Billo Harper Interviewed by Katelyn Lough and Dylan Logan, 2023
This oral history is an interview with Billo Harper conducted by Katelyn Lough and Dylan Logan for the Lucy F. Simms School Oral History Project. Katelyn and Dylan were students in Melissa Dean and Tim Van Schaick’s African American history course at Turner Ashby High School. The interview was conducted virtually on February 28, 2023, using Google Meet.
Billo Harper attended the Simms school from 1957 to 1966. In this oral history, Mr. Harper discusses the tight-knit community of Newtown and describes how the school felt like an extension of the family. He fondly remembers his teachers, most of whom were educated at historically Black colleges and universities and were dedicated to providing a quality education despite the limitations of segregation.
The interview covers various aspects of his school life, including the daily routine of walking to school, participating in school events like May Day, and his role as the basketball manager. Mr. Harper also worked as a paper route boy and door-to-door salesman, developing his entrepreneurial skills, and influenced by his family's history of owning and operating businesses.
Throughout the conversation, Mr. Harper emphasizes the strong sense of community and shared experiences in Newtown, which allowed them to enjoy their adolescent years despite the challenges of living in a segregated world. He mentions the existence of organized activities like lawn parties, church gatherings, and baseball games, which contributed to the sense of unity within the community.
Interview and Transcript
The oral history transcript is available in two versions:
- The first version is the unedited transcript, which represents a verbatim record of the interview. Click here to download an unedited copy of the transcript.
- The second version is an enhanced transcript that includes additional notes provided by the interviewee. These notes offer further insights, clarifications, or context that complement the original conversation. Click here to download a copy of the transcript enhanced by notes from Mr. Harper.
The transcript presented here has undergone a rigorous review and editing process undertaken by Mollie Godfrey, Mariam Ismail, and Kirsten Mlodynia to ensure its accuracy and authenticity. After the completion of the oral history interview, we provided Mr. Harper with the opportunity to review the initial transcript and offer feedback, corrections, and additional insights. This collaborative effort between Mr. Harper and our team at James Madison University has resulted in a final version that faithfully reflects the participant's own words and recollections.