian Church and they said, “If you have 501c3, if you’re trying, you can get it cheap.” And then I read in the paper about the ImaginOn.
DS: So I said, “That’s where I want it to be.” So I called and they said “You know, it won’t be completed,” I think they said, maybe about, this was in the summer, so, it will be completed in maybe December or something. And everything, but I told them what I was about, so they said “You have to call the public library.” She says, “They don’t do 501c3 things,” that’s what they told me. He says, he says, “They don’t do 501c3 at the public library, but we don’t know what they would do at the ImaginOn.” So, so I said “OK,” so I said “All right.” So I’m very close to the persons at the Museum of the New South. And so I called them and I told them I want them to speak in my stead. And so, so then they referred me to the person who is in charge of it, of setting it up, and so they told me that yes, I could go there…
DF: Oh, good.
DS: …and it would be tax deductible. But, so we had it, we had it there on February 28th, of last year. And it was like, Three Daughters from Charlotte Return, and it was a wonderful concert.
DF: I Bet.
DS: And so I made that money, and then I gave $5,000 to Johnson C. Smith. Now, this year, is Fayetteville’s. And I already have in mind a, I already have in mind a fundraiser for Fayetteville.
DF: That’s wonderful.
DS: Right. Yes, I’m going to do that. Right.
DF: And so, can you tell us a little bit about the motto. It’s “Helping others because others helped us?”
DS: I did that because I thought of my husband. It’s because the help that my husband got was so spectacular that it just, it’s just imperative that we need to help others, too. And that’s what I looked- I always think about the benefits that we got from being helped to go to school. And I always, I keep him in mind because his parents were not educated as such, but they exemplified what you can do and, if you determine to do it. You know, you can reach your goal, and because I know personally, of how, of the help that he got, I said, that would be so wonderful, because I just believe out there, there’s some students that really need help. And they just don’t have it.
DF: That’s right.
DS: And so, so, then that’s why I set it up there at Johnson C. Smith.
DF: That’s wonderful.
DS: And my daughter, I found out yesterday my daughter, I have two sons and a daughter, my daughter that followed my footsteps in teaching, she was selected as the most distinguished teacher of the year….
DS: …in Alexandria, Virginia. So that’s a big deal. She wanted to be in primary education like I was, so she was selected and she’s going to be honored at one of the country clubs up there.
DF: Oh, that’s wonderful. That’s wonderful.
DS: Yeah, I think so too. Right. Right. So I’m going to dedicate the first scholarship at Fayetteville to her.
DF: That’s so nice.
DS: That’s true.
DF: Wonderful. Is there anything else that you would like to discuss that maybe I haven’t asked?
DS: No, I never would have thought of saying that if you hadn’t asked me. That never even think about, I never even thought about you saying that. I don’t, I don’t know, maybe you could, I don’t know what else.
DF: Well, I have nothing else. So I guess this concludes the interview.
DF: Thank you so much for your time.
DS: Now, and so do you think that what I’ve said has been about what you possibly were looking for?
DF: Oh, definitely, definitely. You mentioned so much about the school….
DF: And the Brooklyn community….
DF: It’s definitely what we were looking for.
DS: Yeah, OK, OK. I just wanted to make sure.
DS: Do you know, maybe of anyone else, you said your sisters….
End of Interview. Approximately 64 minutes.