Mozella Jordan Price, a daughter of Rev. and Mrs. Nelson W. Jordan, was born in Farmville and educated in the Farmville public schools. She also studied at Boydton Institute, Boydton, Virginia, and at Virginia State College. She received a B.S. from Hampton Institute and continued her studies at Teacher’s College of Columbia University in New York City.
In 1919 Mozella Price began her work as supervisor of black schools in Appomattox County, work she continued until her retirement in 1963. During her forty-four years of service she oversaw construction of several Rosenwald schools and encouraged and inspired African American citizens to help meet the needs of the county’s black schoolchildren. She worked to improve race relations and was a strong advocate before the county school board on behalf of black schools. Mrs. Price organized the county teachers into a Health for Victory Club that raised funds for scholarships.
Why Black History Month?
Prior to 1976 there was no Black history month. Dr. Carter G. Woodson, son of former slaves, established Negro History week in 1926 when he discovered that the accomplishments of American Blacks were largely ignored by history books. That's right, even though the first Blacks arrived as slaves in 1619 there was no mention of Blacks, except in derogatory terms, in history books.
“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Since 1976, American Presidents have declared February, President Lincoln's birth month, as Black history month; a time to reflect on the contributions of Blacks throughout American history. If the notable accomplishments of Blacks had always been recognized in history books there would never have been a need for Black history month.
History is, after all, a detailed study of the past. Understand that the past is never very far away from the present. Events in our forefathers' lives influenced what they passed down to us. For example: Once upon a time, while little White children were being taught the value of eye to eye contact and assertiveness, little Black children were being taught to stand, patiently waiting to be acknowledged, while looking at their feet.
“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
The NAACP was founded Feb. 12, 1909 partly in response to the practice of lynching and to the 1908 race riots in Springfield , Mo. Appalled, a group of White liberals called for a meeting to discuss racial justice. Some sixty (60) people attended, seven (7) Blacks, and founded the NAACP.
The NAACP established its office in New York City in 1910. Its first President, Moorfield Storey, was a White constitutional Lawyer/former President of the American Bar Association. W.E.B. Du Bois was the only Black executive. James Weldon Johnson, writer and diplomat, became the organization's first Black secretary in 1920. Louis T. Wright, a surgeon, became the first Black Chairman of the Board of Directors in 1934.
So, just as there were Blacks helping to load other Blacks onto the slave ships in Africa, there have always been Whites who were opposed to slavery and racism. Often times they remained silent out of fear for their own safety. Often, they acted.
The moral to this story is:
“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
For, as has been said, "The kind of world we make, or allow others to make, is the kind of world we will have to live in."
Let me see. It must have been some time around 1950. I can’t even remember. Because we came here in 1942 and Bea was a little child. I didn’t start teaching right away. We came in ’42.
Yes, that was my best experience because I began when Bea was a little girl. I happened to have my Mother, who lived next door to me. We persuaded Mama to come, to move from Hampton. We lived on the campus of Hampton, University.
My Mother was from Augusta, Georgia, and my Dad was from Birmingham, Alabama. They met because Mama was a teacher and Papa was in agriculture. In fact, he was the first Black County Agent and they probably have that in some of the history of extension work.
At Hampton we had to have double majors so I was an English major first and then my second choice was Physical Ed because I had a lot of dancing from when I was a little girl.
Mrs. Price talked to me and she needed an English teacher. They had an opening, and Mrs. Price talked with me and wanted me to teach and my husband did not want me to start teaching. He said I needed to be a housewife first. [laughs]
And that’s how I began. Through Mrs. Price knowing me because she came to Hampton. And I taught her. I was a Physical Ed major and Mrs. Price was older and she couldn’t participate like the youngsters. I had her as a special project so she could get her physical ed credits. So, I knew Mrs. Price and I came to her camp. A lot of us from Hampton came when she first opened Camp Winona. We just started in that manner with Mrs. Price
It seemed as though Ms. Price had made a foundation of race relations and they respected her. As teachers, because she had laid a firm foundation, we didn’t have any problems. Because of that faith we had in Mrs. Price, we didn’t have any problems, at all, we just smoothly went I don’t remember any problems.
No they used the same contracts at the school board office that they had used before. We never knew there was any change of contract because of race. It went smoothly. Because we had good teachers.
I went to Richmond and then that changed a little bit when I came back because I went into guidance and I had gotten my credentials from my alma mater in guidance. I didn’t intend, you know, to teach English forever and ever.
I had the position with Carver. Just about all of my teaching experience was at Carver. And then they asked me to come to Richmond. They had heard I was a good English teacher and they had a position as a supervisor of English. But, I didn’t like the idea of traveling throughout the state because I had to go way out to Bristol. There was a Mrs. Haley, Dr. Haley, who had been in the department, an elementary supervisor. She traveled; and I went with her. So that wasn’t a problem. And we went to places past Roanoke. She and I would go together. She was an elderly lady and well thought of.
You know how campus kids get into things and participate. So when I began teaching it was Physical Ed and of course I had the dancing in there and I had the drama. We had to have that. And my English classes, we would very often do some of the poetry or plays and I had the students to take part in it.
The students came up with some plays that they wanted to present. I had them do it in the classroom first and then we would go down to the auditorium. We had some wonderful, talented, good students. Bessie Williams, Eloise, I could name them. They could really perform. Eloise was quite a little dancer. She was so graceful. She would participate in all those dance routines. She could tap better than I could.
I had ballet growing up because I grew up on the campus of Hampton Institute so I was able to have that. I had a few little students and I would teach them the positions. I would incorporate that dance routine that I had when I was a little girl because I lived on the campus. My Dad was the first Black County Agent in the United States so I just felt like I had an opportunity and I took advantage of it. And I cooperated with my Mother and Dad. You know you have to do that in order to participate. If I was stubborn and didn’t want it, I wouldn’t have had it.
Let me see. I was with the – what did we use to call it – the Modernistic Club -- was a group of teachers – Ms. Hamlin, Ms. Hester Stevens – I could name -- Ms. Beasley. And we would meet – was it once a month? – I think we met once a month at the different homes. We were supposed to talk about school mostly and always had a delectable, tasty dinner that was served [chuckles]. And that was enjoyable and we looked forward to that! And we tried to outdo the other one who had the nicest dinner, you know. That was a highlight, that Modernistic Club, and that existed until Ms. Stevens passed away. She was the last one.
Let’s see. We had that club. I was an AKA sorority through the years because I joined at Hampton. They had an active chapter in Lynchburg and Peggy Jordan, Mrs. Price’s sister, would go with me to the meetings, because they met so long, then we would come back and I was afraid I would have to drive, because Peggy didn’t want to drive. She could but didn’t want to. [chuckles] So it was participation like that. So that was the only social part I had going to AKA and all of that was things that I joined way back in college.
Let me see. No we didn’t have anything but the clubs – you know, the Drama Club, we had that. And we would do plays in the Spring of the year because we had time in our English classes to rehearse. And that was about it. And Physical Ed. I did start a dance group but that took students into the evenings and parents would have to come for them and that was inconvenient for some of them.
I think it was one of the highlights of our existence because everything that was done socially would come through the school, really. Because, we would draw upon the families and the children that we taught. I think that is how we really existed – was through participation with our wonderful students. I will never forget my students. They were so fine. And, they would behave, you know. They would come in there and everything would just be so quiet. And I don’t know whether it was my manner or not; I didn’t – I wasn’t ugly!
Whenever you called upon parents, they were right there. And they got their children there. We would have to practice past regular school hours and they would come and pick their children up. That was no problem whatsoever. We always tried to not inconvenience the parents. They came first and we would work around their schedules. It was a wonderful experience.
I would tell them that we were very modern. We were very up-to-date and that was due to our leadership. Mrs. Price, you know, finished Hampton. I taught her Physical Ed. And she was older and she couldn’t go through the gymnastics but I had her do shuffleboard and ping-pong and activities so she could get her credit. And I knew her because I came to her camp. A lot of us came from Hampton. She was a Hamptonian herself. She knew people at Hampton and that’s how we came to her camp. There was Geneva Box, Catherine Hayes, Ida Bassett, Rachel B– Oh, we filled her camp coming from Hampton and I was just in junior high then. Maybe before then. And that’s how we got to know Mrs. Price so well and she knew our parents. My Dad was the first Black County Agent. And he was well known. John B. Pierce, he’s in the history of extension work; my Dad. Mrs. Price knew him and knew my Mother and all of that. And so we were able to come to her camp and brought some of the youngsters from Hampton. She really made us comfortable and had wonderful food. She would even cook herself. I don’t know how she did it. But she had some people that would come in and fix the meals for us and there must have been ten or fifteen of us who came from Hampton to her camp in the summer so that’s how we got to know Mrs. Price.
Mrs. Price was a pioneer. She was the first in education. I don’t remember anybody ahead of her. We know who Carver was. But, everybody wouldn’t know who Price was. To have that joint name, it means a lot and it means a lot to each one of us. I am proud to say I taught at Carver-Price and if they don’t know it then I would like to tell them, you know, who she is.
You know, as the years go by it seems like we get further and further away from each other. But that’s natural, isn’t it? Because, unless you are into the activities that other people have, you don’t set yourself aside but you are really not a part of it anymore – and yet you are. Yes, I’ll always be a part of your lives. (from a 2008 interview with Mrs. James)
And, so shall she be!
At one time, when I first came, you didn’t know there was a school there because the school was old and the weatherboard had almost decayed. So I got the boys, got some axes and we got out there and cleaned the yard so that people knew that we had a school.
The happiest days the kids looked forward to were May Day, 4-H Achievement Day, and music festival day. Mattie Trent West was the head of that. She would always say, " bring the children." And, we would always bring the kids.
When I first came, they had the commencements and the class baccalaureates at the churches because we didn’t have anywhere else to have them. They would have baccalaureate at Galilee and commencement exercises might be at First Baptist
Mrs. Celestral Turner:
I won’t tell you what year but a few years ago I came to Appomattox County. I was looking for a job and I heard about this music opening job at Appomattox, so with the help of my brother, who has passed away, he brought me to Appomattox County, and uh we had to ride around several places to find me someplace to live. And we finally ended up staying with Mrs. Tibbs in Appomattox and uh she um I had a very nice home there until she got so sick and I had to move down to Concord to Ms. Walker’s house. And I stayed there for right many years. I don’t know how many years and I stayed there – and she was a really sweet woman also.
In my teaching profession, I started teaching music education at the Carver-Price School. In fact, I was going around to the different schools in the county. I used to go around or Ms. Price used to drive me around or I used to drive myself – and um I did that for a number of years. After maybe about seventeen years, teaching all music, I was called back into start teaching grade – to be certified in elementary ed – so I taught elementary ed and music classes at Carver Price in Appomattox County.
I also taught the high school, grades 1-12. I had the high school choir and everything. In fact, I might have been the first teacher in Appomattox County who taught all those classes, because I had classes 1-12, which I enjoyed very much. I don’t know which I enjoyed the most: the third grade, the fourth grade, or just music – I enjoyed them all. Because back then you really did enjoy your teaching position. I felt happy, especially if you met a child who really wanted to learn. That was the key to the whole thing, the learning.
If we could get a child to learn and see if he was interested in learning, that would make your day and I enjoyed that very much. And uh after um so many years – after 17 years of when I was asked to teach the third grade. I came out with my daughter Gwendolyn and I went back and was teaching the fourth grade. Then the superintendent came back to me again and said Mrs. Turner, “if you want to teach to go back to the third grade, then you can go back to the third grade,” and I said, “thank you, that’s exactly where I want to go, The third grade and my music again [because?] I could do my music again and that’s where I went. I ended up with third grade and teaching my music classes which I enjoyed very much and my theory classes. I had about 25 or 30 music students at that time. And uh most of them learned to play. Some of them just wouldn’t practice and if you don’t practice, you don’t ever learn. You know in order to learn to play the piano you must practice. If you don’t, [no way?], you can’t do it. So I enjoyed my experiences in teaching and if I was 50 years younger I
Children, now, you have to have patience, and right now I probably wouldn’t have the patience I had then. It takes patience and understanding and love to work with a child and um [during?] my music and my teaching profession I had all those things. At my age now, some of that I’ve lost. I don’t know if I’ve lost it because of age or because it was time for me to get out. I’ve enjoyed my profession and I would do it all over again if I had it to do it all over again. (2008 interview)