Fifty years might have a way of clouding history, and Van Scoyoc said two versions have emerged about the schools desegregation.
When you talk to the white folks, they say, Oh it went so smoothly, she said.
As for the blacks? It was hell on earth not easy.
Matthews said she didnt have to fend off physical attacks that first day, or any day after. But the racial slurs hurt just as bad.
Her father had tried to warn her about the name-calling, Matthews said, but she wasnt prepared for the intensity. Her father also told her not to retaliate to just keep quiet.
Mostly, she said, white students and even some teachers ignored her and the five others.
They would not sit (near) me, so theyd move their desks, Matthews said. Id be a little island sitting there by myself.
Matthews remained an island for the last two years of her high school career. Gone were the days of cheerleading and acting in plays.
She wasnt sure if extra-curricular groups would shun her, but she didnt want to risk rejection.
And then, slowly, Matthews noticed a shift, if only a small one. A white boy offered to help with the math problems she struggled with. She befriended two white girls who later became the namesakes for Matthews younger sisters.
If they saw me in the hall theyd say hi, Matthews said.
Sharing her story
Matthews graduated from Cary High in 1965, as the school began enrolling more and more black students. She went on to become the first African-American to graduate from Meredith College in Raleigh.
Once again, she found herself among mostly white people. But it was a different experience, she said.
One young lady said, Ive never met a black person besides my maid, Matthews recalled. I said, Im not your maid. She laughed, and I laughed.
After she earned a masters degree, Matthews spent her career as an English teacher, mostly at Wake Tech Community College.
For a long time, she didnt want to talk about her experience in Cary. Some things are better left in the past, she figured.
She was bitter for a while, but not so much anymore. Now she doesnt mind sharing her experiences.
Matthews didnt return to Cary High, except for one class reunion. She didnt see any reason to go back.
Recently, though, she visited the campus where the bus dropped her off that first September day 50 years ago. Being there didnt evoke many strong emotions, she said.
I dont have anything in my that says, This brings back fear.