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- Gerson L. Stroud oral history interview, 2001 June 20
Gerson L. Stroud oral history interview, 2001 June 20
Gerson L. Stroud recounts his experiences as a lifelong resident of Charlotte as well as his thirty-one year career with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system where, as principal of West Charlotte High School, he oversaw that school's racial integration. Reflecting on his childhood, Mr. Stroud discusses the complete separation of black and white communities in Charlotte and the impact this had on children, who even from a young age understood that there were racial rules that must be followed. He also recounts how his father, who worked at some of Charlotte's finest hotels and restaurants, provided employment opportunities to Johnson C. Smith students so they could finance their education. An army veteran of World War II, Mr. Stroud explains how segregation affected African American soldiers throughout their military career from induction to access to veterans' benefits. Following his service, Mr. Stroud recalls the path he took into teaching and how Superintendent Dr. Elmer Garinger recruited him for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system. Mr. Stroud discusses his experience as West Charlotte High School's principal as the school weathered a number of challenges including the closure of Second Ward High School, the subsequent incorporation of Second Ward's population into West Charlotte, and the implementation of school busing to integrate the school system. In particular, he details the challenges the school administration and staff faced when all but nineteen of the school's teachers were transferred to other high schools and replaced with newly hired white teachers, and how in the lead-up to integration the local media and the school system all expected West Charlotte to be the epicenter of racial conflict. However, when it came time to integrate, other than a short-lived boycott by white students, West Charlotte had fewer racial issues than the other high schools. Mr. Stroud attributes this to the hard work of the teachers and the staff. Mr. Stroud concludes by reflecting on how Charlotte has changed over his lifetime.