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First black student in white school reflects on family, life

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Peck, the youngest child in a family of three girls and two boys, said he followed his mother's instructions.

"She said that no matter what was said to me or done to me that I was not to fight back. That turned out to be difficult, but I did it. She engrained it in me."

Peck's mother told him that if he fought back his actions would be exploited and he would be the one made to look bad. People would say integration wasn't working.

"I grew up on Central Avenue and had a lot of white friends. We grew up together, played together, but we didn't go to school together."

Peck said the African-American students walked to the Carver School on Frederick Street.

"The school buses would pick up the white kids and when they went by they would holler at us."

Peck said when he attended Fort Hill that several of the white students were very nice and treated him as a friend.

"There were times, though, when someone would use the N-word loud enough so I could hear it or say that black people didn't take baths or would bring lice to school. And I thought, 'Come smell me, I'm clean.' "

Peck said those ugly comments reflected the social thinking of the time.

"The only movie theater we could go to was the Maryland, but we had to go down a back alley and enter near the stage and then climb up to the projector area to watch the show."

"Black people could buy clothes and shoes in stores on Baltimore Street, but they couldn't try them on and put them back because the store owners said white people wouldn't buy them."

Peck said he believes that by staying calm and talking with white students at Fort Hill that he helped break down social barriers with some individuals.

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