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0:00 - Introduction / Growing up in Lancaster county

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Partial Transcript: Tamara Kennelly: So this is April…
Jacquelyn Butler Blackwell: 29th
Kennelly: 29th and we are at Virginia Tech and talking to Jacquelyn Butler Blackwell.
Blackwell: Just call me Jackie

2:27 - Segregation and integration in Lancaster

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Partial Transcript: Kennelly: Where did you go to high school?
Blackwell: Brookvale High School in Lancaster County.

5:10 - Choosing VT / 4-H club

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Partial Transcript: Kennelly: Why did you choose Virginia Tech?
Blackwell: Well I had only heard of Virginia Tech in relation to the Extension Service. I was a big 4-H member, and I had heard of Virginia Polytechnic Institute.

10:40 - Meeting other black women at VT

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Partial Transcript: Kennelly: At that time when you first came how many other black women were here at the time when you first came to Tech?
Blackwell: Well the only ones that I knew were in my dorm, and there were four of us in the dorm.

13:01 - Mixing with students on campus

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Partial Transcript: Kennelly: Were there problems other places?
Blackwell: The only thing was when we would go to the cafeteria, and we had our trays, and we had to pick a table to eat.

18:04 - Lasting connections with roommates

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Partial Transcript: Kennelly: Did you make any friendships with white students at the time, any that have been important to you?
Blackwell: Yes, I have one special friend, a student who was from Christiansburg.

21:56 - Chiquita Hudson

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Partial Transcript: Kennelly: Chiquita Hudson, now where was she from?
Blackwell: Hampton.

24:21 - Interacting with faculty / staff on campus

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Partial Transcript: Kennelly: When you came here, were things the way you thought they would be or were they different?
Blackwell: What things?

28:59 - Social life on campus

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Partial Transcript: Kennelly: What was your social life like?
Blackwell: As far as social life, on the weekends, some of the graduate students-- they had one black graduate student couple here.

31:05 - Forming Angel Flight

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Partial Transcript: Kennelly: Could you explain what Angel Flight is?
Blackwell: Angel Flight is sort of a sister organization to the Air Force ROTC students. We didn't do anything military, anything like that.

34:41 - Dance formals / Eli Blackwell

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Partial Transcript: Kennelly: Did you go to any school dances?
Blackwell: I went to the formals. They were called formals.

40:58 - Summer work / Racial equality overseas

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Partial Transcript: Kennelly: Was your scholarship a four-year scholarship?
Blackwell: Yes, and it paid for basically everything except my books.

47:15 - Racial climate on campus / Picture day

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Partial Transcript: Kennelly: When you were here at school, did it feel like it was kind of removed from the rest of the world?
Blackwell: Well... as I said in our dormitory because then basically we went to class, we came to our dormitory, we went to the cafeteria.

50:15 - Going to church in Blacksburg / Snell family

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Partial Transcript: Kennelly: You said you went with some of the maids to their churches?
Blackwell: Yes.
Kennelly: Do you remember their names?

54:45 - Differences between Lancaster and Blacksburg

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Partial Transcript: Kennelly: When you came here to school, did your parents give you any special kind of advice?
Blackwell: No, just do the best that you can.

58:20 - Shifting from high school to college level courses

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Partial Transcript: Kennelly: Has Lancaster changed much? Is it still rural?
Blackwell: It's rural, but they do have a couple of stop lights now. And they have a McDonald's and a Burger King and a Pizza Hut that they've just built only in the town.

65:16 - Life after Virginia Tech / Conclusion

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Partial Transcript: Kennelly: What happened then when you graduated?
Blackwell: When I graduated from Virginia Tech I got married, and then I went to work for the Virginia Employment Commission in South Boston, Virginia.


Tamara Kennelly: Where are you from originally?

Jacquelyn Butler Blackwell: Lancaster County, Virginia

Kennelly: Did you grow up there?

Blackwell: Yes.

Kennelly: Do you have any brothers or sisters?

Blackwell: I have one younger brother and one younger sister.

Kennelly: Did they go to college too?

Blackwell: My sister went for two years, and my brother didn't go.

Kennelly: Where did your sister go?

Blackwell: To Virginia State in Petersburg.

Kennelly: Did your parents go to college?

Blackwell: No.

Kennelly: So you were the first one in your family to go?

Blackwell: Yes.

Kennelly: Did your mother work when you were growing up?

Blackwell: Yes.

Kennelly: What did she do?


Blackwell: She was a seamstress. She worked in a sewing plant.

Kennelly: Where was that?

Blackwell: In Lancaster County, Virginia.

Kennelly: What was it called?

Blackwell: (Laughing) I can't remember.

Kennelly: What about your father?

Blackwell: He was a barber, and he did some farming too.

Kennelly: Farming?

Blackwell: Yes.

Kennelly: What does he farm?

Blackwell: Soybeans, corn. I think that's basically it.

Kennelly: Did you grow up on a farm?

Blackwell: It wasn't a big farm, but it was a farm. We had chickens and cows and horses and vegetables, things like that.

Kennelly: Did you have to help?

Blackwell: Well, I didn't help that much. Except in the fall when they had corn planted, I picked the corn, and if there were any corn left in the field, my father would gather up the children in the neighborhood, and they would go pick the corn up out the field, but that's about basically all I did.

Kennelly: What about your mother? Did she help?

Blackwell: Yes.

Kennelly: So your father was doing both things?

Blackwell: Well see, we lived next door to my grandmother, my great grandmother, 2:00and great grandfather, so it was a whole family thing. And he had his brothers and sisters there to help him, and we were about the third generation, so we didn't do too much.

Kennelly: So there was like four generations of family all living there?

Blackwell: Yes, not in the same house but close by.

Kennelly: Where did you go to high school?

Blackwell: Brookvale High School in Lancaster County.

Kennelly: Was that a very big high school?

Blackwell: Not too big. We had about fifty kids in my graduating high school class.

Kennelly: And was that an integrated class?

Blackwell: No, the first integrated class was when I came here.

Kennelly: That you've been to?

Blackwell: Yes.

Kennelly: So not in elementary either?

Blackwell: No.

Kennelly: So when you were growing up in Lancaster, were things pretty separated?

Blackwell: Yes, completely separated. Well, the county is not that big, but we had one white high school and one black high school, and the elementary the same way.


Kennelly: And were there any places where the kids would end up mixing?

Blackwell: No.

Kennelly: Like for recreation or anything?

Blackwell: No.

Kennelly: Was there a swimming pool or anything like that?

Blackwell: No, nothing. It was a rural area.

Kennelly: There weren't like parks or something where everyone could get together?

Blackwell: No.

Kennelly: So pretty much just the school was the--

Blackwell: --thing, the center of activity.

Kennelly: So did you have contact with white people when you were growing up?

Blackwell: Yes, not socially. The first job I ever had was as a baby sitter, and I baby sat for this white family. But other than that, I knew a couple of kids that weren't too far from where I lived, but that was basically it. In fact, 4:00when I came to Virginia Tech as a freshman, there were two other students (I found out after I got here) from Lancaster County, and we didn't know each other. But we were all in the freshman class together.

Kennelly: Two other white students?

Blackwell: Yes.

Kennelly: So what happened when you were all together? Were they girls or boys?

Blackwell: They were boys. I didn't know them personally, but I knew of them, that they were here. Only because when I went home, my father told me so-and-so was here because he knew his family. And then, I knew one because someone in the Corps of Cadets told me that someone there was from Lancaster too.

Kennelly: So you never actually ran into each other?

Blackwell: No, but I knew that they were here after I got here.

Kennelly: In your father's barber business, were there white and black people 5:00that would go to that?

Blackwell: No, just black.

Kennelly: Things were pretty much separated?

Blackwell: Yes.

Kennelly: Why did you choose Virginia Tech?

Blackwell: Well I had only heard of Virginia Tech in relation to the Extension Service. I was a big 4-H member, and I had heard of Virginia Polytechnic Institute. But I never even considered coming here as a college. Then in my junior year one student from my school came up here in regard to the Home Economics Department. She came back to my school and said how beautiful it was, and how nice everybody was and everything, and that it was really a great school. But I still didn't decide to come here. When I graduated, I was given a $4,000 scholarship.

Kennelly: Who gave you that?

Blackwell: Rockefeller, it was a John D. Rockefeller scholarship, but it was from Virginia Tech, through Virginia Tech.

Kennelly: And how did you get that?

Blackwell: I can't remember exactly how I got it. I just knew I got it. I had 6:00considered going to a small college in Rhode Island that had offered me a scholarship also. But it cost more to go there, and the scholarship wasn't as large. I figured it would be better for me to come here, but I didn't decide to come here until just before it was time to start school. It started in September then instead of in August as it does now. And I think it wasn't until August that I made up my mind to come here. That's how I happened to get here.

Kennelly: Were you sort of being actively recruited then?

Blackwell: I don't think so. I don't know. It came through the guidance department or our homeroom teacher. I was the valedictorian of my class, but 7:00don't remember the logistics of how I got the scholarship. I just know that I did get it. That was one of the considerations that I used to decide to come here.

Kennelly: So you had never visited here before you came.

Blackwell: No, the very first day I saw Virginia Tech was the day I had to move in. I had never been here before that day.

Kennelly: Had you talked to your roommate before you came?

Blackwell: No, no, I hadn't talked to her. We saw each other for the first time that day.

Kennelly: Who brought you over here?

Blackwell: My mother and father.

Kennelly: Can you kind of take yourself back to that time and just talk about how it felt to you when you came?

Blackwell: Well when I was coming up here, I was just excited about getting to college, and then I got here. I arrived first before my roommate did. I think I was met downstairs and given a key. Then I came upstairs, and I moved into the room. I was fine as long as my parents were here. When they left, I felt very 8:00lonely. But I didn't feel sad or anything. Then my roommate came, and she was excited about moving in. She came with her mother, and I think with her mother, father, and her little sister. And then we just moved in.

Kennelly: Who was your roommate?

Kennelly: I just want to backtrack before we go on. I wondered what you had done with the extension? You said that--

Blackwell: Oh, I said that that's how I knew about V. P. I. It was with the 4-H. 9:00In the rural areas of Virginia, there are 4-H clubs where you do different things like sewing, cooking, many things. The 4-H is like a club, and Virginia Tech sponsors them. Actually, through the Extension Service I did a lot of work with that. I just knew that all the materials that I received came from up here. That was all I knew about Virginia Tech. Basically, the only description I had of it was from that student who I told you had come up here for a conference or something like that.

Kennelly: And that wasn't a student who ended up coming here?

Blackwell: Yes, she came the year after I did. She was an underclassman at my school.

Kennelly: What was her name?

Blackwell: Portia Carter.

Kennelly: How long were you involved with the 4-H?

Blackwell: From about fourth grade through high school.

Kennelly: You really kept at it. You were doing like projects, homemaking things, sewing?

Blackwell: Back when I was in elementary school, the extension agents used to 10:00come into the schools, and the teachers would allot them a certain amount of time to talk to the students. And then if there were other projects that the extension agents wanted you to do, we would do them after school or on the weekend. They had summer camp and things like that. It was just an outlet or something to do because we didn't have that many things to do.

Kennelly: Is that one of the main social things that when you were growing up that you would do?

Blackwell: Yes.

Kennelly: At that time when you first came how many other black women were here at the time when you first came to Tech?

Blackwell: Well the only ones that I knew were in my dorm, and there were four of us in the dorm. That was it. Then we found out there were two others at Hillcrest. And that was all that I knew.

Kennelly: Who were the other two in your dorm?

Blackwell: Chiquita Hudson and Linda Adams.


Kennelly: So you just kind of ran into each other and realized that you were all there together?

Blackwell: Yes, and then after that we started doing things together because we sort of grouped together. The four of us were very close. Linda Edmonds and Fredi Hairston lived up in Hillcrest, so we didn't see them that often. In my curriculum, I didn't see them because they were all in different curriculums. So I didn't see them in class or anything like that. But the four of us in Eggleston saw each other constantly because Chiquita and Linda lived on the first floor, and Marguerite, which we called Chick, and I lived on the second floor.

Kennelly: So Marguerite was Chick?

Blackwell: Yes.


Kennelly: What field were you in when you came up here?

Blackwell: When I started, I was in biology. My roommate was in history, Chiquita was in aerospace engineering, and Linda downstairs was in statistics. I think Linda Edmonds was in home economics, and Fredi was in math, I think.

Kennelly: One of the women, I think, Linda Adams, was she a transfer student?

Blackwell: Yes, she came from Clifton Forge Community College. I think near Covington.

Kennelly: So she was actually a junior then. Maybe?

Blackwell: Yes, she was a junior. The rest of us were freshmen.

Kennelly: How were the other girls in the dorm to you?

Blackwell: We basically knew who was on our floor. We had two sections of the second floor, and we were on the end next to the library here. We basically knew everybody on that end of the hall. The girls in the dorm were fine. We were all friends and everything. So I never had any problems at all in the dorm.


Kennelly: Were there problems other places?

Blackwell: The only thing was when we would go to the cafeteria, and we had our trays, and we had to pick a table to eat. Sometimes when we sat at the table, the students at the table would get up and move to another table. That was about it. That's the only negative thing that I can remember that's really vivid in my mind. And that was only like when we first got here, the first year.

Kennelly: How did that make you feel when that happened?

Blackwell: Sad, I guess.

Kennelly: When you were eating, was that mixed, men and women?

Blackwell: Yes. At that time, Owens Hall had four lunch rooms, and that was our dining hall. It was the dining hall for all the dormitories except the students that lived on Upper Quad. So we all ate in there--boys, girls, and everybody.


Kennelly: Were there a lot more boys than girls then anyway?

Blackwell: Yes. When we first got here, there were 500 girls on campus total. I think there were 10,000 students at the time.

Kennelly: That was the place where anything happened. How did it work in going to classes?

Blackwell: I don't remember any incidents or anything in class.

Kennelly: In your classes, were you the only woman in the class? Were there many women in the classes with you?

Blackwell: There were many women in the class with me, but most of the time I was the only black one in the class.

Kennelly: You were the only one in sociology. Did you end up talking to other students in the class?


Blackwell: Basically, whenever I was sitting with students nearby, I would find out who they were, and sometimes we'd study together or things like that. I couldn't find any difference in the class than it would have been at any other school or in high school or in anything. The students, once they got to know you, were fine. At first, they might stare at you sometimes, but once you interacted with the students, then race or color wasn't important. It didn't seem like it mattered at all.

Kennelly: Did you feel like people were coming with stereotypes or some kind of assumptions?

Blackwell: Yes, I did. A lot of times they had preconceived ideas. And as they got to know us, then they lost those ideas because they would ask us about certain things. We would tear down a lot of the stereotypes that they had had.

Kennelly: What kind of stereotypes would they have that weren't valid?

Blackwell: They didn't basically have to do with education. For instance, as you 16:00will notice, as soon as it gets warm, the students go outside to sunbathe, and the girls on our hall, my roommate especially, would be kidding with them all the time, and she would take her watch off, and she would say, "Look at my suntan." Then the white girls in the dorm would say, "Well I didn't know that black people could receive a suntan." Stuff like that. And that's basically it. Of course one of our biggest problems was with our hair. Because when white people's hair get wet, it just goes straight. Well when black people's hair gets wet, it just bushes up. That would amaze them a lot, how thick our hair could get when it was wet. I don't remember any particular other things.


Kennelly: I think there was about 25 black guys?

Blackwell: Actually, when we came in as freshmen, there were 6 girls and 20 boys. The year before my husband came. He was from Southill, Virginia and his roommate from Roanoke. They were here the year before we were.

Kennelly: So, did you get to know the boys that were here pretty soon?

Blackwell: Yes. The reason is when we went to the cafeteria we sort of stood out in the cafeteria, so it was easy to pick everybody out. Therefore, not very long after we got here, we knew who everybody was. There were some boys on the upper quad; we didn't see them as much. But on the lower quad, we all ate in the same cafeteria.

Kennelly: Did you tend to get together?


Blackwell: Yes.

Kennelly: Did you make any friendships with white students at the time, any that have been important to you?

Blackwell: Yes, I have one special friend, a student who was from Christiansburg. She left--I don't know whether it was one or two years before I did, but we've maintained contact. She came to my wedding, and now they are missionaries in Uganda of all places. And we still keep in contact. Chick and I were only roommates for a year, a year and a half. Then I had two white roommates after that. My second roommate was a transfer student also. We were 19:00very good friends. She didn't graduate from here. She left before she graduated, but she lives near Washington, D. C. now, and we still communicate sometimes. I had another very good friend here, who lives near Lexington/Buena Vista, but we've lost contact since we left school.

Kennelly: Do you miss her?

Blackwell: Yes.

Kennelly: What happened to Chick--Marguerite? Did she leave school?

Blackwell: No, she graduated the same year I did. She was from Virginia Beach, Virginia, and I live in Portsmouth now which is very close to Virginia Beach. She was in my wedding also. Since then, I have only seen her twice. It just happened that we ran into each other at the mall. I don't know where she is now. I think she lives in North Carolina.

Kennelly: No, but I mean, you said you weren't roommates the second year?

Blackwell: We had conflicting personalities. Another thing was that she started 20:00smoking, and I don't like smoking. She met another friend that they were closer together in personalities, so they moved in together, and I moved in with someone else.

Kennelly: Did she move in with a white student then?

Blackwell: Yes.

Kennelly: Did you meet someone that you got along with and moved in with that person too or were you just assigned to somebody?

Blackwell: No. The whole first year, she and I were roommates. Then the second year we were roommates for the first semester. The second semester I had the room by myself, and I really liked that. Then the third year Nancy and I, that was the girl from Northern Virginia who was a transfer student, met each other in class my sophomore year. We decided we would room together the next year. So we started off as roommates my third year, but she decided to leave school. I think she got married or something. She moved out West, and she left. So when Nancy left, Susie who lived on my hall couldn't get along with her roommate, so 21:00she asked me if she could move in with me. She moved in with me, and we were roommates until I left school.

Kennelly: I heard, maybe it was from Linda Edmonds, that one of the girls who first came here had been assigned a white roommate and there was some problem with that?

Blackwell: I don't know about that. That may have happened in her dorm because she lived in Hillcrest.

Kennelly: Chiquita Hudson, now where was she from?

Blackwell: Hampton.


Kennelly: And she was sick at the time?

Blackwell: Yes.

Kennelly: Did she know she was?

Blackwell: Yes.

Kennelly: Terminally ill?

Blackwell: I think so because she had special arrangements at the infirmary I think they were made before she got here. They had been alerted that she had some type of illness, and whenever she got sick, they would send her to the infirmary. When I said "whenever she got sick," I should say weak because she had to be very cautious about catching colds and stuff like that. I don't remember exactly what she had, but I know that when she wasn't sick, she was just like the rest of us, full of energy. She had a lot of energy, but many times she had to go to the infirmary for weeks at a time.

Kennelly: Hard to keep up with everything. Did she make it through that whole year?

Blackwell: Yes, she made it through the first year.

Kennelly: Then when did she die?

Blackwell: I think it was like in July, right after freshman year.

Kennelly: So did you go to that funeral?


Blackwell: Yes. I was in summer school that summer. I decided to stay up here because I wanted to get ahead, so I stayed after that my freshman year, and I went to summer school, and I worked in the microbiology department that summer. Maugerite was the one that called me and told me that she had died, so Linda Adams and I went with Fredi's father from Roanoke because Fredi lived in Roanoke. And I think he came up here and got us, and he drove us all down to Hampton to the funeral.

Kennelly: Did Tech acknowledge the death at all, as far as you know?

Blackwell: Not that I know.

Kennelly: I looked in the yearbook. I didn't see any kind of "in memoriam" or anything. Do you know where her family is?

Blackwell: I don't know.


Kennelly: When you came here, were things the way you thought they would be or were they different?

Blackwell: What things?

Kennelly: Just anything that you think of.

Blackwell: I just--the only thing that I thought about when I came here was that it was a beautiful place. Because this was the first time that--Lancaster is right on the coast on the Atlantic Ocean, I mean down that way, and I had never been in the mountains before. So it was a whole new experience for me as far as the appearance of the school. I was just so gungho on getting a college education; that was all I was concerned about, so other things didn't really affect me that much.

Kennelly: Did you work the first year? Did you have a job?


Blackwell: I had a work-study job, I'm not sure whether I started the first year or the second year. But it was at night. I was the night monitor at Hillcrest. I would sit at the desk, because back then the girls had to sign in and out. After a certain time of day, you had to sign in and out. So I had that job until I left here. I would go up there, I think it was only two nights a week, and I would sit there until about 11:00, and then the house mother up there would drive me back down to Eggleston.

Kennelly: What about as far as dealing with administrators or faculty, was that just ordinary? I mean, did you feel you had to deal with any assumptions or stereotypes on the part of other people here besides the students?

Blackwell: I don't feel that way. The only class I might have felt something like that was in one of my science classes. I thought, it just crossed my mind 26:00that maybe he had some preconceived ideas about me, but in my other classes I don't think so. Because I was helped by a lot of the faculty members here. Specifically, there was a Dr. Joachim Bruhn in the foreign language department. He was really helpful to me, and then Dr. James Highlander was in the sociology department. He was one of the main reasons why I switched over to sociology because I took a couple of his classes, and I was really impressed by him. So I decided to switch over.

When I first got here, there was a Dr. Guy Carta who was my faculty advisor in biology, and he was real nice. When my grades were falling, and he thought they were falling too low, he would call me in and counsel me and tell me things that I could to improve. Also he always told me if I had any problems, I could come and talk to him. In the dorm, we had a house mother and a graduate student that was in charge of the girls there in the dorm. I didn't detect anything from them 27:00at all. They were always there to help you no matter who you were. And if you were wrongly doing something, they would reprimand you for doing that. Because then we had weekly room checks. You had to keep your room clean. They would come by and check or if anything that they didn't find befitting a Tech lady at that time they would tell you. I don't remember any type of discrimination or anything from the faculty.

Kennelly: Do you remember who the house mother was?

Blackwell: I can't remember the house mother's name, but I know that the graduate student's last name was--I think her name was Carol Amato.

Kennelly: I think Linda Edmonds said that she actually knew President Hahn?

Blackwell: Oh yes. Well I didn't know him, but the very first week that we were here he invited us all up to his house. It wasn't just us. It was all the 28:00freshmen students on campus. He invited us all to his house for tea and cookies that first week. I don't know if I ever saw him after that. But we always knew that he was president, and I just had a nice memory of him. And I was sorry that he got ill and passed away or something like that or moved on?

Kennelly: I think he's still around.

Blackwell: But he invited us all to his house. It was down by the duck pond--he used to live down there. He might not have lived there, but he worked there. It was called the President's House.

Kennelly: What was your social life like?


Blackwell: As far as social life, on the weekends, some of the graduate students-- they had one black graduate student couple here. I think her husband went to school here, and she was just here because her husband went here--would have us over to their house sometimes on the weekend and have a party or something like that.

Kennelly: Did they have all the black students over?

Blackwell: Yes.

Kennelly: Who was that?

Blackwell: His name was Richard Valentine, I think. I can't remember what his wife's name was right now. Then it just so happened that--

Kennelly: He was the only graduate student at the time?

Blackwell: No, he wasn't the only one. There was another student in the chemistry department, but I can't remember what his name was. Then in our dorm, there were some maids, and they were black maids, and we just sort of talked to them and found out who they were. And they would invite us over to her house or 30:00to their church on the weekend.

Other than that, I was involved with the formation of Angel Flight, the very first Angel Flight that was here on campus. At the time, I thought I might go into the Air Force, so I was involved in planning the conception of that with one group of the Air Force ROTC cadets that were on upper quad. The sponsor, sorry I can't remember his name, but he lived somewhere out in the community. He would invite us to his house for like volleyball, a cookout, and stuff like that. So I was involved in that.

Kennelly: Now was that a black person or a white person?

Blackwell: It was a white person. In fact, I was the only black person in Angel Flight. They have a picture of that somewhere on campus because I saw it once. It was of the very first members of that group. We weren't very big, maybe 10 or 31:0015 students.

Kennelly: Could you explain what Angel Flight is?

Blackwell: Angel Flight is sort of a sister organization to the Air Force ROTC students. We didn't do anything military, anything like that. But we had a blue jumper with a white blouse, and we had a blue cape. And the Air Force actually gave us buttons and stuff.

Blackwell: Another school had to initiate us into the Angel Flight. They had special speakers to come in and talk to us. And it was more social than military. But once a week we would go up to--because back then we thought it was a real privilege to go on upper quad because we weren't allowed up there all the time. It was just for the cadets. They lived up there exclusive; there were no civilians up there. So on Thursday we got to eat in Shultz with some members from the Air Force. The Air Force had a brother organization. I can't remember 32:00what it was called now, but they had their organization, and the girls were called Angel Flight. We would meet on Thursdays, and we would go sometimes to Shultz like I said to eat dinner with the brother group up there, or we would go out to the sponsor's house and do things out there.

Kennelly: So in those situations, was it mixed, black and white as far as eating together and all that? When you'd go up and eat dinner at Shultz?

Blackwell: Well when we went up to eat in Shultz, we ate as a group.

Kennelly: All the Angel Flight girls would be together?

Blackwell: Yes. We would eat with the group, the male group. I can't remember what they were called now, but we would all eat together.

Kennelly: So it was just like a real social kind of thing?

Blackwell: Yes.


Kennelly: We'll have to find some pictures of that. Do you think they might have them over at the Corps?

Blackwell: I don't know where they would be now. I know it was with the Air Force ROTC.

Kennelly: So you were a person who helped organize that here?

Blackwell: Yes. We had ranks just like in the Air Force. There was one girl that was the major. I think her name was Janice Lloyd. I was next, captain. And we were in the very first one that was formed because we had to read charters and everything and how it was done. It had to be done according to certain rules and regulations and everything.

Kennelly: So you were really taking a leadership role in putting that together?

Blackwell: Yes.

Kennelly: And then how did you recruit people to be involved in this?

Blackwell: They had to apply. They had to apply to become members, and then they went through a period of things they had to do. It was not an initiation like you see in some of the fraternities and sororities, but they had to have character and things like this. They would maybe go through an interview or 34:00something. They had to perform service, and then at the end of the period, the male group and the girl group would vote on whether they could come into that organization. I wish I could remember their names. I can't remember what the boys were called.

Kennelly: None of the other, of this group of six women, none of the other women pursued that? That was something you did on your own, that you were interested in?

Blackwell: Yes.

Kennelly: Were you politically active in any way?

Blackwell: No.

Kennelly: Did you go to any school dances?

Blackwell: I went to the formals. They were called formals. Back then we had spring formals, and winter formals, and Ring Dance. I went to all of those. They were big events when we were here.


Kennelly: Where you wear long dresses?

Blackwell: Yes, I think formals were two nights. On the first night you wore long dresses; on the second night you wore short dresses or cocktail dresses.

Kennelly: Did all the girls go?

Blackwell: No, not everyone. Linda Adams was very very religious, and she didn't do many things that the rest of us did because it was against her religion.

Kennelly: What about the other four girls then?

Blackwell: Yes. The only other person that I remember is my roommate, Chick, and I went. I know we went together sometimes with our dates, went to the same one. As far as Linda and Fredi are concerned, I don't know whether they went, but I know Chic and I did. And as far as Chiquita and Linda, I don't think that they went. I don't know. I know Linda didn't. Whether Chiquita went that first year I 36:00can't remember.

Kennelly: You just dance with black guys, and did you dance with the white guys too?

Blackwell: We basically danced with the person that we went there with.

Kennelly: Just your date?

Blackwell: Yes.

Kennelly: Were you dating your husband [Eli Blackwell] at the time?

Blackwell: Yes, well toward the second year. We started dating the second year.

Kennelly: What field is your husband in?

Blackwell: Mechanical engineering.

Kennelly: Did you say that your daughter is also pursuing mechanical engineering?

Blackwell: Yes.

Kennelly: Was there much political going on here at that time?

Blackwell: Well at that time, the Vietnam War was going on. So there were alot of demonstrations and things on the drillfield. Because when we were here, the drillfield was our center of activity. Everything was around the drillfield. But 37:00I didn't get involved with any of what was going on, so I don't really know what was going on out there.

Kennelly: What about your husband? What kind of background did he come from? Where did he come from?

Blackwell: He grew up in Lawrenceville, Virginia which is in the middle part of the state, right on the North Carolina border. That's a tobacco belt, and they had to work very hard. He grew up in a farming community. Even sometimes when the crop would come in they would have to get out of school to go and help reap the crops. So he had a very hard life, I think, harder than mine. Because my father did some farming, but it wasn't like his whole thing. That was their whole life. They planted tobacco, picked the tobacco, took it to market, all 38:00that sort of things. He has told me stories of how hard that was. Because I think they had to check each leaf or something like that.

He is the oldest in his family as I am in mine. My sister only finished two years of college, and my brother didn't go to college. His sister, who comes after him, is a lieutenant colonel in the Army, and his next brother is finishing his residency as a cardiac surgeon. He has another brother who's in the Army and then another one who lives next to his mother.

Kennelly: How did he happen to choose Tech? Do you know?

Blackwell: Well, he always wanted to be an engineer. From what he told me, 39:00everyone told him not to come here, but he had one teacher in his high school who told him about here and that it was a very good school for engineering. So he was determined to come here. In fact, when he came here, he said he came here on the bus, and he just had this one suitcase. He was in the Corps of Cadets. That's how he got here, but he was determined to come even though he was advised against coming here.

Kennelly: Who would advise him against and why?

Blackwell: Most of the people that knew that this was basically an all white school was telling him that he would have problems here and that if he came here he would be sorry. He should go to one of the black engineering schools instead of coming up here.

Kennelly: Who encouraged him then to come?


Blackwell: It was one of his teachers, but I don't know who they were.

Kennelly: So did he get a scholarship as well?

Blackwell: I'm not sure. If he did, it wasn't as much as the one that I received.

Kennelly: So did he have to work when he was here?

Blackwell: Yes, he worked while he was here. He had a work-study job, and then in the summers, I think it was after his freshman year, he went home and he worked in the sawmill. And then between his sophomore and junior year, he worked for some company up here putting fences in. As you ride down the highway, he still shows me there's one of the fences that he helped put in. And he worked with one of the construction companies around here, but he had to work the whole time.

Kennelly: Was your scholarship a four-year scholarship?

Blackwell: Yes, and it paid for basically everything except my books.


Kennelly: It paid for everything, room, board, and tuition?

Blackwell: Yes, it was a $4,000 scholarship, and it only cost a thousand dollars to come up here then.

Kennelly: Did your family help you with some of the other expenses?

Blackwell: My mother and my father gave me whatever the scholarship didn't cover. Because the only job that I had was just that work-study job that I was telling you about at Hillcrest.

Kennelly: So did they expect you to work at home? I mean, in the summertime?

Blackwell: Oh, I forgot. Between my freshman and sophomore year, I worked here in the microbiology lab because I was still majoring in biology at that time.

Kennelly: What were you doing there?

Blackwell: I was working with a graduate student, and I would help him with whatever he needed done in the lab. I autoclaved instruments and fixed petri dishes and stuff for experiments and watched them if he wanted to put down any 42:00of the information on the research projects or anything like that. I really liked that job. That was one of the best jobs I ever had, only because it was very interesting.

Then the next summer, I worked at home in Lancaster County with one of the extension agents for Virginia Tech. I helped with sewing projects that she was teaching little children in elementary school, and then they had a camp down in Williamsburg, and I went down there as one of the camp leaders to help them that summer.

Then the next summer after that, I went to Germany. In fact, that's where I finished my studies at Virginia Tech. I finished here in three years. At the end of that summer, I had enough credits to graduate. One of the girls that lived on 43:00my hall had gone to Germany the year before, and she told me all about Virginia Tech's study abroad program, and I applied and was accepted into that program. From June of 1969 until September, I was in Germany and studied at the university there.

Kennelly: Which university?

Blackwell: In Wurzburg. Then we had two weeks of separate travel that we could travel throughout Europe. The program involved four weeks of residential stay with a German family where we had to attend school each day except on the weekends. The second part of the studying abroad would be travel with one of the professors from Virginia Tech and a tour guide from Germany throughout East and West Germany.

Kennelly: Well what was that experience like?

Blackwell: It was great. I lucked out. The German family that I stayed with was wonderful. They had three children, eight, six, and two. He worked in the post 44:00office, and she stayed at home. And they had an extended family. On the weekends they got together and did things, and they were very supportive of whatever I was doing in the classroom. They would help me out.

Going to school was wonderful. They had a German professor there who would pick up where our professor here left off because even though he was our chaperone over there, he also taught some of the subjects we were taking while we were there, along with the German professor. We had to eat in their university cafeteria (that was interesting) and learn how to ride the rail system and the bus system over there. It was all a great learning experience. There were sixteen students in the group from Virginia Tech that went to Germany. There were other students on the same plane that were going to other countries. We all went to Amsterdam and went out from there to the countries where we were going.


In traveling back and forth throughout Germany at that time, the one thing that I remember, for the very first time--I don't know how it is now--in Germany, I felt for the very first time there was no discrimination between black and white. We were all treated equally there. And some of the students in the group even mentioned that at the time. I had noticed that, but some of the students, when it was time to come back home and we were talking about coming back home and things like that, and I was the only black student again in that group.

Kennelly: In the whole group?

Blackwell: Yes, and they mentioned that because they had seen how things were throughout our travels and places we had toured. Everybody was just treated the 46:00same, equally without regards to color and that was one of the things I remember most about that trip over there.

Kennelly: What did the other students say about it?

Blackwell: When it was time to come home we were having such a good time, I said I didn't really want to come back. And they said, "Well I guess you don't." You know, one of those things like that. And then that was the reason why they said, "I guess you don't."

Kennelly: Because they noticed that you were treated differently here?

Blackwell: Yes. Well, not just me, but, you know, the way things were in the United States.

Kennelly: The German students, I mean just people just generally were much more--?

Blackwell: Friendly. One time I was in a bank to change money, and this little old lady came up to me, and she was touching me. I didn't know what she was doing, and she was holding my hand. Then she was saying schön, schön, which means beautiful in German, and she was talking about me because I guess she had never seen a black person before or a dark person. She was looking at 47:00me, and she was trying to see, she was rubbing like this, if this would come off I guess. I remember that.

Kennelly: But doing it in a way that it wasn't offensive?

Blackwell: Yes, she was just inquisitive.

Kennelly: When you were here at school, did it feel like it was kind of removed from the rest of the world?

Blackwell: Well-- as I said in our dormitory because then basically we went to class, we came to our dormitory, we went to the cafeteria. That was all we did back then. It wasn't that much that we did other than that, except on the weekends. Sometimes, like I was telling you, we'd do things on the weekends. Sometimes, but not all the time. Once everyone got to know you, then it was just like I was Jackie, and they were Susan. That was it.


But in the classroom sometimes when you go to class, and you were the only black person in the class, you would feel like everyone was staring at you. And I remember sometimes walking across the drillfield when it was cold, the first year I came up here--I think it snowed from October to May. It was so cold. I would think to myself sometimes that if I was walking to class between my dorm and the classroom, and I would faint here on this drillfield, no one would care. Everyone would just keep walking by. This was just some of the things that you would think about sometimes. You would wonder to yourself if anyone would stop or if they would just keep going.

Kennelly: How were the white guys?

Blackwell: Well the only ones that I associated with were basically the ones I met in the classroom. The ones that you got to know, they were fine. The school was so big in regards to what I had been used to, and you actually only associated with the people that were in your small circle of friends.

Kennelly: What about in the Angel Flight, were there guys in that group too?


Blackwell: In the Angel Flight there were only girls, but then there was a brother organization with all boys. That should be in one of the yearbooks, what they were. They were fine. If they said anything, they said it some place I couldn't hear it.

Kennelly: But were they friendly?

Blackwell: Yes.

Kennelly: I noticed that of the group of women that you were the only one in this picture right there had your picture in the yearbook that year. Do you remember why that happened?

Blackwell: Well they send a notice in your mailbox that said to come and take your pictures for the yearbook. And at my high school we just took pictures every year, so I just thought you were supposed to go and get your picture taken. So whenever they would send a notice, I would just go get my picture taken.


Kennelly: I'm glad you did. But how come the other girls didn't? Was there any reason, or they just didn't get around to it some years?

Blackwell: I don't know why they didn't take their pictures the first year. I just thought everybody took their pictures.

Kennelly: You said you went with some of the maids to their churches?

Blackwell: Yes.

Kennelly: Do you remember their names?

Blackwell: Yes. The one that was in our dorm, her name was Belle Snell, and she lived on Jackson Street here right in Blacksburg within walking distance.

Kennelly: What church did she go to?

Blackwell: I can't remember the name of the church, but it was a little Methodist church that was right there right within walking distance from campus. But that was when I went to church with her. I went to Blacksburg Baptist Church, and I went there because I was a Baptist, and they just asked you where you wanted to go, and I went there. The people were very nice and friendly and 51:00everything, so I went to Sunday school there sometimes and then to the worship service there sometimes, and I don't remember anyone ever being discriminatory or anything like that.

Kennelly: So it's the church right over here?

Blackwell: Yes, right down at the end of the Mall.

Kennelly: Were you the only person going to that one?

Blackwell: Yes, because Chick--Marguerite--my roommate, was Episcopalian, and she went to that church.

Kennelly: And none of the guys were going?

Blackwell: I don't remember any being there. I think they went to the Black churches. This other friend that I told you that I still keep in contact with who's a missionary now in Uganda, she and I would walk there on Sundays, to Blacksburg Baptist. I don't remember what the rest of the students were, but Linda, who I told you was very religious. Linda Adams was Holiness. I went to 52:00church with everybody. I visited the churches, but I went to church with her one time that I remember. And I went to church with Chick one time to the Episcopal church. I think it was because there was this archaeologist--I think his name was Leakey. I think he was visiting the campus or something, and they had a special ceremony or something, and she took me to church with her.

Kennelly: Was there a Holiness church here?

Blackwell: Yes. It was somewhere close by because we didn't have any cars or anything, so it had to be within walking distance. I don't think she had someone to take her there, but it was right here in Blacksburg. I think we walked there. We usually walked everywhere that we went.


Kennelly: So the girl who was going to the Episcopalian church that was?

Blackwell: That was my roommate.

Kennelly: That was a mixed church?

Blackwell: Yes.

Kennelly: Then the other churches were all black churches that people were going to?

Blackwell: I think they were mixed because when we got here, they gave us a list of churches. We just went to the ones that were on the list, but like for Mrs. Snell's church, once you got to know her that was an all black church. And I visited there several times.

Kennelly: Kind of a social visit?

Blackwell: Yes, she would invite us to her church.

Kennelly: Were the people in town friendly?

Blackwell: Yes. Mrs. Snell and her family. I got to know her and her children. Then there was another family that was very important to me, Gustina and Alonzo Brisco. He worked in the infirmary. I think he was the cook there or something or the help there. I don't know what he did there, but he worked at the 54:00infirmary. I met his wife through Mrs. Snell who was also working one summer with Mrs. Brisco's sister, who was also a maid here. By the way, Mrs. Brisco worked for Dr. Hahn in his house. She was his housekeeper. That's why I think he had another house off campus because she used to tell me about a house off campus. Anyway, they were very nice people. They would always invite me over to their house, and I went over there. That was within walking distance from here too.

Kennelly: Were they black?

Blackwell: Yes, they were.

Kennelly: When you came here to school, did your parents give you any special kind of advice?

Blackwell: No, just do the best that you can. That's probably why I had no problems coming here to Virginia Tech because in my family, with my parents and my grandparents that lived next door to us, my grandmother would always tell us 55:00to be nice to people, and people would be the same. They never taught us to hate anybody else just because they were white or we were black. Even though I guess we were oppressed, I never felt oppressed. I never experienced that. Most of the people in my town were very friendly. The part of the town where I live is just rural. It's not really a town; it's just rural. They have black people, and they have white people. We don't live right beside each other, but we lived like houses here, and you go a few miles, it's another house. Even though we went to different schools, it was just the way it was always, and we never thought about it as being anyway differently.

Blackwell: When I came here, of course, it was different because we were all mixed, and that was a novelty because it was new. But we didn't hate anybody else because some of the students that came were from larger cities than where I 56:00was from, and maybe they had experienced different things. But where I grew up, I hadn't experienced any of anything that would make me hate anybody or anything like that.

Kennelly: Like riding on a bus and having someone be rude to you on the bus?

Blackwell: Yes, because we had no bus. We didn't have any stop lights or anything like that.

Kennelly: So it wasn't like there was a library that you wanted to use and somebody said you couldn't use it or anything like that when you were growing up?

Blackwell: No.

Kennelly: Things were separate, but there wasn't--?

Blackwell: It was separate, and it had always been that way, and we just went to school. We had a new school at the time, and we had a library at the school. Basically, the church was the center of social stuff, and that's what we did, and everybody went about their business and did their own thing. I had always 57:00been a conscientious student, and when I came here, I just wanted to study and do well when I came here. It was a big event in my hometown that I was coming here, and everybody was supporting me and everything, and I didn't want to let them down. So I just tried to do the best I could.

Kennelly: Were there many other students from your high school that went on to college?

Blackwell: Yes. Many of the students from my high school went on to college, but not many of them came to Virginia Tech. The only other person that I know of, I'm sure there's some that have come that I don't know about, but Portia Carter, who I told you about, came the year after I did who was instrumental in my coming here. But they mostly went to black colleges.

Kennelly: Where you live now, are you in a city now?

Blackwell: Yes.

Kennelly: Is that very far from--?


Blackwell: Where I grew up?

Kennelly: Yes.

Blackwell: Two hours away.

Kennelly: So it is pretty far?

Blackwell: Two hours south. It's still right on the coast. Virginia goes out like a peninsula coming down, and it's right on the Chesapeake Bay. Portsmouth is like here, and Lancaster is up there, but it's still right on the Chesapeake Bay, both places.

Kennelly: Has Lancaster changed much? Is it still rural?

Blackwell: It's rural, but they do have a couple of stop lights now. And they have a McDonald's and a Burger King and a Pizza Hut that they've just built only in the town. They have a little town they called Killmonock. Right there in that little town they have a stop light, and they have several fast food restaurants. And they have a little mall, not a big shopping mall like you find in some of the big cities. But in the rest of the county, it's still rural.

Kennelly: Is there still like a black high school and a white high school?

Blackwell: No. A few years after I graduated, maybe three or four years, the school integrated. The school that I went to is now an elementary school, I think. And they have a brand new high school. They only have one high school in 59:00that county, and all the students go there.

Kennelly: Was there any sense, when you were in high school, that the white school had better teachers or anything was better? Did you have black teachers or white teachers?

Blackwell: Black teachers.

Kennelly: Or that you weren't getting as much for your tax dollars say as other people at another school in terms of equipment or buildings?

Blackwell: Well when I was in high school, I didn't think about those things. I lived right on the main highway. You'd call it a highway, but it's just a road that goes past your house. The white high school in the county was in that town I told you about that just had the stop lights and everything now. That was in the town, and ours was out in the rural area. And sometimes when I was at my 60:00house, I could see when they were going to football games or something. I could see their bus going by, and we just said, "There goes Lancaster High School." That was it.

Kennelly: And it was just another school? And it wasn't that people felt they weren't being given as good an education?

Blackwell: Yes, because we had very good teachers, even though it was a small high school. Especially my homeroom teacher, he was very tough. He was a government teacher, a history teacher, and he was very strict. And we had a math teacher. Those are the two teachers that stick out in my mind. They were very, very tough, but when I came to Virginia Tech, I appreciated them more because they were that way, and I went back and told both of them that because some of the other teacher were easy, and when we got here, we paid for that. We were behind some of the other students that had come from other schools. But those two teachers, the classes that I had taken from them, I could compete with anyone else who was here at Virginia Tech.


Kennelly: In math and--?

Blackwell: Math and social studies. In fact, I shouldn't say this, but I was taking U.S. history class as an elective, and I was taking so many science classes (I was in biology at the time) I had learned so much from that teacher in high school that I didn't even have to read that book for that class when I was here at Virginia Tech. I just went right on straight on through that class without even having to study for that class.

Kennelly: Did you take an accelerated class in high school, or was it just a regular class?

Blackwell: It was just a regular class. He was just hard. Everybody didn't take his. You know they had different sections, like if you were in a higher class or lower class. But we didn't have that many students in our school. You had to take government and history; he taught world history and government. You had to take that in order to graduate. Some students did well, and some didn't, but he was strict on everybody.

Kennelly: What were the areas that you felt, you said that you were behind in some areas?


Blackwell: Chemistry for one. My high school teacher, the one that taught chemistry, we read through the book, we did the questions at the back of the book. When you did that, you had finished. If you could answer those questions, that was fine. When I got here and we did the laboratory work, that was something completely new to me.

Kennelly: You hadn't worked in a laboratory?

Blackwell: We had a laboratory in our school. We didn't do the experiments and in depth studies that they did here when we got here, and I was really behind in chemistry.

Kennelly: So some students might have come from high schools that had other facilities?

Blackwell: Yes. The teacher that taught chemistry also taught french. Now he could have been proficient in both of those subjects, but--


Kennelly: When you were in Germany, could you speak German?

Blackwell: Yes. When I first went over there, I couldn't speak it very well. There was one student in our class who could speak it fluently. I think his family was German here. He was from a German background, and he could speak it fluently. When I first got there, I had had a lot of classes here, but it was basically I could do work, I could translate it, and I could understand it, but I couldn't speak it that well. When I left there, I could speak it very well at that time. Basically because of living with my family. They could not speak English. My German father could speak a little bit of English, but the rest of the family could speak no English. So I had to communicate. I took my German 64:00dictionary with me everywhere. By the time I left, I could converse with people on the Autobahn or riding on the train or in the stores, everywhere. I definitely feel that if you want to learn a foreign language, you have to go and live in the culture in order to learn it, speak it, and everything. Even to think in that foreign language.

Kennelly: What's your kind of overall sense of your education you received at Tech?

Blackwell: I think my experiences at Virginia Tech prepared me for a lot of things that I've encountered since I left Virginia Tech. I think I've received a good education. I always tell everyone that it's a very good school. I encourage other students to come here. I feel that overall my experience at Virginia Tech was a positive one. I learned many things here, both socially and academically that I feel that I would not have learned if I had gone to an all black college.

Kennelly: Did you feel like you were breaking ground when you came here? Kind of 65:00the vanguard of things?

Blackwell: Well I knew we were the first. I knew that at the time when we first came here. So I guess in that sense, yes.

Kennelly: What happened then when you graduated?

Blackwell: When I graduated from Virginia Tech I got married, and then I went to work for the Virginia Employment Commission in South Boston, Virginia. My husband was drafted into the military. Like I said, during that time it was the Vietnam War going on, but he got sent to Bangkok, Thailand, and I went over there.

Kennelly: Did you say Thailand?

Blackwell: Yes. I lived there for 15 months, and then I came back to Tidewater, Virginia, which is where I am now. And I worked for the Virginia Employment Commission down there. I worked in claims, when I was in South Boston, unemployment insurance. And when I went to Norfolk, I worked as a teacher of adults who were welfare recipients. I taught them how to get a job, how to keep 66:00a job, how to prepare for the interview, things like that. I did that for about six months, and they needed someone to work in claims, so I went back to working in unemployment claims. And also, sometimes in interviewing people for jobs and to send them on jobs and to work with some of the students in vocational education, all with the Virginia Employment Commission. And then when my first daughter, just before she was born, I retired, sort of, and I haven't gainfully worked since that time, but I've been very involved with the school system in Portsmouth, in PTA and several of their committees and conferences and things 67:00like that.

At the school now, for the past six years I've been a director of a volunteer program which is a community and parents program for the high school that my daughter attends. We try to get the community and the parents more involved in the schools. We try to just let them see what's going on and hopefully rid some of the discipline problems, encourage some of the students to do better because a lot of the parents feel that once the students get in high school they don't have to support them as much as they did when they were in elementary school. So I've been in charge with getting volunteers for different areas of the school, and several people who have retired, to get them back involved in the school, and just anybody who come in and just give some their time to helping out in the school.


Kennelly: Is that a mixed school?

Blackwell: Yes.

Kennelly: In Portsmouth, you're living in a regular urban--

Blackwell: Yes.

Kennelly: Right in the middle of the city?

Blackwell: No, no. I live in the suburbs.

Kennelly: And is it like a mixed area?

Blackwell: Yes.

Kennelly: How many kids do you have? Children?

Blackwell: Two.

Kennelly: Both girls?

Blackwell: Yes.

Kennelly: And so one is--

Blackwell: Here and one is in the eleventh grade.

Kennelly: And their names?

Blackwell: The one's here is named Lori, and the one in high school is Stacy.

Kennelly: Did you get married very soon after you graduated then?

Blackwell: Actually, like I told you, I finished all my credits that summer in Germany. I think I got about either 9 or 12 credits from that experience there. I don't remember how many it was, but I finished all the requirements for my degree that summer.

Kennelly: And this was the summer after your third year of school?

Blackwell: Yes.

Kennelly: That's unusual to go through that fast, isn't it?

Well, I went to summer school the first year. I was sort of in a hurry to 69:00finish, so I went to summer school my first year, and then I took extra classes. I guess you would call it an overload of classes so that I could finish. Because I had planned to go into occupational therapy, and I figured I would be going on after that. But after that year in Germany, in September when we came back, my husband now proposed to me, so we decided to get married. We got married in December, but he still hadn't finished college, even though he got here before I did. So we lived in Blacksburg until June, and then we both marched and got our diplomas in June.

Kennelly: So that September to June after Germany you were--

Blackwell: I was here.

Kennelly: But not in school?


Blackwell: No.

Kennelly: You were through?

Blackwell: Yes.

Kennelly: So what did you do then?

Blackwell: I looked for a job. Everytime I would go out and I would look for a job, everyone would tell me they knew that I had finished, and they knew that I would probably be leaving soon, so I had difficulties finding a job. But I went to the Virginia Employment Commission in Radford. And just so happened that one day when I was over there, there was the head of the department from Dublin, Virginia, who happened to be in there, and he knew the supervisor for the South Boston, Virginia--Halifax County division down in South Boston. And when my husband got drafted into the military, we knew that on a certain date he had to go. He called down there and got an interview for me down there because he had 71:00heard that they needed an employment and claims interviewer. And that's how I got to South Boston, and my husband went into the military, and I moved to South Boston. I rented a room from a lady down there, and I worked down there for almost two years. My husband went to Bangkok; he was there almost a year before I went to Bangkok. Then I went over there for 15 months. And then when he got out, he sent his resume out to several companies. One of them was General Electric Company, and they had a television division in Portsmouth, actually Suffolk. Portsmouth and Suffolk are right there on the same line. That's how we got down there in Tidewater, Virginia area.

Kennelly: What is your husband doing now?

Blackwell: He is working for Newport News Shipbuilding now. He's not working for GE, but he's still a mechanical engineer there.

Kennelly: For the Newport News Shipbuilding?

Blackwell: Yes.


Kennelly: Are there any racial problems in the schools that your children are in now?

Blackwell: Not overt racial problems, but I think some still exist. The students, from what my daughter tells me, the students still congregate in groups. They still separate themselves within the school.

Kennelly: In both of the schools?

Blackwell: Which school are you referring to?

Kennelly: I guess your daughter's in high school?

Blackwell: Yes, Stacy.

Kennelly: And that's the same school that your other daughter just came out of?

Blackwell: Yes.

Kennelly: Has your daughter spoken much about that here at Tech now?

Blackwell: No, she hasn't mention any type of that problem. In fact, most of her friends here are white.

Kennelly: So did you have any special advice for her when she came here?

Well she sort of grew up hearing Virginia Tech from the time she was born.

Kennelly: From both of you?

Blackwell: Yes.

Kennelly: Because you were so positive. Is that why?

Blackwell: Yes, I guess, and she always, from the time she was little, she would tell everyone that she was coming here. Her senior year, she did apply to three 73:00other colleges, and she got accepted to all the other three. But in the end she decided to come here, and I think in the back of her mind, she probably knew she was coming here all along. When she was growing up, in the summer when we were on vacation, we would come up here and visit sometimes. So that she had seen the campus before she came up here. She didn't always know she wanted to major in engineering, but she always said--she would tell her friends that she would probably end up at Virginia Tech.

Kennelly: Is that an unusual field for girls to be in, mechanical engineering?

Blackwell: Well, in the past it was, but more and more people are getting into engineering now.

Kennelly: So, when you came up to visit, was it to see the place, or just to see friends that were in the area or the combination?

Blackwell: Well, we always came to tour the school. Basically what we did, we knew where everything was, and we just drove around and said this is this, and this is this. But at the time the Briscos and the Snells, both of them had since died. Mrs. Snell--


Kennelly: She died?

Blackwell: Yes, and Mr. and Mrs. Brisco also, but both of my daughters remember Mr. Brisco because we would come and visit him and his wife before she died. But his wife died earlier than he did, so they don't remember her as well. He lived within walking distance from the campus, and he was a model train buff. And he always had trains in his basement and everything, and they remember that from when they were growing up.

Kennelly: Were there any things that, looking back, you think could be needed to be improved from how things were when you were here then?

Blackwell: Well I can't really think of anything because when I was here, I 75:00didn't give it that much thought. And I've kept up with Virginia Tech pretty much over the years, and I've seen the progress they've made in all areas. So I can't really offer any advice in that area.

Kennelly: There's alot of talk about affirmative action policies now. Do you have any opinions on that?

Blackwell: No.

Kennelly: Are there other things that you'd like to bring up that I haven't asked you about or anything that stands out?

Blackwell: I think you've pretty much covered everything.

Kennelly: Would you answer that question again that I just asked you about the 76:00names? I was just wondering about the black or African American.

Blackwell: Well as I was saying, I don't mind whichever term you used because I would think we were all Americans, and too much emphasis is placed on whether you're a black American, a white American, an Asian American or whatever type of American. We're all Americans, and as I was saying, like Shakespeare said: "A rose by any other name smells just as sweet--," or something like that. It doesn't really matter. I just think with everything that's going on in the United States now, if we want this country to stay great and to survive in this world, that we have to all start pulling together instead of being more divided.

[End of Interview]