There was no Black History Month 1952. It wasn’t canceled, it just didn’t exist yet. 1952 was the birth year of the subject of this interview. He was 12 years old when the Civil Rights Act came into effect. When asked if he remembered the day the Civil Rights Act passed, he couldn’t remember. “No, it was just another day. It takes time.”
“So you didn’t see an instant change?”
“Of course not.”
He goes on to say that he actually moved from the North to the South when he was 12. Back in Michigan, he attended a desegregated school. When he arrived in North Carolina, things were different. Though “Brown v. Board “ was settled by then, his new school was still segregated. Not only were the students all Black: all of his teachers were Black. For the first time in his learning, he said his grades improved.
“Why do you think your grades were better at the segregated school?” He explained that when he lived in the North, he could still only go to the schools that were worse off. In the South, he had teachers who pushed him to focus on getting into college. They were still considered poor schools, but they were often the only places black teachers could teach. When schools finally did desegregate during his senior year of high school, he had his first white teacher. After that, small improvements were made to the school, classrooms and bathrooms were labeled. The quality of the teachers hired seemed to go downhill, however, as that is the year he saw his first drunk teacher.
After high school, he moved to New York, where he saw people hanging around together in interracial groups. The old lines that had been drawn in society were still there, but fading by now. “Eventually I moved to Maine and went to college.” There were a few straggler bigots when he moved here. He eventually married a white woman and had a son. He gave his son the same name his father gave him: Michael. He pointed out that his middle name is the last name of his family’s former slave master, on his mother’s side. Michael Newberry Carlos was a former coach and educator at UMPI.
When asked what he sees as the strongest force affecting race relations today, he said, “Well, the cell phone has sort of leveled the playing field.” He puts out this thought to toss around: “Imagine George Floyd without cell phone footage? Imagine Trayvon Martin with cellphone video?”