Thereasea Delerine Elder oral history interview 2, 2001 May 9
Thereasea Elder recounts her and her family's experiences living in Charlotte throughout the twentieth century, as well as her forty-five years as a nurse. Growing up in a segregated Charlotte, she describes life in the close-knit African American community and details the central role of the church and the focus on education within the community. Ms. Elder's medical career began at the white only Charlotte Memorial Hospital, and after earning her nursing degree she went to work at Good Samaritan Hospital, Charlotte's only medical facility for African Americans. She explains the disparities between the two and recounts the difficulties Good Samaritan's staff faced due to the scarcity of resources. Joining the Mecklenburg County Health Department as a public health nurse in 1962, Ms. Elder was part of the pilot program in the 1960s to integrate Charlotte's community health program. This led to her experiences working in the Paw Creek area, an economically disadvantaged white community. Describing the region as 'Klan country', she recounts the racism she faced from residents and how ultimately she and her fellow nurses were able to make the program a success, leading to the full integration of the health department. Ms. Elder discusses the integration of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system from the perspective of a parent whose two sons were bused to a formerly all-white school. She discusses her views on the limited success of integration and the current state of race relations in Charlotte, with particular attention to the role housing policy could have played in producing a more fully integrated Charlotte with improved health and educational outcomes for disadvantaged Charlotteans of all races.