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Passion for Justice

February 18, 2013 in 1940s-1950s

Audrey Grevious

Audrey Grevious

Two of the most prominent women during the era of desegregation in Kentucky were Audrey Grevious and Mae Street Kidd. Grevious pushed for integration in the educational system, while Kidd seemed to defy the boundaries of color everywhere she went.

Grevious was inspired to be a teacher while attending segregated schools as a child. Initially, she wasn’t aware of the segregation, saying, “things were different, but not so unpleasant.” It wasn’t until she reached adulthood and attended a convention in New York that Grevious realized how different things were in Lexington, KY.

As a teacher, Grevious worked to integrate the Kentucky Village, a school for delinquent boys and girls across the state. Around this time, Grevious was also involved with the NAACP, who asked her to try an experiment. She and another NAACP member were to make stops along the way to Lexington from New York in order to see if they could be served. Not surprisingly, they were denied service at every stop except for one. On the way back up to New York, Grevious and her companion dressed nicely, wearing furs, diamonds, and a suit, respectively.  Though they were served at every place this time, the incident made her angry: “Here I am, an American, and they would not serve me.”

Mae Street Kidd

Mae Street Kidd

Similarly, Kidd also identified herself as an American first before anything else. In Passing for Black, Kidd never distinguished between whites and blacks when it came to their character. Though she had fair skin and blonde hair, she did not try to pass for white even though she easily could. She “never made an issue of [her] race.”

Passing for BlackKidd was successful in every career and job pursuit she immersed herself in. She began in sales at Mammoth Life and Accident Insurance Company based in Louisville. Kidd didn’t finish college, but she was a skilled salesman and was even able to open her own bank account at the young age of seventeen. She worked her way up in Mammoth, eventually becoming the director of a program she created, which concentrated on public relations. In addition, Kidd organized the Business and Professional club for black women and was a successful saleswoman for Fuller products, a cosmetics company with branches in Chicago and Detroit. Because Kidd seemed to “present a certain image of success” with the way she dressed and carried herself, it was really no surprise that she was able to excel in every endeavor she pursued; however, her quest for success was not an easy one. Many people were jealous of her and she was often mistreated and did not always receive credit for her achievements.

Though these women probably faced many trials in their pursuit for a better quality of life for themselves and others, both were still able to make an impact on society through their hard-earned accomplishments. I don’t believe that these women are the only ones with such extraordinary passion for justice. There are women who are working hard daily in their jobs to defy the boundaries of race and gender, but don’t receive recognition for their efforts. To an extent, this passion is burning within each of us, pushing us to reach our dreams and ambitions of making the world a better place—no matter the color of our skin.

Sources

“Audrey Grevious.” The HistoryMakers. 11 Dec. 2002. <http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/audrey-grevious-39>. 18 Feb. 2013.

“Audrey Grevious.” Wikipedia. 17 Feb. 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audrey_Grevious>. 18 Feb. 2013.

Hall, Wade H. Passing for Black: The Life and Careers of Mae Street Kidd. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1997.

“Mae Street Kidd.” Wikipedia. 16 Feb. 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mae_Street_Kidd>. 18 Feb. 2013.

by emme23

Audrey Grevious and Mae Street Kidd: Empowering KY Women

February 18, 2013 in 1950s-1960s, Political history, Social history

Though nationally people may not regard Kentucky as place of importance during the civil rights era, women such as Audrey Grievous and Mae Street Kidd prove to be pillars for desegregation in the south. Though both women came from different backgrounds, their determination and dedication to civil rights issues  make them two of the strongest women in Kentucky civil rights history.

Audrey Grevious, The History Makers

Audrey Grevious

Grievous, born and raised in Lexington, had grown up in a desegregated world, where she received her early education in all black schools. After receiving a degree in elementary education, she returned to the school system. However this time, it was to teach. After entering a desegregated school system, Grievous realized black students were still at a disadvantage to white students, and in some ways the desegregated schools were more detrimental to the education of black students than the segregated schools were. Grievous recalled an incident with her nephew in an interview in 1999 with Betsy Brinson for the Kentucky Historical’s Society’s Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky project.

 “When I checked into it to find out what it was they said that they just stopped studying at all cause they weren’t ever called on. Never held up their hand anymore. Sat back there and talked, you know, just, just did it. And I said but you are falling right into their trap. And I got the whole little group, never will forget it, here in the middle of my floor, of the group that were here and had always been and we had to talk about this. And that all the time you can not live up to expectations of other people especially if those expectations are not high. It’s better to fool them and let them know they made the mistake rather than you.”

In addition to teaching, Grievous was heavily involved with CORE and the NAACP.

Mae Street Kidd

Mae Street Kidd

Like Grievous, Mae Street Kidd was determined to achieve her goals and prove wrong the people who stood in her way. Kidd built a strong reputation for herself at Mammoth insurance after starting work at the young age of 17. The man she worked for was hesitant to hire her because of her age, however she proved to be a valuable asset working her way up in the company. At one time, Kidd’s job was given to someone else, but because of her determination she earned it back, selling over a quarter of a million dollars worth of insurance. This spirit and determination eventually earned Kidd a seat in Kentucky’s General Assembly, where she continued to fight for civil rights.

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“Audrey Grevious.” Wikipedia. 17 Feb. 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audrey_Grevious>. 18 Feb. 2013.

Grevious, Audrey. “Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky.” Interview. Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky. Kentucky Historical Society. 11 April 1999. <http://205.204.134.47/civil_rights_mvt/util.aspx?p=1&pid=14984> 18 Feb. 2013.
Hall, Wade H. Passing for Black: The Life and Careers of Mae Street Kidd. Lexington: University of Kentucky, 1997. Print.
“Mae Street Kidd.” Wikipedia. 16 Feb. 2013.<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mae_Street_Kidd>. 18 Feb. 2013.

by emme23

Desegregating Education in Kentucky

February 12, 2013 in 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Social history

In Kentucky, as in many other states, the fight for desegregation did not come without great difficulty, and even after Brown v. Board passed true equality was not instantly achieved. The push for desegregation began in the 1930s with the NAACP, countering the Day Law which took effect in 1904,  decided to focus on desegregation at the highest level of education first, then work their way down to lower levels of education. In 1954, the Brown v. Board court case made integration legal. However, though it was legal in Kentucky, many communities, especially small rural ones, had no intentions of integrating anytime soon. Despite this reaction from parts of Kentucky, schools such as Lafayette High School in Lexington, the first desegregated school in Kentucky, made efforts to have an interracial school.

Protestors march for integration.

Though Lafayette was an integrated school, not all schools in Lexington were so easily integrated. In the 1970s, inner city schools, which primarily hosted black students, were closed in an effort to promote desegregation. In Louisville, similar efforts were being made. Judge James Gordon instituted a busing plan in Jefferson County to promote integration in public schools.

There might have been conflict over integration in Kentucky schools, but integration was still higher in Kentucky than it was in the rest of the south. In 1964 92% of Kentucky schools were integrated, as opposed to less than 20% in the rest of the south.

Even at schools that were integrated however, black students were not greeted as if they were equals. “On the second day when I [arrived], there was a crowd of people there that had shovels, pitchforks, that were outside of the school, name calling. The state police and National Guard were called in, I believe it was on the third day,” said James Howard.

For white students who supported integration, the backlash was sometimes just as prominent as it was for black students. “White students who accepted the blacks were called out as well. “They were called ‘nigger lovers’ and of course because they lived in the white community day in and day out, they were treated with disdain. In fact, some were beaten up… for no other reason than they didn’t participate in name calling or cursing or any agitation towards us. In many ways they paid as big a price as many of the black students that they befriended,” said Howard.

Though there was a plus side of integration – better facilities and materials — Nancy Johnson, an African-American student during the integration period, said that black students lost the sense of community they once had. “We lost our teachers. We lost that personal touch. Our kids are outnumbered, so they’ve been kind of lost.”

*****

“The Day Law.” KET. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Feb. 2013.

Fosl, Catherine, and Tracy Elaine. K’Meyer. Freedom on the Border: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky. Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky, 2009. Print.

 

 

Desegregation Breeds Unity

February 12, 2013 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Social history

The late 1800s was marked by the norm of racial segregation in schools and other public places. The Day Law of 1904 further reinforced the harrowing institution, making it more difficult for African-Americans to pursue education without resistance. While there were schools established solely for “colored” folks, there was less funding, and the conditions of the textbooks and facilities were quite poor.

Remarkably, the NAACP was a key leader in the fight against segregation in education. In Lexington, Kentucky, Audrey Grevious—who was the president of the local NAACP chapter—was the one of the main torchbearers in the movement towards desegregation in schools. Grevious taught at the Kentucky Village, a reform school for delinquent children, where she decided to integrate the lunchroom by simply going in and taking a seat. It was no surprise that the white employees reacted negatively, “throw[ing] their food … on the floor and march[ing] out.”

It was clear that integration would be a long-fought battle despite the ruling of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case in 1954. There was a massive wave of resistance in the 1950s, led by the emergence of the White Citizens Council and the rise to prominence of the Ku Klux Klan.  Desegregation was beginning to take place in schools, but at a deliberate pace that sometimes required lawsuits.

Integration in schools

Integration in schools

According to Grevious, integration didn’t always have its perks: “the best black teachers were put in the white schools, and the worst white teachers were put in the black schools,” which still made it a struggle for African-Americans to get good quality education. In Freedom on the Border by Catherine Fosl and Tracy K’Meyer, there were several accounts of hardships experienced by African-Americans when going to predominately white universities. In an excerpt by John Hatch—who attended law school at the University of Kentucky—he explained the physical and emotional separation he experienced as a student. Other white students would sometimes speak to him, but the university had a policy that “there should be a chair between [him] and white students.” Hatch also talked about the daily humiliation of always sitting down at a table alone because “everyone at the table would get up and leave.” Hatch’s account pained me the most because of his feelings of loneliness and inability to fit in.

After reading the excerpts in Freedom on the Border, it seemed that African-American men and women dealt with the desegregation in schools differently. Men were often treated worse and often felt isolated. Women also felt out of place, but accepted that they were left alone and sometimes ignored. Interestingly, athletics seemed to have become a mechanism that brought unity between African-Americans and whites. It was also a way to help desegregate schools, especially when African-Americans began being bused to places with better teams. I find it fascinating that at the University of Kentucky today,  a predominately black basketball team—one of the best in the nation, nonetheless—has also been able to bring people together, regardless of race.

Fosl, Catherine, and Tracy Elaine. K’Meyer. Freedom on the Border: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky. Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky, 2009. Print.

“Ku Klux Klan.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 02 Nov. 2013. Web. 11 Feb. 2013.

“Brown v. Board of Education.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 02 Aug. 2013. Web. 11 Feb. 2013.

“KET | Living the Story | The Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky.” Glossary, Audrey Grevious. Web. 11 February 2013.

“National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 02 Jan. 2013. Web. 11 Feb. 2013.

“Audrey Grevious.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 02 Jan. 2013. Web. 11 Feb. 2013.

“Berea College v. Kentucky.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 02 June 2013. Web. 11 Feb. 2013.

“White Citizens’ Council.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 02 June 2013. Web. 11 Feb. 2013.

1975 Kentucky Busing Law

February 10, 2013 in 1960s-1970s, Social history

Segregation in schools has always been a de facto thing in Kentucky until the Plessy vs. Ferguson case ruled separate but equal was constitutional. With this segregation in schools around the state became legal and remained this way until Brown vs. Board of Education. However, the schools remained segregated de facto until 1975 when the court ordered mandatory busing to make sure schools were desegregated. However, this movement was met with great resistance from the white population. In fact, many of the Whites that stood up to the busing movement were women who didn’t want their children to be bused so far from their homes and be in class with black children.

The busing movement was met with great resistance from the white community in a variety of forms. There were the well-known white supremacy groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and the White Citizen Council that combated the busing rule. There were other people who contributed to trying to end this mandatory busing rule and a huge portion of these people were women. These women organized demonstrations and boycotts such as having their children stay home from school. In fact Sue Connor lead an anti-busing nonviolent demonstration to show support for ending mandatory busing of black children from inner city schools to schools in the suburbs of Louisville.

Picture of white women protesting busing to desegregate schools

Women protesting busing

The more interesting thing about women leading these demonstrations is the women who did lead them and the reasons why they did. There were two main groups that participated in the fight to end busing in Kentucky. The first was a group of women that from the beginning opposed the law. This was a group of white women that didn’t want their white children having to go to school with black children. They disliked the idea that their children would be associating with the African American children and viewed that the schools that their children were now going to be going to were in the slums, not as good, didn’t live up to the standards they set for their children, dirty and unacceptable for their children. The other group, comprised to of both white and black women, stood up against busing because they felt that busing took away from their children’s schooling rather than helping it out. Students were being bused 30-45 minutes away from their homes so that the schools could make sure that each school was not over 45% African American and many parents felt that busing their children so that schools would be desegregated was causing more problems than it was helping. Many of the worries concerned the students being on the buses for so long and feeling uncomfortable being so far from their homes especially at such a young age. Parents didn’t feel comfortable with their children being taken so far away for a cause that had little to do with their children receiving a quality education. While these women didn’t hold protests, demonstrations, or were rude to the students who were bused, they did work to get their children out of the busing system and allowed others to know that they stood against this law.

Women played a crucial role in working to end the measures that were taken to desegregate schools, especially concerning the law that required busing to be mandatory in Louisville, Kentucky. These women actively spoke out against the issues, held protests to stop busing, and withheld their children from getting on the bus to boycott the law. Both black and women worked to end the busing law in the community and in their homes. They felt that it caused more problems than it cured. Whether they felt this way because they were uncomfortable with their children going to school so far away and their grades dropping, or because they didn’t like African Americans, these women worked to end the busing law.

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“6 Sep 1975 Jefferson County.” Kentucky: National Guard History EMuseum. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2013.

“Labor Unions Protest Busing Plan in Louisville, Kentucky.” Mike Jackson, correspondent. NBC Nightly News. NBCUniversal Media. 12 Oct. 1974. NBC Learn. Web. 5 September 2012.

Marriott,, Michel. “Louisville Debates Plan to End Forced Grade School Busing.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 11 Dec. 1991. Web. 10 Feb. 2013.

“1975 Year in Review.” UPI. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2013.

Educators for Integrated Education

February 10, 2013 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, Intellectual history, Primary source, Social history

Book cover, Freedom on the Border

Freedom on the Border

As a result of the constitutional affirmation of Kentucky’s Day Law in 1908, schools throughout Kentucky continued to be segregated. The developing movement to end segregated education, however, came in two distinct waves, according to oral history accounts in Fosl and K’Meyer’s “Freedom on the Border”, with the first beginning in the 1930s, and the second in 1950. Initially, active members of the NAACP made the decision to target the integration of education beginning at the highest level first. Thus, medical education and graduate level integration were of major concern to actions toward segregation.

The second wave of segregation, beginning in 1950, was recognized as “massive resistance” to the numerous, public grade schools that had yet to see reform. Schools began to rapidly desegregate in the coming decade with nearly 92% of all Kentucky schools having been integrated by 1964, however policies of implementing “freedom of choice” plans in schools would not contribute to complete integration. These plans involved students deciding where they would like to attend school and often put African American youths at risk because of deeply-rooted prejudices throughout the White community. These prejudices were not only espoused from major racist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan but from within average families. As a result of the Cold War, white supremacists traditions, such as the defense of segregation, could carry on at the familial level as perpetrators eradicated any threat of communism.

During the second major wave in support of desegregation, models for the movement emerged such as Audrey Grevious. Grevious worked at the Kentucky Village, formerly Greendale Reformatory, for delinquent children. This campus was segregated in terms of race and gender. Integration efforts throughout the community had already begun in the form of stand-ins, sit-ins, marches, etc. Grevious, during an oral history interview, discusses the fact that while growing up, she lived under the confines of segregation but wasn’t unhappy because she possessed no knowledge of any other kind of life. Although Grevious “didn’t know any better to be unhappy”, her attendance of a conference in New York drastically changed her perspective and motivated her to become radically involved with the movement for integration in Lexington. Grevious became an educator because the smartest people she had ever known were teachers and she wanted to give back to her community and those who had prepared her “to live in a world that wasn’t split in the middle”. Her goal became to prepare her students in case “the change ever came” – that change being integration. She also acknowledged the fact that she “could not ask others to make a change and while she worked in a segregated environment” herself.

Photo of Audrey Grevious

Audrey Grevious

Audrey Grevious and others share their stories and memories of educational segregation but she illustrates an important point in her interview that no one tries to remember the negative that happened. In summary, Black youths, of both genders, enrolled in public education during the movement for integration were placed under the scrutiny of society yet they received immense support from within their own community and were under the guidance of many strong-willed educators such as Grevious who would continue to work for the permanence of equality for all in Kentucky schools.

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Sources:

Wikipedia contributors. “Cold War.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 7 Feb. 2013. Web. 10 Feb. 2013.

The History Makers. “Civic Makers: Audrey Grevious.” The HistoryMakers. Web. 10 February 2013.

Fosl, Catherine, and Tracy Elaine. K’Meyer. Freedom on the Border: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky. Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky, 2009. Print.

“KET | Living the Story | The Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky.” Glossary, Audrey Grevious. Web. 10 February 2013.

 

 

Integrating Education in Kentucky

February 10, 2013 in 1950s-1960s

Integration in Kentucky was a diverse affair.  Sentiments for integration varied both due to unique regional ideals and the manner in which different counties went about integration.  Some areas, like Louisville saw easier transitions than places like Sturgis.  Integration in higher education was generally accepted with less violence, although individuals faced harsh discrimination.

Louisville was a remarkable city in its ability to transition to integrated school smoothly.  As described in Freedom on the Border, much of this was due to the hard work of the superintended Mr. Carmichael, who went to lengths in order to understand the ideals of his community. The system eventually integrated successfully by offering families a say in whether or not they wanted to send their child to one school over another. As explained by Louisville resident Ruth Higgins in Freedom on the Border, “I think it gave parents more of a feeling of integrating because we wanted to rather than because we had to.”  In regards to the “fight” to  desegregate education, much of this was stalled by Mr. Carmichael’s firm insistence to “stick to the law of the land.”

Unfortunately, the same passive transition was not true for all of Kentucky.  When integration came to Sturgis, genuine hatred arose from anti-integration groups. The immense hatred exploded, as was described by James Howard in FotB. Angry whites took over a local park, where they donned Klan insignia and burned a cross. Howard described a night spent in fear in which he laid on the floor with his family in hopes that if bullets were shot through their windows, they would avoid being hit. Eventually, the integration that had begun was halted by the violent opposition shown.

Students integrate

Higher education was a different affair; however it also varied from school to school. At Western Kentucky University, students were allowed to integrate, however a sense of segregation was maintained. Black students were placed in separate dorms so that staff would know which rooms housed them. Howard Bailey, a student attending the Bowling Green college noted that, “There were people who were very nice to us, but there were other people that made it clear that they tolerated us.”

Black females entering into higher education faced unique challenges. Jesse Zander Berea in 1951 with the first group of African American students able to attend since the appearance of the day law spoke. In FotB she spoke of the unique challenges, such as dating and finding someone capable of doing her hair. Mattie Jones of Louisville explained the difficulties in an integrated college but segregated society through her inability to take a bowling classs at the school because the local bowling alley would not allow her to enter.

 

Fosl, Catherine, and Tracy Elaine Meyer.Freedom on the border an oral history of the civil rights movement in Kentucky. Lexington, Ky.: Univ. Press of Kentucky, 2009.

by emme23

Desegregation in schools: Not separate, but not equal

January 28, 2013 in 1960s-1970s

In an oral history interview with Jennie Wilson, she depicts life in Mayfield, Kentucky during the early 20th century as a community where segregated was prevalent, causing many African-Americans were forced to live in fear.

Jennie was born in 1900, the child of former slaves. Although she was free, Jennie still carried many of the same burdens as her parents. As a girl she worked in tobacco fields along side the men, while also cooking and cleaning in white households for a meager wage. She calls the events that took place in Mayfield “scary times,” with one especially horrific event occurring on the third Monday of every month, when white men would get drunk, harass, and sometimes kill members of the black community.

Although Jennie’s daughter Alice was born over 40 years later, she also dealt with prejudice and violence in her daily life. In 1965, Alice and nine other black students decided to integrate with white students and attend Mayfield High School. The reason Alice and her peers wanted to attend the school was not so they could study with white students, but because they would have access to better educational resources. In all black schools, students were given old books and other school supplies that had come hand-me-down from the white schools. Once Alice started attending Maysville High School, she was threatened and harassed by members of the school and community. Alice also felt like she was ignored by her teachers and mistreated by her classmates. Unfortunately, situations like this were not uncommon after the Brown v. Board of Education court ruling, such as in the case of Ruby Bridges, a six year old girl exposed to violence after integrating into an all white school.

Despite the struggles Alice faced in school, she continued to get an education and is now a music teacher. Her three other siblings also attended college. Though integration during this time period was a struggle for African-American students, it helped pave the road to a future where segregation is not an issue, where children are able to attend school no matter their ethnicity, and where learning is a priority in the classroom – not skin color.

***Sources***

“Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky.” Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky. Web. 27 Jan. 2013.

“KET | Living the Story | Jennie Hopkins Wilson.” Living the Story: The Rest of the Story. Web. 27 January 2013.

“Ruby Bridges.” Wikipedia. N.p., 24 Jan. 2013. Web. 28 Jan. 2013.

Progression of Education Amongst African Americans

January 27, 2013 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s

 

Define education.  Education is the ability to progress as an individual.  It is the greatest equalizer.  Furthermore, it exists in such a manner that it can divide as well as equalize.  This picture of the dividing and equalizing nature of education can be vividly seen in the history of African Americans.

In an interview with Jennie Hopkins Wilson by KET  (http://www.ket.org/cgi-bin/cheetah/watch_video.pl?nola=kcivs+000110), Wilson, born to slave parents discusses how minimal of an education she was able to receive.  Her “formal” education lasted only six years.  This limited education was all she needed to serve the tasks of cooking and agricultural labor from which she supported herself alongside her family.  In this way, education kept her in the slave like, subservient role historically served by her slave parents.  If all she learned was vocational tasks, it was all she would be able to do.

Although eventually granted education, blacks were still denied true equality as society progressed.  Separate but equal was not equal.  Students in black schools knew resources were better in white schools, and as such when integration became required by law in 1954, many decided to take advantage of them.  Among these was Alice Wilson, (also interviewed by KET, see above link), who joined friends in Western Kentucky in choosing to integrate.  In the documentary, opposition by whites was displayed largely, but I would be curious to know if there was such opposition on both sides. (A quick internet search did not lead me in a direction supporting or contradicting this idea, but I would like to look further).

Even when integration was legalized, strong opposition disabled black students from reaching their full potential within these systems. Teachers ignored black students, stealing their opportunity within the classroom.

“People are People”: How Political and Social Change Worked Together to Create a Naive Child of the 90’s

May 2, 2011 in 1960s-1970s, Social history

Delores Johnson Brown, along with sixteen others, was one of the first to enter Norview High School in 1959 after the school system had been shut down due to “Massive Resistance”.  It has been said that “[h]er courage…signaled the end of ‘Massive Resistance’ in Virginia and [was] another giant step toward dismantling the separate and unequal educational apartheid that existed in Virginia and throughout the South” (i)  While that is certainly true, perhaps another look, one not centered so heavily on the Civil Rights Movement itself, should be afforded.  (ii)

As a child of the 90’s, I grew up completely naïve to the implications race had once held.  Unfortunately, the elder members of my family were not so lucky.  Hearing their stories sheds light on the “normal” white view of the subject, something long overlooked as a product of political change instead of an important part of how change was accomplished.

In the 1920’s my father’s parents moved to Washington D.C. from rural Kentucky.  My grandfather was, at the time, a racist, but he, as my father is quick to point out, “mellowed out with age” and had “several” African-American friends before he died.  (iii)  Through his family (iv), my grandfather grew to accept members of other races as “friends”, something that, as stubborn as my grandfather was, could not have been accomplished otherwise.

Political change did not greatly affect my mother’s family as it came to racial relations either.  My grandmother was raised “that everyone was the same”, but she knows her “parents were ahead of their time”.  She was fortunate to avoid interaction with the “Massive Resistance” movement since her schools (in Norfolk, VA) were never shut down.  The high school she attended did not integrate until the year after she graduated.  However, her daughter, years later, who lived across the street from her elementary school (also in Norfolk, VA), was bussed to “an all colored school…because the school was not previously mixed like it was supposed to be”.  Political reform perhaps, but without having been “raised that everyone was created equal and the only thing different was the color of our skin” my mother would not have done so well in an all colored school or have been able to make friends there.

The picture, though different, was very-much the same for my stepmother in southern Maryland.  Her experience is similar to that of others, but is still worth noting.  She started school in the early 60’s, a school that was all white until her third-grade year.  Even then, the school only had “one lonely little girl” named Darnella who my stepmother was “fascinated by”.  Despite her parents being on the fence about segregation, she “would always try to share something with [Darnella]” to make the girl everyone teased because she wasn’t “a vanilla” feel better.  By the time she was in high school, “mixed groups, couples and friends” were becoming more acceptable and even expected—a social change mixed with the ever-noted political change.

The political change no doubt worked hand-in-hand with the social change.  Without one the other cannot exist, but without both it would be impossible for me, as a little girl in the 90’s, to have been as oblivious to how much race had meant before.

***** Notes *****

(i)  Winston, Bonnie V. “Massive Resistance.” Crisis 116.3 (2009): 28-34. Academic Search Premier. Web. 18 April 2011.

(ii) This is not to say that the Civil Rights Movement was not critical to the improvement of conditions for African Americans.

(iii)  My grandmother, on the other hand, also from rural Kentucky, was “never heard [to] say anything against blacks”.  In fact, despite being a child of the segregated south, she still gets upset when anyone tries to say anything negative based upon race.

(iv)  Both his wife and his children.  My father (and I’m sure my grandfather’s other six children) had African American friends.  He even had someone he considered a good friend who dated “a black girl”, someone he “got along with” and would also consider a friend.  My father also cites that though there were “racial conflicts” there was “nothing bad…and if another school came to start trouble the white and black would stand together to stop any thing”.  Yet another product of social change.

(v)  Other than that which was cited from “Massive Resistance”, all information is derived (and some quoted) from personal interviews with my mother, father, stepmother, and both of my grandmothers.

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