Living the Story – Alice Wilson

September 21, 2010 in 1950s-1960s, Oral history

As I watched the film, Living the Story, there were several things that stood out to me. The integration of the Mayfield High School by 10 African American students had the backing of a group of adults who supported their efforts. The entire integration process was very well organized and with alternate plans in the event of trouble. The students’ parents most definitely were in support of their efforts, or the thing would not have gotten very far. So, it was much, much more than 10 brave students making history in Mayfield, KY.

Watching Wilson’s non-verbal cues and listening to her filtered memories, the two are often out of sync. Her body says the integration process was very stressful, though she says again and again that she let the various incidents go and doesn’t think about them.

Remembering my own experience with school integration, there are things that I will never forget and will always feel: the Black children who had to sit in the back of the room, being the last in the food line and having to sit at the cafeteria table that was reserved for Black children, and the segregation of all children during playtime.

If you look at Alice Wilson’s interview again and see beyond the words. Pay attention to what her non-verbal actions are saying, especially her eyes and her mouth and the rocking of her body. There are several instances when she is trying not to cry or is trying to minimize the hurt of the memories. This can be seen at time stamps 25:55 (tension), 31:40 (body starts rocking), 33:38 (tearful), 35:13 (striving to gain composure for next several minutes) and from this point on is the real heart of the interview.

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