Oral History

Gwen Atwater - On family, faith, segregation, and Frank Porter Graham Elementary School

Interviewed by Alexander Stephens and Molly Norwood on October 26, 2010

Gwen Atwater came to Chapel Hill, her husband’s hometown, after he got out of the military. Following a brief stint in customer service and time working in the school district’s administrative offices, she took a job teaching at Frank Porter Graham Elementary School in 1973. She became an FPG Elementary institution over the more than 30 years she was there, and is still talked about with love and reverence by her former colleagues and students. This interview was done for the Marian Cheek Jackson Center for Saving and Making History. Topics include: Grambling College and Hampton University; segregation and integration in Louisiana; her grandfather, a Jehovah’s Witness; her childhood in Louisiana; her religious background; sacrifices when starting a family; early career at Hampton; Moved to Chapel Hill with husband after he left military; work at NCNB Bank; work at Lincoln Center; early work with the Child Development Center and Frank Porter Graham Elementary School; 1989 renovation of FPG Elementary; Superintendent Haynes; start of technology in Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools; her mother and her teaching philosophy; lasting relationship with colleagues and students; her teaching ethic; UNC Math and Science Program for young students and her own experiences with mathematics education; teaching children’s church at St. Joseph CME.

Gwen Atwater - On family, faith, segregation, and Frank Porter Graham Elementary School

Oral history interview of Atwater, Gwen conducted by Stephens, Alexander on October 26, 2010 at Unknown. Processed by Younge, Mandella.

Citation: Marian Cheek Jackson Center, “Gwen Atwater - On family, faith, segregation, and Frank Porter Graham Elementary School,” From the Rock Wall, accessed May 21, 2022, https://fromtherockwall.org/oral-histories/gwen-atwater-2.

"We’re writing our own history, thank you!"

Ms. Esphur Foster

Want to add in?  Have a different view?  What do you think? Want to upload your own photos or documents?

History is not the past.  It’s the sense we make of the past now. Click below to RESPOND—and be part of making history today.

Respond