Sally Phillips Smith18 January 2008
Source: Oral History Interview #11
Staff Person: Lynette Lundin
Sally Smith was born in Hyde County on November 15, 1877 and died on May 1978. She taught for over 44 years in rural elementary black schools. She attended Bricks School in North Carolina, Hampton Institute in Virginia and the North Carolina College in Durham. She talks about her parents being former slaves, her life, and problems of teaching with hardly any school supplies. This is an excerpt from the interview Donald R. Lennon took on June 12, 1973:
“The best friend I had was a white woman in Atlantic City. What was her name? She was a nurse. You know, we used to be up against it all the time for material to teach. We did not have anything but the children. And sometimes they didn’t have but one or two books, one book maybe; and they didn’t have any desk or anything; and nothing was furnished. It was kind of like when they went down in Egypt and had to make something without straw–make bricks, make bricks without straw. Well, this lady, I met her in Atlantic City. I got a job there, part time, and she and her husband were there. And I met her, She lived on the beach in Atlantic City in the summertime, and in the wintertime they went to Florida. And I went down to work for her, and she got to liking me. She said I’ll never forget you, and she didn’t. After that, she gave me material that made me able to do a lot of things with my school work that I wouldn’t have been able to do, because I wasn’t able to buy. But see, she was in New York, and she used to send me things–send me papers, books and materials.
At Christmas time, she sent me enough candy for each of my little children. They remember it now because she sent a whole bag of Christmas candy in containers of Christmas things. Other teachers couldn’t do it because they didn’t have any money. But I had her behind me, and she never forgot me, just like she said, as long as she lived. She lived to eighty years old, and I guess I was one of the first people to find out she was dead. I think there was a sister who notified me when she finally died. But that made me able to do better work than I would have been able to do, because I didn’t have anything to do with.”
To listen to the excerpt, click on http://www.web.lib.ecu.edu/images/sp/sp87-3.wma
To view an enlarged version of the image, click on the image itself.