What Evil Depends On: 'Good People To Be Quiet'
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
And it's time now for StoryCorps. A month ago, we heard from Dr. William Lynn Weaver, one of the black students who integrated his high school in Knoxville, Tenn. back in 1964. Today, we're going to hear from him again - this time, about his experience integrating the school's previously all-white football team, which he did, along with other black players, including his older brother, Stanley. At StoryCorps, he described what it was like playing for the West High School Rebels.
WILLIAM LYNN WEAVER: The school's mascot was a Confederate colonel. And at football games, when you came out on the field, the crowd would be hollering and the Dixie would be playing. And they'd hold a paper flag up and the team would burst out through the Confederate flag. The black players made a decision to run around the flag. We had teams who refused to play us because we had black players. There were always racial comments, banners with the N-word. And at one point in time, there was even a dummy with a noose around his neck hanging from the goal posts.
I remember we played an all-white school. The game was maybe only in the second quarter. My brother tackled their tight end and broke his collarbone. And when they had to take him off the field with his arm in a sling, that's when the crowd really got ugly. We were on the visitor's sideline and they were coming across the field. So we backed up against the fence. I remember the coach saying, keep your helmet on. So I was pretty afraid.
And then a hand reaches through the fence and grabs my shoulder pads. I look around and it's my father. And I turned to my brother. I said, it's OK, dad's here. The state police came and escorted us to the busses. The crowd is still chanting and throwing things at the bus. And as the bus drives off, I look back and I see my father standing there and all these angry white people. And I said to my brother, how's daddy going to get out of here? They might kill him.
We get to the high school. And the most incredible feeling I think I've ever had was when my father walked through the door to the locker room and said, are you ready to go, as if nothing had happened. And I wanted to tell him, Dad, don't come to any more games - but selfishly, I couldn't. I needed him there for me to feel safe.
Normally when you're with a team, you feel like everybody is going to stand together. And I never got that feeling that the team would stand with me if things got bad. I think a number of the white students who were there with me would say now if I could have did something different, I would have said something. But that's what evil depends on, good people to be quiet.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
MARTIN: Dr. William Lynn Weaver remembering his days playing football at West High School in Tennessee. His interview will be archived with the rest of the StoryCorps collection in the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.