top of page
  • Writer's pictureAngela Aldave

Navigating the Tides of Change: Bruce Smith's Journey Through School Desegregation

In the oral history interview entitled "Oral History Interview with Bruce Smith - Audio from the Desegregation of Virginia Education (DOVE) Oral History Collections," conducted by DOVE volunteer Ann Jimerson on May 19, 2012, a compelling narrative unfolds about Bruce Smith's experiences during the tumultuous era of school desegregation in Falls Church and Vienna, Virginia.

The interview, which runs 19 minutes and 13 seconds, highlights the challenges Bruce Smith faced as a high school student in Fairfax County during the desegregation era of 1962. Historical topics covered include racism, school integration, and a first-hand account of a young black athlete navigating the complexities of desegregating James Madison High School in Vienna.


Bruce Smith vividly recounts the disturbing reality he faced as racial tensions escalated. In the face of adversity, he decided not to tolerate bullying and took a stand against segregation. The decision to send a black athlete from Luther Jackson to desegregate the predominantly white school was a pivotal moment. The interview captures the courage and resilience required to challenge the status quo.


The strategic approach was to use the school as a platform for desegregation. Despite initial resistance, with the support of receptive parents, Bruce Smith took a stand against segregation. Smith's mother, in particular, played an important role as chair of the Republican Party, petitioning for equal rights and opposing poll taxes.


Growing up in a racially diverse neighborhood, Bruce Smith was acutely aware of the vast disparities between black and white communities. His early education about segregation fueled his determination to confront the pervasive problem. The interview provides a glimpse into the broader social and political context that shaped Smith's perspective and fueled his commitment to justice.


The narrative extends beyond high school and into Smith's college years at Lynbrook College. A particularly intense moment came when he anticipated imminent violence while on an internship, causing him to leave early. This incident underscored the climate of fear that had been created within the black community during a period of significant social upheaval.


"Rocking the boat too much.”

A powerful quote from the interview sums up the challenges Bruce Smith faced: "Rocking the boat too much.” This phrase encapsulates the delicate balance Smith had to maintain as even minimal interracial interactions were met with repercussions, such as a two-week suspension. It underscores the tension and resistance that individuals like Smith faced in challenging deeply ingrained norms of segregation.


To access the full interview and delve into the rich historical account provided by Bruce Smith, researchers can visit the Desegregation of Virginia Education (DOVE) Oral History Collections at  The interview is available in audio (MP3) format, providing an authentic and immersive experience of Bruce Smith's journey through the desegregation of Virginia's education system.

14 views2 comments


Chloe Cudjoe
Chloe Cudjoe
Feb 21

Hello Angela!

It is very interesting to hear about personal experiences with segregation and racism at places so close to us. Smith standing up for himself and others, as well as taking a stand against segregation, is a powerful story and lesson to tell and an important part of oral history. The quote "Rocking the boot much." is a good quote. There are many activist that were able to further push boundaries in other places, which paved the way for Smith to do his part and live through the challenges, and that in itself is very important. This was such a great post!

Chloe ☺️

angela aldave
angela aldave
Mar 11
Replying to

Hi Chloe,

I sincerely appreciate your visit to my blog and your thoughtful comment. The quote you mentioned really made a lasting impression on me.

Thank you,


bottom of page