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Alabama - Selma: Norward Roussell Interviewee [Part 1]
Dent, Thomas C.
Tom Dent continues his interview with Chuddy N. Okoye in Selma, Alabama. He continues to discuss his move from Atlanta to Selma. They attend the Presbyterian Church in Selma. He was raised in the Church Missionary Society [CMS] in Nigeria. A White preacher introduced himself to them when they moved in to their house, which was in a White neighborhood. He had assumed they were White. He introduced them to the Black Reform Presbyterian Church. The house across the street was being shown to potential buyers when they moved in. Mr. Utsay, who sold them the house, had said it would be fine for them to move in that day. When they started to move in, they were told by the real estate agent that they had not closed yet and could not move in. He knew they did not moving in in front of the White potential buyers. He left the moving truck there and went back to Atlanta. Mr. Utsay put his things in storage and then later moved it in at his own expense. The neighborhood is now evenly split between Black and White families. Okoye says that Selma is "a place with potential"u2026 if people would just lighten up and give up all this foolishness." He sees a small number of White patients at his practice, some of whom are Selma natives. He visits New Orleans often. They talk about some of their mutual friends. Item 9: Norward Roussell Interviewee: Selma, Alabama, 1991 August 6 [Side 1]. Tom Dent interviews Norward Roussell in Selma, Alabama. He talks about his experience attending Dillard University and his impressions of Dent's father, who was president of the university at the time Roussell attended. Dillard was Albert Dent's life. Tom Dent was also proud of his career as superintendent of Flint-Goodridge Hospital. [Dent tests the microphone briefly.] They continue discuss Albert Dent, whom Tom Dent says was a businessman, and not an intellectual. He was the child of a poor family and did not really have education, but he knew a lot and "had a natural genius for business." He was raised by Will and Pauline Thomas, friends of his mother, and named Tom after them. Dent describes more of his family history. Roussell comments on how impressed he was by how Albert Dent presented himself. He built an extraordinary faculty and managed the keep the budget of the university balanced, even while allowing students to attend who could not afford the tuition. He was able to give them "much more quality than Dillard's budget would indicate that you could get." Some of the money that Xavier University receives would have gone to Dillard if Dent's father was still there. Roussell says there was more pride among the students at Dillard when he was a student than there is now. He attended graduate school for educational administration at Tulane University. He also received a master's degree in Science Education from Fisk University. He had been teaching general science and biology, and then moved into a principalship in New Orleans. He had taught at Derham School, which he left after receiving an educational grant. He had attended McDonough 35 High School in New Orleans, when Lucien V. Alexis was principal, which was very academically challenging. They discuss the curriculum there. Roussell was an Associate Superintendent when he left New Orleans. He came to Selma in February 1987, accepting a superintendentship. He talks about his impressions of Selma when he arrived. He saw an opportunity for quality integrated education there, without fully understanding the dynamics of the racial tension in the city that still existed after the marches in 1965. There were symbolic changes, but not changes to the mentality of the city. Hudson High, the Black high school, was renamed and its history was wiped away. Parrish High School, the White school, was also renamed. White administrators took over key positions Black administrators had held during the process of integration. He discussed the damage of this process with the school board. He talks about the changes he made to open up contract negotiations to people who had not previously been included, both Black and White. He discusses the use of the tracking system in the schools, which he had not been told about. The system assigned students to an educational "track" that they would be forced to follow throughout their education. They system was designed to keep White students from leaving the public school system following desegregation, but in practice limited opportunities for Black students. The college prep track had only White teachers. Despite the school being 60% Black, only one Black valedictorian and salutatorian emerged in nineteen years. The lowest track received fewer points for their A grades, making it harder to reach the same levels as the students in the higher tracks. Roussell looked at standardized test scores and grade point averages, finding that some of the students in the lower tracks had higher numbers than those in level one. Level three did not receive the classes to do well on the ACT. The levels had historically been determined by the White principal at Selma High School, although it was never approved by the school board. Roussell brought the issue to the board and held public hearings. The lower tracks did not meet state requirements for a high school diploma. Many universities now require advanced diplomas in order to attend. Roussell describes the makeup of the school board.
Civil rights demonstrations
Dent, Thomas C.
Tulane University Digital Library
Box 151, Item 9, 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.