Interview with Edward A. Rogers
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Q: Thank you for the opportunity to come into your home and
(Streamed audio file of interview for this question using RealPlayer)
A: What's your field
Q: My field is Medical Records Administration. I'm in
Community Health and Rehabilitation. It's a new program. It's about 3 or 4 years
old. So, I've been there 5 years.
A: Let's see who's that nurse over
there? What's her name?
Q: Dr. Powell? Dr. Dorothy Powell?
A: One of the nurses over there. I don't know whether she's retired or not.
She's a Norfolk girl. . .
Q: Eleanor Barrett?
Well that one way my age plays tricks on me. I can remember a person's name right
off the hat. I just have a time remembering names. Tall, thin, slender girl. I
think she may have retired though.
Q: Oh, O. K.
A: O. K. We
can get started.
Q: What dates were you employed as a teacher and as a
A: O. K. When I finished Hampton I went into a little town
in North Carolina known as Warsaw, North Carolina and uh. . . there I taught everything
in high school and coached a basketball team. That was 1930-31.
A: 1931 I started at Booker T. Washington High School. They
took me in as a Math teacher because they didn't have an opening in my field.
But my field was a double major in social studies at Hampton and after about 2
or 3 years there I went into the field of social studies. I worked from '31 up
until 1943 as a teacher and in '33 they gave me as a activity the Booker T. Washington
High Choral Club, Director of that. That was because of my experience at Hampton
in the Hampton Choir because they found out I could play a hymn or two.
Q: I see, I see.
A: And, uh, I worked with that until they brought
into the school system someone to teach music. Music was an extra curricular activity
up until that time. You had no music teacher at all. Just people who had an interest
in music would either organize a band or direct a choral club. Dramatics was handled
in the same way and athletics.
Q: All were extra curricular activities.
A: Activities and the interest of the person in the field would take on those
activities and you weren't given any particular time to do that work.
Q: No extra money?
A: No extra money either. During the time I
directed the Choral Club then I taught 5 classes a day and conducted a study hall.
And the choral work was done either before school and what time I could steal
from a class and after school. And the music that we got. . . I told the Director
of Music, Mr. Wilkinson. . . He asked me one day he was giving a concert at one
of the white schools. He said, Mr. R. where do you get your music? I said we beg,
borrow, or steal. (Laughter) So he was nice enough to tell me any music I needed
I could ask him for it.
Q: Oh, isn't that nice?
was very cooperative with me and thought well of the work I did. We did rather
Q: Well good, good!
A: Uh, huh.
So after '43 did you teach any more?
A: Well, I went into service
from '43 - '45.
Q: Was that the Army?
A: That was the
Army. I was part of the air corp before it was separated from the Army, the Army
Air Corp. See they made a separation after I came out.
A: I came out under the law that released you once you're 35. If you had
reached your 35th birthday you could get out. Uh, huh, so, I got out. At that
time I had also been admitted to Officers' Candidate School but I decided to come
out which I regret very seriously now. I could have gone on and got my commission.
For that year I was doing elementary school music. They didn't take me back into
high school right away from 1945 'til end of the school year in '46 I was an elementary
school teacher in public school music. Still an extra curricula activity - in
a way. Yet, they did have - I had about three schools I worked. Then when I went
back to Booker T. Washington High School they put me as a Veteran advisor. I had
about 700 veterans who would come in and work and study half-day or at work from
about 1-5 o'clock. I had charge of that program and I worked with that until 1947
and they made me Assistant Principal to Mr. Douglass. Is this being taped?
Q: Yes, sir. Assistant Principal to Mr. Douglass that was 1947?
A: 1947 and I served in that capacity 'til 1961 and he retired. They transferred
me to another school as an Assistant Principal to a Mr. W. Matthew Green who had
previously been at the other end of Booker T. Washington High School which was
known as the Intermediate School which meant that the three of us had worked together
before. That is, Mr. Douglass, with me as Assistant Principal and Mr. Green in
the intermediate school which had the 7th, 8th, and 9th grades for a while until
our high school became so large that it spilled over into the intermediate side.
And therefore Mr. Green would help schedule the students - the three of us would
Q: And what school was that with Mr. Green?
A: The school I went to after I left?
Q: Yes sir.
A: He had been transferred to Ruffner Junior High and so when I was sent from
Booker T. Washington High School in '61, I went to Ruffner as his assistant.
Q: O. K. and is that where you retired?
A: I retired from there
in 70 - 1970.
Q: Okay. My first question is describe the school. .
. Did you go on to become principal of Ruffner or did you just . . . ?
Q: You stayed as Assistant Principal?
stayed as Assistant.
Q: At Booker T. Washington were you Assistant
Principal in the capacity over a particular area or was it just . . .?
A: I was Assistant Principal - they didn't have Assistant Principal in instruction
and this, that, and the other. I was Assistant Principal which had primarily discipline.
I also served as one who directed all of the faculty meetings.
A: And just generally relieve the principal of a lot of routine
Q: I see. I see because they had the different sections like
the 7th 9th grade and . . .
A: Well, no we had in the high schools
there we had 10th, 11th, and 12th grade. At one time we had 9th, 10th, 11th, and
12th. Then when they set up the intermediate school, uh, or the Junior High -
7th, 8th, and 9th made the Junior High. And we had in the High School 10th, 11th,
A: When I first started you had all
the four - 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grade in the high school.
Describe the school that you were Assistant Principal of in this particular case
at Booker T. Washington. Can you describe it during the time you were there?
A: Umph. Well, let me see. See if I can find my old book. That will help
me do what I wanted to do. This is a picture of the school. This is the high school
side and this is the other side was similar running the other way. This is the
main auditorium. I worked on this side for the high school. It could accommodate
2700 students, cause that's what we had in it. The auditorium was in between the
intermediate school and the high school. Until they took it all in one and we
had just the high school. But we had three people acting as principal. It was
a school that was built the children refer to it as a factory because it was a
little different from most other schools, but it was adequate. We did a very fine
job there. The teachers were dedicated and they were anxious to see that the students
could get as much as they were able to put into their minds. Uh, other than school
- book material they were interested in them learning that type. And those of
us who could do that type of work were glad to do it with no extra pay. And no
special setting up time for it.We did the work required as teachers. And used
our spare time with the beautiful cooperation of the students. It enrichened their
lives with the things that we knew they should have.
Q: Isn't that
- A: And we did have parent cooperation - in it's best
Q: Is that right? That's unusual too. Was it all Black?
A: All Black, entirely Black. That was the only high school in Norfolk for
the Black child. They passed all the other white schools nearby, but they'd come
to Booker T. They didn't have transportation. They provided their own transportation
or walked. They'd ride the public transportation and paid their fare.
Q: Was the building fairly new or was it old?
A: It was a new building.
The old Booker T. Washington High School was the abandoned buildings of the Norfolk
Mission College, as it existed on Princess Anne Road. Uh, Norfolk. Booker T. Washington
High School started as the old John T. West School under Mr. Jacox. You ought
to know that Booker T. Washington started as a part of the John T. West Elementary
School under Mr. Jacox and it was on 1923 or there about that the Norfolk Mission
College was discontinued, and those buildings were given to the city for the Booker
T. Washington High School. That's where I started my training, there. Right there
on the corner of Chicazola and Princess Anne Road and it ran down to Chapel Street
where the Presbyterian Church - a part of the Norfolk Mission College existed
and it's the site of now the Blighton Branch Library. I stayed there until the
Booker T. Washington High School was built. And I think, let's see, I graduated
in '25, we moved in there with the first class. I was the 2nd class to graduate
from that school.
Q: Is that right?
A: I think we had one to graduate
in the fall of 1925. There were two graduations, one at mid-year and one in June.
I was in the June class of 1925.
Q: Is there anything else you want
to say about the description of the school?
A: It was very clean,
very clean. It didn't have a library, no library, and no gymnasium. It had a lovely
large auditorium with a projection room, but nothing in it. It had no loud #309
speaking system. That was put in later on. But it's just the bare essentials.
It did have a nice developed industrial shop - teaching what we call slaude which
was woodwork and had a nice developed home economics division. Auto mechanics
shop, drafting department, and I think printing, print shop, and plumbing. Mr.
A. C. taught plumbing, plumbing. All the subjects were taught, even Latin, French,
of course we had Physics, Chemistry and the other routine subjects. We had strong
teachers in all of those departments.
Q: Did your school have a philosophy
or statement? Like, uh, together we stand divided we fall or something or some
kind of statement like that?
A: No, I don't recall any particular
statement of that type. But the "esprit de corps" was . . . Well we cooperated
beautifully. Mr. Douglass, who was the Principal, he was not the first principal,
Winston Douglass was not the first principal. The first principal was Mr. Reynolds,
C. W. Reynolds. Mr. Jacox was never principal of the high school as such. C. W.
Reynolds, he organized the high school and started it, not Jacox. but when they
built the new high school they brought in Reynolds, C. W. Reynolds. He was the
first principal of the new high school. Jacox handled the old high school that
started in the buildings of the Norfolk Mission College. The principal under whom
I worked, who was Mr. Douglass, he was the third person there. I don't recall
any particular philosophy other than. . .
Q: Did you have on that
you went by?
A: Well, I was a Hamptonian. Of course, as a Hamptonian,
we learned that we came out what they say - Booker T. Washington "Hook your wagon
to a star, drop your bucket where you are." That was Booker T. philosophy and
I think it grew out of the Hampton philosophy.
Q: Uh, huh.
A: As a Hamptonian you have to be willing to serve humanity. So, we were
not concerned with what we made, we were concerned about what we were able to
do for the student and the community.
Q: That's beautiful. Most of
my associates, most of the teachers felt that way. That they were there to serve.
A: Uh, huh. And Mr. Douglass was a fine principal in that he did not, uh,
uh, impose his views upon you. He was, he was a scholarly man, but he gave you
full freedom to work in the school. And as long as the program was in the area
of up building. Uh, he went right along with you. He wanted the students to have
the opportunity to experience the best things that we could offer them in every
field. He got the National Honor Society there, and he allowed Mr. Perry to move
into that area when Westinghouse was able to get scholarships for students. He
was interested in that type of thing. He'd let the teachers do whatever was necessary
to enrich the programs of the school.
Q: So you had just about the
freedom to discipline the way you felt, to teach the way.
I, for instance I was primarily concerned with discipline. Now when I first became
Assistant Principal I was very much concerned -there were no guidelines given
me. See, they didn't have Assistant Principals in schools anyway, so we had to
make our jobs. And so at first I was concerned about trying to satisfy the teacher.
Then I realized this, if they could have handled the situation they wouldn't have
brought it to me.
A: Therefore, I tried
to handle it in the best way I thought it should be managed, so that the student
would learn something - the teacher would see something. Now if it was that way
a teacher would be embarrassed then I allowed him or her to work with me to make
the proper adjustment. But then, when it was left entirely to me, then I did what
I thought was the right thing to do. The student always knew if he was in the
wrong, he was in trouble.
Q: So that was understood?
That was understood! No question, uh, if a teacher in the system or regardless
of whether it was your teacher or not, but that teacher had the right to speak
to you about something you were doing. You couldn't move and continue doing that.
You were in trouble that you didn't obey that teacher regardless of the fact that
she wasn't your teacher. It had nothing to do with it. She was an authoritarian
- representative. She had the authority to tell you to stop. If you were doing
something wrong and therefore you were in deep trouble with me. And they soon
found that out. And I let the parents know that also. Uh, you see students weren't
sent to school to be sent to the office. They got to the office as a result of
something they had precipitated. I didn't go looking for them. And one day I had
a woman to say to me, you sent my son home for chewing gum. That was a little
thing in her mind, but he was a persistent gum-chewer. which made him an insubordinate
person. You see what I mean?
- Q: I see, I see.
A: If you were told not to chew gum and you persisted in doing it, the gum
act is of no consequence the fact is that you were insubordinate. You didn't obey
and we can't work with you. And that was my attitude. I still had the parents'
understanding on it.
Q: Take it or leave it. That's the way it is?
A: That's it!
Q: And did that, by being that way, recognizing
that when the student would not obey, that you couldn't teach them anything if
they wouldn't obey.
A: That's right!
Q: Is that how the
environment was conducive for learning?
A: It was much better.
Q: Much better for learning.
Q: Isn't that
something? Did you have to use disciplinary action often? Or was it just.
A: No, not too often. For instance, we had an instance where -well this is
just a general routine type of thing. They had during the morning hour what they
called one of those things - career day a thing of that type, and things are in
a huddle there are things moving freely. Well after recess we went back into the
routine. One day the guidance counselor came to me, she came to me and said Mr.
R. I can't get these children off the hall. They're all over there on the intermediate
side just carrying on. I said O. K., I'll see about it. I came out of my office.
they could see through the auditorium door me coming out of the office. So, rather
than going directly through I went around that would give them a little chance
to clear the hall. By the time I got over there everything was cleared up. (Laugh)
Q: My goodness!
A: That's the kind of relationship I had
with the students when it came to discipline.
Q: Umph. Did you have
anything to do with setting up programs, learning programs, or curriculum?
A: No, that was done by the principal; not primarily by me, but the principal,
Mr. Douglass. Cooperatively we'd do some things like that. Primarily he would
set the tone of the school and I kept things in order.
Q: Oh, you
kept things in order?
A: Uh, huh. Of course when we got a music teacher
I gave up the music program because that was his job.
Q: And that
left you more time for ...?
A: For my other activities. I did work
with the scheduling, however.
A: And when I got
to the junior high side, working with Mr. Green that along with the clerk, the
head clerk of the junior high at Ruffner that was turned over entirely to me and
Mrs. Griffin who was the Chief Clerk. That's when they instituted the data processing
system of setting up schedules. And I worked primarily with setting up schedules
for the school.
Q: What techniques did you use? Were you more an example
for the other teachers or did you demand that they discipline the children the
way you felt, or did you just more or less leave it up to them?
Well I had very little trouble with a lot of discipline from teachers. They were
able to handle their own work. Just rare cases came to me. Uh, in our faculty
meetings we would discuss problems and I would announce my belief as how they
would work and there was some areas I wouldn't expect a teacher to go look up
a student. Particularly if it were a woman teacher. Now men, I didn't make any
allowance for them. If you had a student and that student was in a slum areas
rough area, you, as a man could go there as well as I could. And one teacher complained
about it. I said that that was one of the job hazards. I think he caught the message.
You can't hide behind the fact that it's a rough neighbor hood. I'd let a woman
do that but I wouldn't expect a man to do that. I did have to check on attendance
and call the teachers' attention to the fact that some student should be looked
Q: At Ruffner were you in the same sort of position?
A: Same position.
and activities for the school - presiding at programs, making the comments and
what not. In fact the students preferred that I do it than Mr. Douglass.
Q: O. K. Was there any procedure or technique that you used that didn't work?
A: I don't think there were, because I tried to
be humanistic. What you call human-related with student not vain - minded. You
know, some teachers - that's the rule. I give you an example. There was a student
(I don't want to call his name) but any way, he came from the neighborhood #071
of the school. A lot of boys right here in the neighborhood of the school, but
they wouldn't go to school they'd hang out on the corner. But this youngster did
come to school, but he was late frequently. Now I could send a student home for
being excessively late and what not and some students I would cause there was
no excuse for it. And other students if I send them home it didn't make any difference
to him that's a good excuse for him to stay home. So, that's the way I had to
handle the situation. Now I had one instance when I sent the student home for
something and this teacher came and asked me. I don't mind calling her name -did
you send such and such student home? I said yes. She said well go back and get
him. Who in that household will bring him back to school. And I thought about
that. And I did exactly what she told me to do. We talk about that now.
Q: Is that right?
A: Uh huh. See she brought that to my mind she
said Mr. R. who in that house will bring him back? They don't care that he's out
of school. And don't you send any student of mine home without letting me know.
(Laughter) And I took it in good faith cause I knew she was interested in the
student. So why would I be disturbed about it? I had one teacher come down, she
was trying to get me told about something and it was at the beginning of the day.
I said are you aware of the fact that you have about 35 students upstairs waiting
for you? That's the only think I asked her. I didn't give her the satisfaction
for what she was trying to fuss with me about. I just asked her, where is your
first attention? Your class is waiting for you and that was the end of that.
Q: So your technique was to be concerned about the human aspect.
A: Getting along with people rather than this is the rule. That's it getting along
with people. You had to work in a situation that you know uh, if you do that it
might hurt the students, it might not but you had to be aware of who you're working
with and why you'd do certain things. As long as I could justify why I did it
I didn't worry about it.
Q: Is that right?
A: That's right! In the
final analysis if you could have handled it you wouldn't have sent him to me.
Q: That's true! You said you were involved in the musical choral group
and basketball coach.
A: Well in North Carolina I had a basketball
but we didn't have anyone to play. But we played one game and I won that game.
I'm batting a thousand percent! (Laughter) My classmate was in Goldsboro and I
was in Warsaw, and I went up to Goldsboro (fellow's name is George Clark. He got
lost in the Army. He was an Army officer. He got lost and they never found him.)
and I went to play his team and won the game. I had a boy's team and a girl's
team. The girl's team played as rough as the boys. They practiced together out
on an outdoor court. And the girls used the boy's rules. We had a good time.
Q: So you didn't play basketball at Hampton.
A: No I had never
Q: Is that right? Were there any other community
activities you were involved in?
A: No, not as such. I did work with
the Boy Scouts in Norfolk. Most of my work was in school with the choral club
and various activities like dramatics - things of that type. Ms. _____ who handled
the Dramatics Club worked close with me in the music area and Mrs.______. Mr.
_____ who formerly had the choral club and gave it up but came down to assist
me. But I had excellent students that were very good. Gilbert Black was an excellent
pianist and could take a difficult number like "Heavens Are Telling." We didn't
have but 4 copies so we had to teach the children by rote. See? And they learned
quickly and uh, we had to build up the male group. Any football player that showed
an interest, I encouraged him to join in the team and as a result we got a lot
of fellows in the dramatic-choral group. And Ms. Fortune knew the score of the
"Heavens Are Telling" without her piece of music. So she said Mr. R. you need
that. Take the music, I know it. We gave H. S. P. and some of the soloists I didn't
have to work with. Ms. Jones she taught English at the college over there, she
left Norfolk, she was a good pianist and she would work with the students on solo
parts. And she would come get me - Mr. R. come listen to this. I'd work with the
choruses and we did a very successful job. And our industrial art department.
Mr. S. built the ship and all the things that were necessary. Just before we went
on stage he'd put the last nail in something. (Laugh) Brickers was the dramatic
part of it and she'd ask how things were. We just worked that way with each other
to make the students have a whole life and some of our students have gone into
that field because what they did with us, made a life work of it. I had a girl's
group called the C. Mills Quartet. They would take any music I had and arrange
it for themselves. Any music. And a young man came through Norfolk from Hampton
Institute and he was a very accomplished pianist, although he had one of the girls
in the group playing the piano.
Q: What do you think teachers expected
of you in your position?
A: They expected me to support them in the
things they were doing that were right. And to discipline the students in such
a way that they can work in their classroom and not be disturbed. They expected
that. They never were fearful of saying anything to me about the school program
or policy to me or the principal himself. Because I never was divorced from them
as a person. They could be very free and come to me and talk about how they felt
about certain things. It was confidential and I kept it! There were enough other
people that would rat to the principal about things I didn't have to do that and
Douglas never asked me. No principal never asked me anything about a teacher.
To think that I had to tell them something about a teacher. I had good relationships
with principals. Uh, they felt that if I did it, it would be all right. 'Cause
I wasn't working for their job. That's one thing they did know I wasn't trying
to take their job. As someone says, I wasn't a little mouse hoping to become a
Q: That's pretty good! Well what do you think teachers expect
principals to be like?
A: I think they expect principals to be fair,
to be scholarly, and understanding of a school program. The emphasis there, and
I think Douglass and I had the feeling, if a thing is done it must not stand as
what I have done, but what we did in the school.
Q: I see. That makes
a difference doesn't it?
A: What we did - I think that was our philosophy,
generally. After all is done and I lead you to do it, we did do it.
That's true. You can't do it by yourself.
A: And I didn't even try
to do it by myself. I was there to work with you and you work with me. So I had
a really beautiful relationship with most of the teachers and principals.
Q: How did you get to be that way? Was that just your manner? Was there a particular
- you said something about people being able to come and talk to you . . .
A: It grew up in my family. My mother was one who could sit for hours and
listen to someone. All you'd hear her say was Uh huh - Oh, you did you say. Give
plenty your ear, but few - that is don't do a lot of talking. And if you say anything
be sure you don't mind the other person hearing it. It's the things I would tell
you to your teeth, so that you'd understand. It's nothing vicious. My father wasn't
a vicious type of person. He was a very understanding and very kind person. I
grew up in a household in which as parents they seemed to know how to deal with
children. We couldn't play one against the other. Mother told us something to
be done no need to take it to Popa cause he was going to say what did your mother
say? And when he knew we were trying to play one against the other we were in
trouble, deep trouble.
Q: What is your philosophy of teaching?
A: I don't think you should go into teaching unless you love it. Love the
work. I think it's a work that requires that you give a lot of yourself. And if
you're just a person who feels that just what the book, has is the most important
thing sometimes there's something of you that will be a little more important
than the book has. In some instances. You ought to know the facts that's true.
The facts ought to have some relationship with life and you as a person. I don't
know if I'm making a whole lot of sense.
Q: I see what you're saying
- that makes sense. We have more to offer than book knowledge. In order to get
along with people you gotta know more than theory you gotta be able to relate.
How do you view leadership?
A: I think leaders ought to one that evolve.
Lots of people want to be leaders, but they not necessarily have the qualities
of leadership. I don't know how I think about that. I had the opportunity to tell
them - they were considering the replacement of Mr. Douglass - I thought the principal
of Booker T. Washington the job ought to seek the man and not the man the job,
and I told the principal that. I told the Superintendent, I mean, that I didn't
make application for the job.
Q: Why was that?
I didn't want the principalship of Booker T. Washington High School. I never wanted
it. There were too many S.O.B.'s in it, generally. Please excuse the expression
and you have to be one of that type yourself, in a way, to cope with the situation.
People that were back-biting and things of that type. The only thing that worried
me about it was the fact about how would my wife feel about my not getting it.
And when I told her I would not be made the principal, but I would have a job
right on. She said, thank God! Cause she didn't want me to have it. She knew my
personality wasn't the type to deal with that type of thing.
was very nice.
A: I was very happy in being a good assistant principal.
Relieving Mr. Douglass and Mr. Green of a lot of routine things and have the understanding
if it was done by me, then it was done well.
Q: Along that same line,
what is required to be an effective principal or assistant principal?
A: Goes back to being human. Understanding sympathetic with people's needs and
desires to do the right thing. And uh, making it possible for them to do their
best in a situation. I think that enables you to be a good principal and your
school to grow. But to be just dictational and unreasonably stern and unapproachable
and generally disgusting. I was glad about one thing with Mr. Green. He didn't
feel you had to run behind as long as you did your work in school. He didn't feel
you had to run behind as long as you did your work in school. He didn't feel you
had to run behind every new idea that some one enunciated. If you were a part
of it you were great. A lot of that stuff wasn't worth a dime. Now if you wanted
to be a part of it you go on and study that, but he didn't require you as part
of his faculty that you had to go this and you had to go that. And Mr. Douglass
didn't either. He expected you to do a good job where you were and not run behind
every cluck, cluck, cluck, - just to make the school seem as though its forward
going. I didn't have a principal like that. Q: That's great.
A: They changed the intermediate school to the middle school. Now what's
the difference. A rose by any other name would be just as sweet. I think there's
so much foolishness in the school system that it sort of impedes the progress
of the school. This new mathematics that came up and certain types of English
that some teachers had been following all their lives and doing. They didn't
call it what they call it now, but it was being done by the good teachers.
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