Celebrating 100 Years of Oakland Technical High School
Huey Watson, Jr. ’49
During the time I was at Tech, Afro-Americans/Blacks were called Negroes. While I was a student at Tech, there weren’t any black teachers. The administrative, teaching and counseling staffs were all Caucasian until the 1960s. For a period of time when we (black students) got off the bus in front of the school, Mr. G., the principal, would stand on the front steps of the school and direct us black students to enter the side or back doors of the building. He said, “We are trying to preserve the front doors.” The same doors are still there and the bus stop is still in front of the school. I don’t know if any of the black students ever walked through the front doors, and if they did, I don’t know what happen to them afterward.
Counselors would direct the black females into Home Economics classes, and the black males into shop classes (auto/fender repair, radio, wood, metal) instead of college preparatory classes. After World War II, Tech offered technical shop classes to the veterans. I had a white English teacher who said to our class, “You people are going to speak like people in your environment. I’m going to sleep, do what you want to do.” Then he went to sleep in class. Black parents didn’t go and talk to the teachers and/or counselors like they do today. Back then parents were working or from the old Southern school of thought, where parents felt that the teachers were always right and the parents didn’t believe in challenging the teachers.
I didn’t play sports, but black students who participated in the athletic program had to be outstanding athletes to get on the basketball and/or baseball teams. The Tech athletic program had a quota system. Coaches were partial to the Caucasian students. Only so many blacks were allowed to play on the basketball and baseball teams. There were ten to fifteen players on each team, and only three to four black players were allowed on each team. There weren’t any limits to the number of black participants on the track and field teams.
During that time, Tech had two graduations, one in February and the other in June. I graduated from Tech in the June, Class of 1949. Only a few black students were able to get scholarships to a four-year college. Most black students went to junior college after graduation. I attended the City College of San Francisco, and then transferred to Contra Costa Junior College, which today is Contra Costa Community College.
I graduated from Tech sixty five years ago and I’ve never been back.