Robinson Jr., T. Burwell

Title

Robinson Jr., T. Burwell

Subject

Segregation in education
Associations, institutions, etc.--African American membership
Race discrimination--United States
Prince Edward County (Va.)

Description

Oral History Interview between Carson Box and T. Burwell Robinson, Jr., conducted on April 13, 2021.

Creator

T. Burwell Robinson, Jr.
Carson Box

Source

Hampden-Sydney College Archives & Special Collections

Publisher

Hampden-Sydney College Archives & Special Collections

Date

2021-04-13

Rights

http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/UND/1.0/
The copyright and related rights status of this Item has been reviewed by the organization that has made the Item available, but the organization was unable to make a conclusive determination as to the copyright status of the Item. Please refer to the organization that has made the Item available for more information. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use.

Format

m4a

Language

English

Type

Oral History

Identifier

10010822

Coverage

Prince Edward County (Va.)

Provenance

Hampden-Sydney College Archives & Special Collections
Digital Repository materials are derived from the documents housed within Hampden-Sydney College Archives & Special Collections, and are made accessible to the public as historical record. Some materials within our collections may contain offensive images, language, or other content. They do not serve as a representation of views held by Hampden-Sydney College or the Walter M. Bortz III Library.

Interviewer

Carson Box

Interviewee

T. Burwell Robinson, Jr.

Transcription

Carson Box 00:01
Thank you for joining us, Mr. Robinson, I appreciate your support in helping us fulfill some of this, of the information that we're trying to find out about Moton High School and The Voice...the paper itself. And I know you were heavily involved in it. And I appreciate you being here and helping us with our oral histories for the college. So to start off with just some preliminary questions to figure out some more about your private life. Can you tell me about where you're originally from?

T. Burwell Robinson 00:30
Okay. Now, you, I grew up here in Richmond, in what they now call the Fan District, in those days it was just an old neighborhood. My dad was a Republican, Conservative businessman. And I went to work for Moton, and that caused a furor. And then my brother became a conscientious objector. And that really caused a furor. So... Sure. And let me say at the beginning that you have my permission to do this, and to do anything you like with the pictures or the audio or anything you take out of it. I give you a complete release to do that.

Carson Box 00:42
Yes, sir. Thank you very much. I can understand how that may have gone in those days. So yeah, it's my understanding that you graduated from Hampden-Sydney College, correct?

T. Burwell Robinson 01:17
I did.

Carson Box 01:18
You spent four years here?

T. Burwell Robinson 01:20
No. I spent three. I went my junior year to Tulane University.

Carson Box 01:27
Okay, so you took it easy. You took a little break?

T. Burwell Robinson 01:30
J.Y.N.O. Yeah.

Carson Box 01:32
Awesome. So, what year did you graduate?

T. Burwell Robinson 01:35
'67.

Carson Box 01:36
'67. So did you was your first job out of college at Moton high school?

T. Burwell Robinson 01:43
It was.

Carson Box 01:44
It was and you taught English there? Am I right?

T. Burwell Robinson 01:48
Yes.

Carson Box 01:49
Your were an English teacher there. And so...at that time, at Moton High School, were you the only white employee?

T. Burwell Robinson 01:58
No, there were...there were two other, two other teachers. It was a female. And then there was another guy that graduated from Hampden Sydney in my class. Bill...I forget his last name. But there were three of us there.

Carson Box 02:13
You said Bill?

T. Burwell Robinson 02:15
Bill. B-I-L-L. William. I can't remember his last name.

Carson Box 02:19
Okay, that is interesting to hear that there was another employee present.

T. Burwell Robinson 02:25
Yeah. I want to tell you how I got the job, I think.

Carson Box 02:32
Yeah, I'd love to hear about that.

T. Burwell Robinson 02:33
A friend of mine, and I decided we would do some tutoring of the kids who had been... had the schools closed, shut in their face, another Hampden-Sydney guy and I. So we formed this little tutoring group. And as a result of that, I decided I would like to teach at Moten. So I wrote Bryant Harper, a letter asking for an application. He called Dean Ortner at Hampden-Sydney, got a recommendation and sent me a contract. He never interviewed me. I mean...

Carson Box 03:11
Oh yeah, he never interviewed you? Who was Bryant Harper?

T. Burwell Robinson 03:14
He was the superintendent of Prince Edward Schools at that time, and so I wrote to the superintendent, he called the dean, and then the dean said, "he's okay," and the superintendent sent me a contract. And that was the application process.

Carson Box 03:29
And was that, was the superintendent Bryant Harper, was he the superintendent of all schools for the white and the black schools at Prince Edward at that time, or is it separate?

T. Burwell Robinson 03:37
Oh, there was only one school system by then.

Carson Box 03:40
Okay. Okay.

T. Burwell Robinson 03:42
After '64 it was just the public schools, but I mean, I can tell, I can name the three white kids that went to Moton when I taught there. That's how few there were. [Crosstalk]

Carson Box 03:58
What were their names?

T. Burwell Robinson 04:00
Charles and Vicky Hensley and Letitia Tew.

Carson Box 04:04
They were just, they were Farmville natives? That...

T. Burwell Robinson 04:08
Somewhere in the county, yeah. I thought Charles, he was a hell of a nice little kid.

Carson Box 04:14
So nice. Oh, so I was what was your motivation to teach at a predominantly African American school at the time?

T. Burwell Robinson 04:24
I don't think I knew it was African American. I mean, that wasn't the motivation. How do I say that? I mean, of course, I knew what it was. I just thought it was a place that desperately needed help. I don't know why I thought I could help them because I wasn't trained as a teacher. You know, maybe I mean, I think it's kind of brash...know-it-all-ism. Hell, I really don't know.

Carson Box 04:52
But I was fairly inspired to help the students who had just been locked out of school for the past four or five years...

T. Burwell Robinson 04:59
Yeah. I was.

05:01
...about regaining their education.

T. Burwell Robinson 05:03
Right. And there was a Longwood student who came in and tutored one of my kids, Brenda Jackson, and this Longwood student called me Mr. Robinson. And we ultimately got married. So I mean, all kinds of all kinds of funny little twists here. And when my friend and I were doing the tutoring, we met with the school board, and I used to be redheaded, and I was quite a hothead. And I insulted the superintendent. And Ray Moore was a school board...assistant chair, whatever you call it; he wasn't the chair, just the second in command. He was the college position. But in this meeting, I just got really pissed off and..., and so why Bryant Harper would have hired me, I cannot imagine because I had been in this meeting in a room the size of an elevator and pissed him off. And then I wrote and asked for an application. And he sent me a contract. So, go figure.

Carson Box 06:05
Well, what'd you, what did you do to piss him off?

T. Burwell Robinson 06:08
Who knows? I mean, I thought they were boneheads, and I just said so. I mean, they clearly were.

Carson Box 06:14
Yeah, that's fair enough.

T. Burwell Robinson 06:15
You know, I mean, I grew up a racist here in Richmond. I never said nigger. I didn't hate, I just thought people were breaking the rules. And I'm 76, it's taken me...I'm still working on getting rid of that stuff, you know?

Carson Box 06:31
As is everybody around our..., as are a majority of people, especially in today's age. So when you were employed at Moton High School, did you ever receive any backlash from other people in the communities just for being a white man, serving the black community?

T. Burwell Robinson 06:48
I was incredibly naive, I think I was talked about I didn't have any idea. I lived out in a little cabin out on the Darlington Heights road and in what I call the other Hampton-Sydney, back with the African Americans who come in and wait on you guys. I mean, we, back in those days, we had guys that came in and made up our beds from that community. And I mean, that's how crazy it was.

Carson Box 07:18
Yeah, that's wildly different. And even in the 60s?

T. Burwell Robinson 07:23
Yep.

Carson Box 07:23
That was going on.

T. Burwell Robinson 07:24
It was going on. And I lived in a little cabin out in the middle of a field on the Darlington Heights road. And at some point, I had a mailbox out there. It's right here. I've got it still, well, in the other room. And it had my name on it. And at some point, the Klan came by and bashed it in.

Carson Box 07:47
So that they had gotten word, but you were a teacher.

T. Burwell Robinson 07:50
Yeah, I was very, very naive. And there was a wonderful Hampden-Sydney Professor Bill Odom, who just died in the last few months. Great, a great professor, and he made me come and live with them, for safety.

Carson Box 08:02
For safety?

T. Burwell Robinson 08:03
Yeah.

Carson Box 08:03
Bill Odom was who you lived with?

T. Burwell Robinson 08:06
Yes. Yeah.

Carson Box 08:08
How'd you know it was the Klan that smashed your mailbox?

T. Burwell Robinson 08:15
Who else would it have been? I mean, it could have been anybody but I got phone calls and that kind of junk. I just, I'm pretty sure...

Carson Box 08:23
You got phone calls like from like, just hatred phone calls?

T. Burwell Robinson 08:27
Well, no, it was more like Mr. Robinson, why are you doing this? And, and the kids and I would go, there used to be a store, the Corner Store down in Kingsville. It's a joint where Hampden-Sydney goes out into 15?

Carson Box 08:40
Yep.

T. Burwell Robinson 08:41
And it was a kind of potbelly stove place, the guys sat around. And when I go in with the kids, they would always say, you know, brother, cluckers in here, they called them cluckers. And I didn't pay much attention to it. But it was dead-ass serious stuff. You know, they were Klan people. But I'm too stupid to take in the seriousness of it.

Carson Box 09:03
And were these adult age people like this? With the children. Like were these like--

T. Burwell Robinson 09:10
They weren't disrespecting. They would just stare at us, you know?

Carson Box 09:13
Yeah.

T. Burwell Robinson 09:14
And then but the kids...

Carson Box 09:15
And you just feel uncomfortable in the situation.

T. Burwell Robinson 09:16
Yeah. I don't know if you've ever read John Stokes, his book, but he talks about walking back on one of the roads and how if he saw white people, he would duck behind bushes and fear for his life. And, you know, I was protected by my skin color. I don't, I just didn't take in what the danger was.

Carson Box 09:34
Did you feel like you were protecting the kids? Being with them?

T. Burwell Robinson 09:40
I never thought about it. Yeah, in truth, I was probably endangering them [laughs]. You know...

Carson Box 09:45
Bringing them around?

T. Burwell Robinson 09:46
But I mean, they were my buddies.

Carson Box 09:49
Yeah?

T. Burwell Robinson 09:50
Here we go, I'm gonna start crying. I mean, I lived with them. Oh my god. They were such wonderful kids, you know, and that's all they were. No, this is way off how they were treated. And they were so, they were so cute. On this back row, there were grandmothers and mothers and all these little houses. And this group of boys would come down the road. And the grandmothers and mothers were all calling each other to make sure they were safe. And, and they would come up to my house. And I had an old '60s VW Bug with a canvas roof and we put our fishing poles up through it and go out fishing somewhere.

Carson Box 10:33
So you, you spend time with these kids you taught outside of school.

T. Burwell Robinson 10:39
Yeah, we were neighbors, you know?

Carson Box 10:42
And basically, you kind of came into their community.

T. Burwell Robinson 10:46
Yes, I busted into it. Oh, there was one night where a couple of the guys and I were at my house and there was a fierce snowstorm. And we walked across to field up to a friend of mine on the other fork, and we got there...she stood out to me because the first time I met her, she introduced me to her cook as Mrs. Evans. Nobody ever said Mrs. Anybody. And so I knew there was something different about her. Anyway, when when LeGrant and Blue and I walked over to her house in the snowstorm, I said, the heats off in my...I don't know why we did it, I think the heat was off. And so I said Miss Saxton, we need to come in. And she said, Well come on in. And Blue and LeGrant both said they really didn't think she was gonna let them in the house, and if she let them in the house, she was not gonna let them sleep there. I never ever thought of anything like that.

Carson Box 11:41
Oh, yeah, why would that thought cross your mind.

T. Burwell Robinson 11:43
And so I mean, it is to say that both skin colors, the dark and the light. We were so new to being friends with each other, that we didn't really get a lot of stuff. But Miss Saxton had them in, she found them a place to sleep. She couldn't have been friendlier. You know? It worked fine.

Carson Box 12:02
Well that's great to hear. So to get a little bit back on your time working at Moton high school itself. It's my understanding that at one point you were fired, correct?

T. Burwell Robinson 12:12
Yeah.

Carson Box 12:13
From teaching? What were the reasons you were given for being fired?

T. Burwell Robinson 12:19
In Virginia, you have to notify a teacher if they're gonna be rehired on April 15th. I think that's still true...

Carson Box 12:27
For the following school year?

T. Burwell Robinson 12:29
For the following school year. And in the second year of my--no, in the first--second year of my teaching, I got a letter on the 15th that said my contract would not be renewed for the general reasons of incompetency.

Carson Box 12:45
And incompetency is not something that you were at all.

T. Burwell Robinson 12:50
Well, if they had had any sense and gotten a lawyer to review the letter, they would have never given a reason because they were not required to. But because they gave a reason, that gave my lawyers something to sue them for.

Carson Box 13:05
You actually sued the school school board?

T. Burwell Robinson 13:11
Never actively. The guy who was my lawyer was Sam Tucker, who had been involved in the Brown versus Board. And he was a good friend of Reverend Griffin. And I think he was old and worn out. And he, he wanted to take me under his wing. But he was kind of out of steam, and I was so in awe of him, I didn't want to push him. And eventually the statute of limitations ran out for pursuing, but the NEA called me to Washington and they wanted to, to back a suit. [unintelligible] Yeah, the National Education Association. I went to Washington to meet with them and they wanted to enter suit on my behalf. And to tell you the truth, it's all so far in the past. I don't know why those things didn't happen. They just didn't, you know?

Carson Box 14:05
You mentioned Reverend Griffin, who was he in the community?

T. Burwell Robinson 14:10
Oh, my God, he was a God!

Carson Box 14:13
He was? Lemme hear a little bit about him.

T. Burwell Robinson 14:16
He was the indigenous leader, L. Francis Griffin. Oh my God. He was like my dad. It was wonderful.

Carson Box 14:28
How did he, what did he serve in the community?

T. Burwell Robinson 14:31
He was pastor of First Baptist Church there at the corner of Main, Main and third or second, whatever it is along there.

Carson Box 14:42
Was that a predominantly African American church?

T. Burwell Robinson 14:45
I think except for me, yeah.

Carson Box 14:49
Did a lot of your students go to that church?

T. Burwell Robinson 14:52
Probably not because they were so rural. Some did. But, if you talk to Blue or Leroy, or Alphonso, any of the people--Alphonso White the guy who went to Hampden-Sydney--they will tell you that the kids called him doc, and if they needed a few bucks--he didn't have a pot to piss in, but he always came up with money for the kids. He would give em rides places. And he died when he was 62, because he basically sacrificed himself. He was an amazing guy. Amazing.

Carson Box 15:30
Yeah. And by sacrifice himself, like, do you mean he just did it for the kids, or...?

T. Burwell Robinson 15:40
It was for the whole civil rights thing. I mean, he was an interesting guy. He had flown airplanes, he'd been in the army. He was fearless. Some guy came down--his office was in the basement at First Baptist--somebody, some guy came in there with a pistol one day ready to kill him, and he talked him out of it. So, he was overweight, and he ultimately had a heart attack. But he basically...I mean, he stayed up too late, he worked too hard.

Carson Box 16:10
He was the civil rights movement.

T. Burwell Robinson 16:13
Yeah. But he was such a bright guy. He would quote Reinhold Niebhur and these, you know, social activist theologians, and he was just wonderful.

Carson Box 16:26
And he was fairly well known in the community?

T. Burwell Robinson 16:29
For sure, yeah. Do you know where the Moten Museum is there? It's a triangle. Well, the street that goes down beside it is called Griffin Boulevard. It used to be...

Carson Box 16:39
Okay, yeah, that's named after him?

T. Burwell Robinson 16:42
Yeah, it used to be Ely Street when we were there. But after he died, they renamed it Griffin Boulevard. But I mean, I have a copy of a telegram from Martin Luther King to him. It wasn't, it didn't have anything to do with me. But I'm just fascinated. And he wrote, he said, "Dear Dr. Griffin, Once in a lifetime, somebody like you comes along, and I want to tell you how much I admire you." And it was signed by King. And, when King was born, he was Michael King, Jr.--he wasn't Martin Luther King--and people who knew him back in the day, some of them still called him Mike. And Reverend Griffin every now and then would talk about Mike King. He had known him for a long, long time.

Carson Box 17:29
Well, that is a remarkable honor to receive something from Martin Luther King, the man himself, especially at that time. Um, so when you were fired from the school, it's my understanding that your students themselves led a walkout of the school protesting the fact that your contract was terminated?

T. Burwell Robinson 17:55
Yeah, I got the letter, and it seems to me I opened it...I think maybe Blue and LeGrant were there, they were my closest neighbors and we're all stick buddies. And I may have just commented, "I think I'm not gonna be back next year" or something. But I never--you know, they want to paint me as some guy that fomented all this craziness. I didn't. I just told them what was going on. I had a little red VW bus that I got so that I could take the pep band to away games, and I would park it by the church there, and one night--Blue, LeGrant, Cammy, Leroy had a meeting in the bus. It wasn't the only meeting that they had, but I know they had a meeting in the bus. I didn't have anything to do with it. I just provided the space. But that's when they planned the walkout. When the walkout actually started, I was thinking this morning, Vicky Hensley came up to me and she said, "Mr. Robinson, what should I do?" She was white. And I said, "Vicki, I can't tell you what to do. You have to do what's in your heart." But it was a really--I don't know quite how to describe it, but to be standing in the hall and the kids are all leaving, and they're leaving because of me, you know?

Carson Box 19:17
Yeah. [Unintelligible] humble feeling for sure. So this walkout occurred, I guess the school year wasn't over when you received the letter that you wouldn't be back so, once they had gotten word that you would not be returning, that's when they said to walk out, that same calendar school year?

T. Burwell Robinson 19:36
Yeah, I got the letter on April 15th, and they walked out on...no, they started taking over the school I think around April 22nd, and the school board decided I was the problem, so they gave--they hand delivered a letter, the assistant principal, it said "you are to leave the building at this instant."

Carson Box 20:00
So you got, once you found out you're terminated, they did the walkout, they decided...the school board decided that you were the problem and then fired you before the term even ended?

T. Burwell Robinson 20:12
No, they fired me when I got that letter: you are fired, leave, go this instant. And then the students really went into high gear. They were already taking over the auditorium and the principal's office. And I mean, it was a crazy time: one of the little kids, Ronald Mariner, used the principal's telephone to call Hawaii, just because he could.

Carson Box 20:39
Because in that day and age, the cost to call Hawaii...

T. Burwell Robinson 20:42
It would have been horrible. But he was a great little guy. And he just used Principal Hostley's telephone, you know. And then once they got me out of there, the kids demonstrated, and ultimately, they closed the whole school system down for two or three days.

Carson Box 21:04
Wow. So you did have a great effect on these kids, it does sound like then.

T. Burwell Robinson 21:09
Well, you know, I think I'm an accidental teacher, because of the way I got the contract. And I consider myself a sort of footnote in all this. I think what I--I was thinking today, I don't see myself as particularly important in this. What I did was I really liked the people. And I really loved them.

Carson Box 21:32
Well, I think you definitely, you definitely started some movement. Being one of the first employees at this segregated...or school that just became desegregated. And I think that you definitely, like, heavily influenced a lot more people in the community than you would think.

T. Burwell Robinson 21:52
Well, yeah, I have no, I didn't set out to do that. And my buddy Blue, who...we've kept in touch, we get together and drink beer or have lunch sometimes. He was one of my students, and we're almost the same age because the schools were closed. And he--this is gonna sound braggadocious, I just mean it as a description--he says to me, he says, "Robinson, you don't understand it. You came to Hampden-Sydney, and you lived there two or three years, and when you left, we were a different place." And I'm saying, "Blue, what the fuck are you talking about?" I had no idea.

Carson Box 22:25
Well, whether you know it or not...[crosstalk].

T. Burwell Robinson 22:28
Like, I really don't. I really don't know what he's talking about. But I think we all together...crashed through some norms. And maybe we didn't even know we were doing that. I don't know.

Carson Box 22:45
So when, you're familiar with the new [unintelligible] Voice, obviously, when it came out? Do you remember when it came out, if there was any backlash within the community, from the release of the paper?

T. Burwell Robinson 23:04
You know, I didn't know any white people [laughs], and that's where the backlash would have been.

Carson Box 23:13
But there's no significant events or anything that occurred that you believe stemmed from the release of the Voice.

T. Burwell Robinson 23:21
I doubt white people even knew about it. I mean, maybe your research may reveal other stuff, but, I mean, it was clearly for the African American community. And, uh...

Carson Box 23:32
Well, that's what I'm kind of trying to figure out, like, where was the paper distributed? Like, how did people receive issues of the Voice?

T. Burwell Robinson 23:43
Good question.

Carson Box 23:45
Though, because from my understanding, the Farmville Herald was very one sided, in favor of the white people and that some people today still won't even, still refuse even to read the Farmville held just for how horrible they were to the African American community in past years.

T. Burwell Robinson 24:04
Well, I worked for the Tiger at Hampden-Sydney, I was one of the editors, and so the Herald published the Tiger. So we would go in and proofread the Tiger, so I knew very well, you know, he was--I didn't know how awful he was, but, I mean--he was a kind of colorful character.

Carson Box 24:24
Who did you say he was?

T. Burwell Robinson 24:26
Barrye Wall, the guy that owned the Herald, the editor, he was the guy who set up all the, you know, the massive...in that area, he was in charge of massive resistance. And...

Carson Box 24:41
Did you know any of the writers for the Voice or editors well?

T. Burwell Robinson 24:48
Yes, of course. I knew em all. Alphonso was the editor--White, the guy, first black student--you know who I'm talking about?

Carson Box 24:58
Who you roomed with? Or you worked with?

T. Burwell Robinson 25:01
Yeah, he came to Hampden-Sydney the year after I graduated.

Carson Box 25:06
Okay, so he was, he was a main--oh, wait, was he the first African American student at Hampden-Sydney?

T. Burwell Robinson 25:13
Yeah.

Carson Box 25:14
And then so he became, he went from...graduate, did he graduate from Sydney?

T. Burwell Robinson 25:20
Yes.

Carson Box 25:20
So he went from after Hampden-Sydney, he became the editor of The Voice.

T. Burwell Robinson 25:27
No, it was while he was at Hampden-Sydney.

Carson Box 25:29
It was while?

T. Burwell Robinson 25:30
When he graduated, he went to Louisville Presbyterian Seminary.

Carson Box 25:35
So it was, was it a lot of like student writers that wrote for the paper?

T. Burwell Robinson 25:40
What we did, it was so much done in the summer, that was the deal. There was the NYC, the Neighborhood Youth Corps, which the Community Action Agency ran. And the kids got jobs through that. And some of us were supervisors of the kids in the summer. And it was that crowd that produced the Voice. I don't think the Voice was probably produced in the winter, but I couldn't say for sure. You'd have to look at the the dates on it.

Carson Box 26:10
The first volume was released in July of '65. But I don't, I'm not too particularly sure on how long it took for the paper to develop. I don't know if you know more of that, like how long it was in the works before it actually was first released?

T. Burwell Robinson 26:26
I think there were several iterations of the Voice, but I couldn't be any more specific than that.

Carson Box 26:34
Like, different times that people had tried to put it together, and then it may have failed and then...

T. Burwell Robinson 26:40
Right, and it was being resurrected under the same name.

Carson Box 26:45
So one interesting thing that you may not know is that all the press it was all printed in Norfolk. And it's kind of confusing to me as "Why be printed in Norfolk when it had to be distributed in Farmville?" but I didn't know if that was because there was nobody that would print it in Farmville, or what the case was there.

T. Burwell Robinson 27:07
Who would have printed it? Barrye Wall wouldn't have printed it.

Carson Box 27:10
Yeah, yeah, that's what I figured it was. Do you think the Farmville Herald had all the printers?

T. Burwell Robinson 27:18
Yeah, it was still--do you know what cold type is? I mean, they were still setting it letter by letter. Yeah, but I mean, they didn't, they wouldn't have done that. But see, this is why I say there's several iterations, because I can tell you that I have typed plenty of copies of the Voice on mimeograph masters, which I doubt you even know what they are. But that was the printing, you know, where you turn the wheel, and the things came out? We did the printing, we typed it up, and we printed them out. So whatever went to Norfolk, that was a, that was a prior deal.

Carson Box 27:53
Okay, so you, you typed them and printed them yourself, the articles that you read?

T. Burwell Robinson 27:58
The Voices that we had anything to do with were produced there, on Third Street? Yes.

Carson Box 28:05
When did you start writing for the Voice? Right, when it first came out?

T. Burwell Robinson 28:14
It was sometime in the summer of '67, I guess.

Carson Box 28:18
Okay, so a few years into the...since the papers' first release? What did your articles consist of? If you remember, what you may have written about?

T. Burwell Robinson 28:29
I think I wrote some very scathing editorial about craziness there, I don't know.

Carson Box 28:40
So fighting, fighting back, being a white voice for the African American community, was what--

T. Burwell Robinson 28:48
I was just a voice. We were all together. I never thought of myself as being a white voice.

Carson Box 28:53
I just, I kind of believe that just the impact of you being a white man at this time, and writing for the Voice--like a predominantly African American newspaper--I think that speaks volumes to the people in the community. Whether, whether you believe it or not, I think that you spoke volumes to people in the community.

T. Burwell Robinson 29:16
I agree with you. This is how I see it: with them, I was not so aware that I was white. They damn sure were aware I was white. Okay, I think that's what you're saying.

Carson Box 29:28
Yeah, no, yeah, I completely get it. I understand where you're coming from. I'm letting you know that I think you had a serious impact on the community.

T. Burwell Robinson 29:35
Yeah. Well, I mean, I can't argue with that. I don't know.

Carson Box 29:41
Well, I I don't have any further questions for you right now. But is there anything else that you wanted to touch on or you wanted to talk about in your time between the events of you leaving Hampden-Sydney and becoming a teacher at Moton to being a part of the Voice or any interactions that...or people that you think are, that you haven't already touched on that you think are important enough that I should look into more?

T. Burwell Robinson 30:10
Well, is somebody, does somebody have the name of Edward Morton and Leroy Ross and, and Alphonso White? Those are the people that need to be talked to.

Carson Box 30:20
So there's the White family...?

T. Burwell Robinson 30:22
What was her name? Sally Almond? I gave her those names.

Carson Box 30:25
Yes. Okay, then she definitely has them, and I'll have them collected through here as well. I know that there was a ton of people with the last name White that contributed to the Voice.

T. Burwell Robinson 30:35
Oh, that was...unless--there were two families of Whites who were neighbors. And one family ran the Master Cleaners, which was there on 15, close to town. And they were activists. And I don't know what the other White family did. But they were, they were first cousins, very much related to each other.

Carson Box 31:02
Okay, so you didn't know the other side of the White family. But are you saying that's Alphonso's family that ran the cleaners?

T. Burwell Robinson 31:08
No. Alphonso was from Suffolk. He had nothing...

Carson Box 31:12
Yeah. No, he didn't have anything to do with the two White family connection. [Crosstalk] Okay. Yeah.

T. Burwell Robinson 31:18
He spoke at the Black Student Union, which I still can't comprehend exists at Hampden-Sydney. But yeah, whatever they call it. Yeah. The ones that went berserk when Obama was elected. Alphonso got his acceptance letter the day after King was murdered. And he said, he had completely given up hope of going to college, and he said it was like a miracle. And his warm feelings of after college have changed a lot. I have very negative feelings about the school because I think no matter what progress they make, they always turn back into producing bankers and lawyers to enrich Richmond, and that seems to be the central mission. Anyway, when Alphonso came there, my little...my buddies from...my students, Blue and LeGrant, and I went to his dorm room, and we said, "We have no idea what it's gonna be like here for you, but this is my phone number. I drive, I can come pick you up: whatever you need, call." And from that, we have been lifelong friends. And he did call and he spent a lot of time at my house. And he has recently said that he had a lot of unpleasant experiences. I wasn't aware of how unpleasant it was for him, but apparently it was.

Carson Box 32:47
So, Alphonso, he was the first African American student at Hampden-Sydney, do you believe he was the first one to be accepted as well? Or maybe the first one to have applied?

T. Burwell Robinson 33:00
I think he was probably...I know he was the first accepted. I don't know about the application.

Carson Box 33:08
Okay, well, I know, we definitely do have a good amount--I think people have interviewed him before. But I appreciate extra information on him, because that is obviously a central person to this college.

T. Burwell Robinson 33:21
Yeah.

Carson Box 33:22
Because he is the first African American to ever have the courage to come to an all male predominantly white college. Yeah, it's kind of paved the way for students of the future.

T. Burwell Robinson 33:34
I think you have to have courage to come there, anyway, at least...it was not a good fit for me. But I got a hell of a good education. Anyway, I sent...Sarah--that her name, Almond?

Carson Box 33:52
Yeah, yeah. Dr. Almond.

T. Burwell Robinson 33:53
...a copy of an essay that one of my kids wrote as a final exam in 1968, Ronald Mariner. And he, after that was killed in a car crash. It about killed me. He was the kid that called Hawaii. But anyway, he wrote a little essay as part of his final exam, about racism. It's worth reading simply because of the time in which he wrote it. And it's very well written. If you give me your email address, I'll send it to you.

Carson Box 34:28
Yeah, yeah, I will. You have my email just from the...

T. Burwell Robinson 34:32
Right, right. I'll send it. Yeah. I mean, it's, you know, I'm blinded because of my love for him. He was a wonderful kid. But I have kept that essay for 53 years, and I have it framed in my office. I know how poorly students today can write, and he was able to do that after having been shut out of schools for five years. It's...I don't know, it's just remarkable.

Carson Box 34:59
Yeah, [unintelligible] too? Well, that is all I have, although I may, if you're open to it, I may be in contact. Well, I'm already gonna ask you, I'm already gonna be back in contact about just seeing that form signed and everything. But I may come up with some few questions once I listen to the recording, things that I might have possibly missed that I would like to know more about if you're open to possibly having another conversation in the future.

T. Burwell Robinson 35:29
Sure.

Carson Box 35:30
You're an open book?

T. Burwell Robinson 35:32
You're easy to be with, whatever you want to do is fine.

Carson Box 35:36
All right. Well, I really appreciate you talking Mr. Robinson, you had some fascinating stories. I think you're an excellent man in the Farmville community and did a lot for this community that others maybe...and people after you, wouldn't have had the courage to if it wasn't for you, stepping up and being one of the first to be an active member, a white person in this community. So, I think whether you know it or not that you did a lot for Farmville, whether you're in the history books or not, that massive impact. And that is something that you should hold true to your heart. Because I think...kids...

T. Burwell Robinson 36:12
I do. [Crosstalk] I don't mean to be argumentative, but I can't imagine myself being called courageous. I just kind of stumbled into it, you know.

Carson Box 36:23
You're humble.

T. Burwell Robinson 36:24
Maybe. I don't know what you're comfortable with, but it sounds odd for you to call me Mr. Robinson. If you are comfortable calling me Burwell, that's fine. Call me whatever you want to, but I generally don't go by all this Mr. stuff.

Carson Box 36:39
Yes. Yes, sir, Burwell. I got you. I really appreciate you telling me that. I'll be in contact with you, maybe even this afternoon, once I talk to my professors or in the next few days.

T. Burwell Robinson 36:54
Yeah. My, uh, I had my phone number changed. And it was supposed to be effective at two o'clock. And the phone is still not working, so I don't know if you can get through or not.

Carson Box 37:06
Well, I do have your old phone number and your new phone number, so...

T. Burwell Robinson 37:11
The old one doesn't exist at all.

Carson Box 37:12
Oh the old one's definitely gone. So I have your new phone number already. And if I can't reach you by there, I'll email you.

T. Burwell Robinson 37:20
Yeah, I would really love to respond to you, and you are absolutely no bother. My experience there changed the course of my life. I'm a different person because of those kids, you know?

Carson Box 37:38
I think it makes you a great person. So I think I think everyone...

T. Burwell Robinson 37:42
They were great.

Carson Box 37:44
I'm glad that I get to talk to you and find out more about your life. It's very inspiring. And I think that you're an inspiration to many others. So I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me. And hopefully, this can turn into something where more people can hear about the stories of the things that you did for this community in such a hard time. So thank you very much for talking to me, and I'll be in contact with you very soon.

T. Burwell Robinson 38:11
Okay, you're really welcome. I had fun talking to you. Thanks for calling.

Carson Box 38:15
Have a good one!

Original Format

m4a

Duration

00:38:17

Bit Rate/Frequency

69kbps

Citation

T. Burwell Robinson, Jr. and Carson Box, “Robinson Jr., T. Burwell,” Hampden-Sydney College Digital Repository, accessed June 23, 2024, https://dams.hsc.edu/items/show/2601.