Junius W. Williams oral history interview conducted by Joseph Mosnier in Newark, New Jersey, 2011-07-20.
JW: House full of music.
JM: Yeah. Do you have siblings?
JW: I have - well, I had several siblings, but my most immediate sibling was my brother, John. We grew up at the same time. And then, I had other half-brothers and sisters.
JM: Um-hmm. So, you would have been, uh, if you moved at five, you would have done your schooling, um, in Richmond?
JW: I did.
JM: Yeah. Could you talk a little bit about the community, the neighborhood, the public school experience?
JW: Um-hmm. We started school a little early because, uh, my brother, both my brother and I turned five in the later part of the year. So, my mother talked the officials into letting us start when we were four, so we were always a little younger than our peers. We already knew how to read. We already knew how to count. So, that wasn’t the issue. The issue was, should they have done it? And it didn’t matter, because she got us in there.
Schools were segregated. She was a music teacher in the elementary schools, and my father was a music teacher in the high school level. So, school was, for us, it was fun. We had a good time. There were, uh, challenging moments, but, uh, nothing to do with race, because we were insulated from that, from the impact of race, partially because of, uh, our parents’ middle class standing, uh, partially because of the skillful way in which they negotiated the system to keep us safe. So, we grew up on the North Side of town, which, uh, was a working -class, middle-class area, moved from North Avenue to Barton Avenue, where my parents bought a house.
And, uh, I remember high school, in particular, there was a, uh, moment in which I had to decide whether I was going to go to high school across the - high school in, high school in, uh, the northwestern side. I guess it was more West Richmond. I’m trying to think of exactly the sector that Walker was in, because that’s where most of my friends were going, to Maggie Walker [High School]. But my father taught at Armstrong [High School]. My father wanted me to come to Armstrong. He said that was a better school. I didn’t want to go, because my friends were going to Walker, but he persuaded me to come to Armstrong.