Alice Wilson – Perseverance

January 29, 2013 in 1920s-30s, Oral history, Social history

“Separate but equal” was a huge part of life, legislation, and the degradation of human beings throughout much of our country’s history. After the Plessy v. Ferguson decision, African American schools remained sub-par to white schools, using secondhand books and materials, as well as being deprived opportunities reserved for white children. Only 56% of teachers in “colored” schools were college graduates (http://www.uky.edu/Libraries/NKAA/subject.php?sub_id=124).  In some parts of Kentucky, there was no option for children of color to go to high schools. Their under-funded schools were limited to younger grades, and most African American children had no high school to attend, even if their families could spare them for the time required to gain an education. Alice Wilson, of Mayfield, Kentucky, and nine of her friends saw this ridiculousness for what it was and took a stand. Without asking permission, they walked into the white high school and demanded the education they deserved.

The video about Jennie and Alice Wilson was fascinating to me. I love history, and I’ve always been really interested in the desegregation of schools in particular. Education, for me, is one of the most fundamental ways to improve a person’s life. Being denied education as a child limits possibilities, opportunities, and the life of the children. Having been extremely blessed as a child to grow up in the best school district in Georgia, I have seen the benefits that can grow from a full educational experience.

When those kids walked into Mayfield High School on Registration day, they took a stand for the most important part of any young life – knowledge. I loved watching this video and seeing the passion behind the people who stood up for their right to education when the mere suggestion of desegregation made people ignorant, belligerent, and hateful. Change is never easy, but what I’ve found in my life is that when a strong group of people want change enough, they can find a way to make it happen. These high schoolers took a stand for their futures, and the strength in the face of adversity that they demonstrated was far beyond their years. Their dedication, strength, and perseverance really makes one stop and consider just how lucky kids today are, and just how much we take education for granted. I can’t even begin to imagine how many times I’ve said the phrase “I don’t want to go to school,” in my lifetime. But these kids, including Alice Wilson, took a leap of faith and bravery and stood up to say “I DO want to go to school.” They knew they deserved a proper education in schools that were up to date and up to par with the times, and they stood up to take what was rightfully theirs. My hope for today’s generation is that we would be able to stand up and appreciate the education we deserve and receive.

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Resources:

http://www.uky.edu/Libraries/NKAA/subject.php?sub_id=124

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Separate_but_equal

http://www.ket.org/civilrights/bio_jwilson.htm

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