How to Use
Reading 3: "My Autobiography" by Ruth Pope, 1939
The following reading was excerpted from a term paper Ruth Pope wrote for an Education course at Columbia University. (Note that Ruth's teeth marks are still clearly visible on the piano in the Pope House living room.)
Creation, still a pertinent question in this changing civilization has lost none of its mystery. This point though dating back to the early ages has been a much debated question, and from it many issues have grown. We still give credit to the Almighty God in all his wise power for the world on which we live. Thus it is that we recognize his supreme hand in world industrial and cultural progress of to-day. Despite my traditional training I wonder if we should not allow scientific study to help share honors in these world wide marvels and successes….
My father as a youngster grew up proud of himself and his beautiful clothing. In short he was the spoiled child…. His schooling continued,…he left home, went to Shaw to further his education…War came! Yes, and he volunteered and enjoyed having served his country…After the lapse of years he returned to Raleigh to practice and open a drug store. This new experience proved very profitable in business and matrimony. It was then he met my mother, whom in late years he delighted in teasing by saying, "she was one of the small town old maid schoolteachers whose chief business at the drug store was to catch a view of the new unattached doctor." His social life was broad, for diversion he spent much time in card playing, baseball, and horse racing. Religious, yes a Baptist Sunday school teacher and Deacon of church. He attributed his success, if any, to God's help. He died at the age of 76 years.
My mother, a very capable and attractive woman was one of ten children five of whom were reared by an Aunt and elder sister due to the death of their parents. Her early childhood was spent in a home of average means and she had been taught to work making every job count as an art. Her Home training and moral standards were all instilled…
A home for these two [Dr. Pope and Delia Pope] so different in background whom fate or fortune had joined was built with the conveniences of that age in a mixed neighborhood of foreigners, whites, and negroes. No two of these races mixed and thus harmony at all times existed between them…
We [Ruth and Evelyn] were taken to Sunday school and occasionally allowed to stay for church. Here we were taught not to look around and whisper but to sit attentively… my mother and father would tell me, "pretty is as pretty does," and insisted that we were both pretty only when we were good…Sometimes mother would be busy or she wanted to read or play the piano. On one specific occasion, and one I can't forget, as she played and I wanted her to go out and see a sand house I'd built she kept saying I'll be out but didn't move. My anxiety grew, I showed my temper by biting the paint along the edge of the keyboard…
On entering high school I was thrilled, because I was sure I knew it all. This school was new, Raleigh's first public High School for negroes. I determined to do my best in order that I'd have the honor of making the highest average and have the pleasure of being May Queen in the carnival. I did this and even more I played basketball and tennis and was an active person in all school activities.
Questions for Reading 3
1. How old was Ruth Pope when she wrote this paper? If needed, refer to Reading 1. What is the tone of the paper? How do you think she felt about her parents and their life as a family?
2. Why do you think the "races" in Ruth's neighborhood did not mix? Why do you think she said that this promoted harmony?
3. What does Ruth say about her father's social life? What types of activities did he enjoy?
4. Did religion play an important part in the Pope's family life? What evidence can you find in this reading to support this?
5. Why do you think excelling in high school was so important to Ruth? What kind of high school did she attend? Why is this noteworthy? What steps did her father take to provide better opportunities for his daughters? If needed, refer to Reading 1.
Reading 3 is from the Pope Family Papers, #5085, Southern Historical Collection, the Library of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.