Ruby Nell Sales oral history interview conducted by Joseph Mosnier in Atlanta, Georgia, 2011-04-25.
RS: But it is operating. This is how it’s operating. I don’t have words for it, but my friends - we would go into department stores or women’s stores and ask to try on bathing suits. And would do things - for example, we sat on the front of the bus, rang the buzzer, got out, and started laughing and running. So, in our very childish ways, I think, every - a lot of children in the South will recount stories where they challenged the system without realizing what they were doing, because intuitively we knew that there was something wrong with it that was - and that it wasn’t nice or fair to us.
JM: Yeah. What was the nature of your primary schooling? Where did you go to - where did you go to primary school?
RS: I started out at a Catholic high school [nb: she intended elementary school] called Mother Mary Mission, because at that time my parents did not want me to go to a one-room schoolhouse. And then, in the third grade, in my neighborhood, which was Carver Heights, one of the first subdivisions in Columbus, Georgia, principally because many of the men were affiliated with the military and got FHA loans, I then transferred to Carver High School [nb: she intended Carver Elementary School; the high school was also called Carver], which was an incredible, uh, elementary school, uh, where - uh, it was an all-black elementary school with incredible teachers who really believed that we were capable of achieving our highest potential and pushed us to do it. And so, my high school was like - my elementary school was like two blocks from my house, and so was my high school.
And my high school was a training ground for citizenship, for creativity, and for scholarship, and my principal, S. P. [Samuel Prince] Charleston, and my homeroom teacher set the highest standards up for academic excellence. And we - although the world might have argued that black students were inferior, none of that touched us, because we thought that we were leaders, we thought we were smart, and we thought - we certainly thought that we were first-class students.
And so, in many ways, their gifts that they brought were two things: that they were able to insulate us from segregation in a way that kept us from being broken-winged birds. The other thing that they did that was really a tremendous gift is that they had the capacity to keep on fertilizing the ground of education and building generations when there was no evidence that their work would bear fruit. And rather than approaching it from a despondent, uh, position, they were exuberant. The work meant everything.
And the other thing that was very significant is that they connected young people with the project of freedom, that we had a role in that. And our role was not just to get an education for our own career advancement, but our role was to get an education to play a role in moving forward the entire community.