Oral Histories

Interview of James Taylor

Deputy superintendent for the Los Angeles Unified School District and first principal of Locke High School in South Central Los Angeles. Architect and a founder of the Young Black Scholars Program.
Black Educators in Los Angeles, 1950-2000
African American History
Stevenson, Alva Moore
Taylor, James
Persons Present:
Taylor and Stevenson.
Place Conducted:
Taylor's home in Los Angeles, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Alva Moore Stevenson, Program Coordinator in the UCLA Library Department of Special Collections; M.A., African American Studies, UCLA. Stevenson prepared for the interviews by pursuing various primary and secondary sources related to education and its evolution as it relates to African American children in the city of Los Angeles.
Processing of Interview:
The transcript is a verbatim transcription of the recording. It was transcribed by a professional transcribing agency using a list of proper names and specialized terminology supplied by the interviewer. Taylor was then given an opportunity to review the transcript and made a number of/a few corrections and additions. Those corrections were entered into the text without further editing or review on the part of the Center for Oral History Research staff.
3.3 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
This series documents efforts to secure quality education for Black students in the Los Angeles area in the years 1950-2000. This includes the issues of integration/desegregation, increasing the numbers of Black teachers and administrators and the struggle against discriminatory hiring practices, securing equitable resources and safe learning environments, and maximizing achievement levels
Early life on Westside of Los Angeles—Parents’ occupations—Mother’s community activities—First African American Girl Scout Troop—Taylor’s grandparents—Their migration to Los Angeles—Racial composition of neighborhood while growing up—Japanese American playmates— Neighbors who were interned in relocation camps—Elementary and junior high school experiences—Early awareness of race—Discrimination in public places—Role of religion in upbringing—Emphasis upon education in Taylor’s home—High school experience—Influence of Dr. Helen Miller Bailey—Parameters of social life on Manual Arts campus—Incident involving Sid Foster—Applying to UCLA—Network of African American students at UCLA—Subject A examination—Returning to UCLA after service in WWII—GI Bill—Increased interactions with White students—Jim Thayer—Clifford Bell—Taylor’s stint in the military—Positions as supply sergeant and education and information specialist— Dynamics of light and dark skin color—Taking teacher's exam—First teaching position at John Adams Junior High School—Positions in preparation for administrative exam—Teaching position at Hamilton High School—Assuming vice principal position at Polytechnic High School—Robert Lewis.
Parents migration to Los Angeles—Their occupations and education—Influences on decision to teach—Local civil rights movement—Experience with housing discrimination—Shopping for a home in Los Feliz area—Wolfe Company—Watts Rebellion—Assignment to Locke High School—Ablyn Winge and parent involvement—Support of Ron Karenga—Maintaining control of school property—Karenga’s talk to faculty—Investigation by State Senator John Harmer---Support from school board members—School experiences of Taylor’s children—School integration and desire for “salt and pepper mix”—Permits with Transportation (PWT) Program—Lack of overt discrimination in pupil assignment—Why integration did not benefit the children—Integration of teaching staffs—Diane Watson’s criticisms—Implication of election of local Black officials—Thomas Bradley—First Black administrators in LAUSD—Rule 4214—Fremont High School—Principal Don Bolton—Vice-principal and principal positions at Poly High School—Feeling of acceptance—“Tex” Williams—Training for principal’s position—Conducting faculty meetings—Eidner’s campaign in support of Taylor as principal—Necessity of industrial and home economics program—Student Nursing Assistant Program—Childcare Program—Co-curricular assignments—Mixed feelings about reassignment to Locke High School—More on hiring of Black principals—Community organization support—Increasing test scores of Black students in the sixties—Attempts to steer Black kids into college preparatory programs.
Impact of Westminster v Mendez and Brown v. Board on integration in LAUSD—Black children entering White schools pre-WW II—Distinction between desegregation and integration—Calls in the 50s for Black children to attend White schools—Origins of Permits with Transportation program—Crawford v. Board “Mixing salt and pepper”—Pushing for Multicultural Educational Centers instead of busing—“Positive integration”—Waste incurred by desegregation—Opposition to busing—Resentment in the Valley— Desegregation of faculty—Trying to place physics teacher at Jefferson High School——Exemption of White teachers who proved nonwhite ancestry— Drain of quality Black teachers from the inner city— Loss to inner city as a result of desegregation—Deposition during Crawford v. Board—Absence due to heart problem—ACLU legal team—Correlation between integrated residential areas and schools— Focus on busing at expense of discussions on integration—Lack of strong support for busing by Black parents—How own background affected views on integration—Studies on success of integration—Importance of counseling—Counselors as monitors of problem students—Closing schools due to flight of White students—Expansion of PWT— Lack of successful urban integration programs nationwide—Role of Frederick Dumas in formation of Council of Black Administrators—COBA’s major objectives— Origins of Black Education Commission—Commission effectiveness tied to chairs—Self-interest of Black community activists at expense of children—Margaret Wright—“Sweet” Alice Harris—Trajectory of Deputy Superintendent position
Young Black Scholars Program—Role of Winston Doby—Support of 100 Black Men—Targeting academically-promising middle school students—Workshops—Highlights of career—Reservations about placing Taylor at all-White Poly High—Campaign to place Taylor in principal’s position—Transfer to Locke High School—Flurry of Black principals in late 60s—Downtown experiences—Effect of Taylor’s success on placing Black principals—Other organizational involvement—Ability of public education to meet societal needs—Lessons from Taylor’s experience for education today—Contract versus non-contract schools.