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  • Sawyertown (Elizabeth City, NC) is interesting in that on one side of the line was a white neighborhood; the other side was a black neighborhood. And across from my house there was a ball field – a baseball park. The only park in the town at the time. In that park there were two schools, none of which I could attend. But what I could do, I could play in the park – baseball, football… A number of my friends were of the Caucasian race, I mean there was a love between us. We weren’t aware of lots of things that were perhaps very prominent in other regions because when we got in that ballpark everything was all right.

    Now, as time passed, I’d come to Elizabeth City State. One afternoon there was football practice and there were these automobiles which parked at our house from one end of the street to the other. So as I’m walking past this automobile, I notice this textbook is the same textbook I got in college. I reach in this car and pick up this textbook and I say, “I can’t believe this!” I’m trying to find out what grade is this kid in. Well, from what I gather the student was in 11th grade. Well I got this same book in Georgia Long’s classroom over here at the University! I say, “Wait a minute now!” I can’t quite draw this picture out. This doesn’t make sense to me.

    I put the book back, and the wheels started turning. As good as we were treated in the ball park, why has he got the same textbook I’ve got and I’m a college student and he’s a high school student?

    I’d heard these – we’d heard these things. You know, there was always talk about injustice here, and injustice here, and what not. That sparked my interest in – “Let me see what the world is doing. Let me see what’s… Let me start really taking notice.” So what we did was, we stopped, we looked, and we listened, and we tried to find out what we could do.

    We felt like economics was the way to freedom. Easter was a very, very, economically big thing in this town. Everybody take the kids downtown Easter and spend enormous amounts of money. That’s when we decided that we should go to work. And we just shut Elizabeth City down. We shut it down because we sent people to Norfolk, to Newport News, to New York, to shop.

    And the changes happened. I mean, it was apparent. We had clerks in banks – might not been but one or two – we had people in stores and at cash registers- African Americans.

    I was never arrested, through all we did. Had hot water thrown on us, you know, down at Colonial Restaurant. We were fearful. But the good thing about Elizabeth City, it was not as violent.

    But when we started to reach into the pockets, things started happening.
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