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1980-05-22, Andrew Young Interviewee [Box 138, Item 6, Side 1]
Dent, Thomas C.
Reflections on education. Valena C. Jones Elementary School, Gilbert Academy, USC, and Howard University. Not passing for white, being younger than the other students, train travel after desegregation.
00:00 – [Dent interviews Young in an airport. Background noise.] Young recalls an incident riding a train to California shortly after the dining cars were desegregated. 03:00 – Young rarely went to the French Quarter. He would bring guests there and visit the museums. 04:20 – Young’s father wanted him to be a dentist and he assisted pouring models and casting bridges. He worked in dental laboratories in the summer during high school, as well as with his aunt in her photography studio. He hung around at Levi’s Barbershop on Rampart Street and at the pool rooms and pawn shops there. He felt most intimidated at Valena C. Jones School and developed his self-confidence there. 07:10 – Xavier Prep. It was mostly Creole and he did not feel a lot of support. Gilbert Academy had more dark skinned students. BTW [Booker T. Washington]. Dent remembers going to the orchestra at their auditorium. He used to go to basketball games and Tulane’s football games. His father took him to the Sugar Bowl. 10:40 – The neighborhood on Cleveland Avenue. Young sees it as critical to his development. They talk about people who could and could not pass for white. Young says half of his mother’s family passed for white, which he did not know. Young did not attend Grinnell despite being offered a scholarship because he knew he would not pass for white. 16:15 – [Continues on 6/22/1980.] Graduation from Gilbert Academy. Young did not know what he would do next. He thought he would be a dentist because his father wanted him to be. His father encouraged him to apply to Ivy League schools, but his test scores were too low. Young went to Tulane’s campus for the first time to take the test. He was the only black person there. Young would have liked to have gone to prep school first, because he was only fifteen, but his father had a heart condition and wanted him to attend college while he was sure he could send him. 21:15 – Education was important to the black middle class. Education was emancipation. Young took another test at Dillard and ended up in the top three of all incoming freshmen. He was much younger than the other two top finishers. 25:00 – He did not have to take certain freshmen classes and was placed in advanced classes. He felt like a “mascot.” He was anxious to get away from Dillard and home. He transferred to Howard the next year. He rode with Pat Cayette and his wife to California over the summer. It was his first time driving a long distance and he never forgot the feeling of freedom. It was the first time he felt he had been treated like a man. Dent thinks that going through school so young was destructive. Young talks about being small in high school. 30:45 – One of the reasons he wanted to take a year in prep school was because he wanted to mature physically. He felt that if he was as old as the other guys, he would be as big and as strong as the other guys. He felt that they had to cuss to survive. Dent thinks that Young could hold his own with his unusual athletic ability. Young recalls having problems with girls. He also sometimes felt protected by his youth. He was able to observe without participating. 33:30 – He began to fight to participate when he started at Howard. He had attended USC the summer before when he had driven out to California. He passes a senior lifeguard test, but decided not to be a lifeguard at the ocean and to go to school instead. He took a concentrated botany course. He had no friends there and was the only black person in the class. He would swim, run, and sleep. He spent his time with people visiting from New Orleans. Sybil Haydel [Morial] and her sister visited and they went to the amusement park in Santa Monica. Many people in New Orleans have relatives in Los Angeles. He went to beaches and amusement parks because he could not do either in Louisiana. Going back home on the train was when they had integrated the dining cars. He went off to Howard then. 38:28 – Howard University was important to him as a maturation rite. It was the first time he had been on his own completely. A friend of his father’s was a librarian who lived in the area, but other than him he had no other connections to Washington D.C. Impressions of segregated D.C. Studying and dating at the Library of Congress. Life at Howard. He resented the prejudice against Southerners he encountered. He had trouble with oversleeping during his first year. He was confidant and focused on getting along with people, but less concerned about getting As. He met the first Nigerians and Jamaicans he knew there. [Recording ends 45:20. Continues on the next tape.]
Young, Andrew, 1932-
Childhood & youth
New Orleans (La.)
Tulane University Digital Library
Amistad Research Center
Audiocassette, mono. 16-bit
Box 138, Item 6, Side 1, Tom Dent collection, Amistad Research Center at Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana
Physical rights are retained by the Amistad Research Center. Copyright is retained in accordance with U.S. copyright laws.