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Tales of The End of Segregation – Prince William County, Va. Schools

This may seem like ancient history to some folks, but I lived through some of this in an adjoining county – and I’m not retirement age yet.

Desegregation in Virginia, as I as it was in other southern states was a battle. In Prince Edwards County, only about 25 miles from Washington, DC. it extended into the longest battle in the country.

My Mom actually taught at the sister school to this one. It was a one room school, without electricity. She later taught at the Cub Run School, another one room school located on the grounds of what is now the Udvar-Hazy Air Museum adjacent to Dulles Airport from 1949 to 1952.

Desegregation of schools didn’t happen overnight, and some counties actively resisted until the bitter end. There was the requisite violence by the usual suspects, as well as threats and intimidation. One of my cousins lost 4 years of High School because the county just shut all the schools down, instead of desegregating. He would get a GED through a program sponsored by the local churches for black kids caught up in this, because why go back to high school at the age of 18, to graduate at 22? The white folks didn’t suffer, they opened segregated Charter Schools.

The Prince Edward Foundation created a series of private schools to educate the county’s white children in 1959 after shutting down the Public School System in the County. These schools were supported by tuition grants from the state and tax credits from the county. Prince Edward Academy became the prototype for all-white private schools formed to protest school integration.No provision was made for educating the county’s black children. Some got schooling with relatives in nearby communities or at makeshift schools in church basements. Others were educated out of state by groups such as the Society of Friends. In 1963–64, the Prince Edward Free School picked up some of the slack. But some pupils missed part or all of their education for five years.

Not until 1964, when the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed Virginia’s tuition grants to private education, did Prince Edward County reopen its schools, on an integrated basis. This event marked the real end of Massive Resistance.

And you have to wonder why folks my age despise Charter Schools

Prince Edward County’s Long Shadow of Segregation

Among the segregated schools that Ed Peeples photographed in Prince Edward County were the all-black Mission Elementary School (above) and the all-white Green Bay Elementary School (below).

I was sitting in the dark den of the last living founder of the white private school I had attended, an academy established after public schools in my Virginia hometown were closed in 1959 to avoid desegregation.  Having worked as a reporter for years, I was used to uncomfortable conversations. But this one felt different. This conversation was personal.

I wanted to interview Robert E. Taylor about desegregation in Prince Edward County and to find out how he felt about it in 2006, decades later. Weeks before his death, he told me he was still a “segregationist” and expressed no remorse for the school closings. Breathing with the help of an oxygen machine, he used tired stereotypes to describe black teenagers in my hometown as dating white teens, impregnating them, and leaving the teenage girls’ families with “pinto” babies that nobody would want.

Taylor was talking about me. I grew up in this damaged town, but left for the West Coast and married a multiracial man of American-Indian descent. We were thinking about having kids—mixed-race children that Taylor pitied and reviled. I had, on some level, defied him and other white county leaders including my own grandfather by embracing what they most feared. White leaders wanted to protect the integrity of the white race and they had believed that integrating the schools would lead to blacks and whites dating, marrying, and having mixed-race children.

White county leaders in Prince Edward took one of the most dramatic steps in the country to prevent that from happening. Facing a court order to desegregate the public schools, white officials instead voted not to fund them—an option Prince Edward officials had considered for years. A 1951 walkout by black students to protest the conditions at the county’s black high school had resulted in a lawsuit that was later folded into the landmark Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education.

White leaders worried that their little community, in the heart of Virginia, would be held up as an example to the rest of the nation and required to integrate its schools early. Bolstered by Senator Harry F. Byrd Sr., the powerful Virginia politician who suggested rejecting Brown and the town newspaper, The Farmville Herald, Prince Edward altered the way it funded its schools. By switching to a month-by-month budgeting process, county leaders would be able to cut off funding and shut down the schools quickly if required by the courts to desegregate. Meanwhile, white businessmen made quiet plans to establish a private school for their children.

When the public schools were locked and chained in the summer of 1959, white leaders sprang into action. By the time Labor Day rolled around, the county’s church basements and social clubs had been outfitted with desks that white volunteers made from scrap materials. These schools, funded with a combination of donations and public monies, were far from perfect—tiny classrooms were scattered around the region without cafeterias or playgrounds.  Yet these schools showed the lengths white families were willing to go to avoid having their children attend classes with black students.

Black families, meanwhile, debated what to do with their children. No one knew how long the schools would be closed; black leaders didn’t think it would be more than a year or two. Opening another private school would have contradicted what they were trying to accomplish. Some parents who had resources sent their older kids across the state line to a North Carolina college that had agreed to educate some of Prince Edward County’s high-school students. Others asked relatives to take in their children; some even allowed their kids to live with strangers so they could attend school. Some snuck their children over county lines to be educated in adjacent communities. But the vast majority of children stayed home and their only formal education would come in the form of church training centers. There, for a few hours a day, volunteers taught the kids basic skills. Many children simply played or, if they were old enough, went to work in the fields with their parents and pick tobacco. Some would never return to school.

State leaders did not come to the defense of the black children and their families. The Farmville Herald and other newspapers across the state supported the county’s decision. A lawsuit to reopen the schools slowly made its way through the courts, as black children—and some whites—went year after year without educations. It would take another Supreme Court decision to force county leaders to reopen the schools in 1964.

When I was growing up, I knew this story in only the most general of ways. I didn’t have black neighbors, black friends, or black teachers. I hadn’t a clue how the closures had affected the only black person I knew as a child—my family’s housekeeper, Elsie Lancaster. Elsie worked for my grandparents when my mother was a child then worked for my parents for decades, too. She had sent her own daughter Gwen to live with an aunt in Massachusetts when the schools closed. My grandparents never even asked about Gwen after Elsie had accompanied her to Cambridge.

I attended the white academy my grandparents had helped found. I was entering eighth grade when Prince Edward Academy first admitted black students in 1986 in order to have its nonprofit status restored by the federal government. After college, I worked as a journalist, moving to Oregon, California, and Massachusetts. I began to recognize the privileged circumstances in which I had been raised and took an interest in writing about marginalized communities—people of color, immigrants, and those living in poverty. After I met my husband, Jason, and we thought about having children, the story of my hometown took on more meaning. I knew that the history of my hometown would be our kids’ history, too.

A classroom, heated by wood stove in one of the segregated schools for black kids in Prince Edward County

When I delved into Farmville’s past, it became clear that I couldn’t just blame my hometown for the shameful school closures. My family was also at fault. During the course of my research, I discovered that my late grandfather, S.C. Patteson, had been a founding member of the Farmville chapter of the Defenders of State Sovereignty and Individual Liberties, which sought to prevent desegregation.

As I worked to describe what had happened in my hometown before I was born, affected students opened up and shared the stories of their childhoods, their wounds still raw. White members of the community—many of whom knew my grandfather—were more reticent to speak with me. By telling the story of my hometown, I was picking at a scab that was never allowed to heal. Even my high school history teacher shut down the conversation, suggesting the story had already been told.

And yet the history of the county is still relevant. Decades later, the impact of those years of missed education can still be felt through the county’s 16-percent illiteracy rate, four points higher than the state average, and 20 percent of the population lives below the poverty level. And the once-closed school district is now a failing system. Declining school enrollment has left it with a steadily falling budget and supervisors have declined to raise taxes to fix the problem. The private school—now renamed and open to students of all races—is still a symbol of segregation to some of those denied an education…(More)…

 

Pro-Segregation Rally. The Confederate Flag Was Used as Symbol of “Massive Resistance” against Integration of Public Schools During Civil Rights Movement

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2015 in Black History, Domestic terrorism

 

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Confederate Flag Auto Plates

In my state there are at least 200 different License Plate designs you can choose from. It is a good deal for the State, which tacks on an additional $10 a year fee to purchase the plate. Most States have followed suit, vanity plates being an easy source of revenue.  One of the Virginia Plates, , the “Sons of Confederate Veterans” Plate has come under attack in the state post Charleston.

My view of the SCV is that it is a legitimate organization. A lot of what they promote is historical reinvention and falsehood (which any of my more savvy readers can suss out with a quick glance at their Web Page) but, in the spirit of “Live and let Live” – I really don’t care about what they want to do, as long as it doesn’t infringe upon the rights of other people. These are the guys who historically are more likely found dressing up in the Grey for a historical reenactment than driving their pickup trucks adored with the confederate flags through black neighborhoods. Unfortunately, they have been invaded by the racist whackjobs , and there is contention over the direction of the group. They, as a group wholeheartedly buy into the Southern Myth.

9 States, all except Maryland in the South offer plates with the SCV Logo. Florida offers a “confederate Heritage” Plate, which is a bit more questionable in my view.

Poll: Virginians Split on Confederate Flag License Plate Option

Virginia voters are divided 46 – 45 percent on whether the Confederate flag should be removed from state license plates, according to a Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll released Monday morning.

In Virginia, support for eliminating the option of ordering a license plate with a Confederate flag is 73 – 19 percent among Democrats and 48 – 42 percent among independent voters, with Republicans standing by the Stars & Bars 71 – 24 percent.

Black voters say 73 – 16 percent eliminate the Confederate flag option, while white voters say 55 – 37 percent keep it.

The plate I personally have the most problem with is this one…

There is no Republican, or Democrat, or Green plate – why exactly should there be one for the Tea Party?

 

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Citizen Media Minutes…The Confederate Flag and Citizen Broadcasting

Back in the 60’s and 70’s I used to love to visit cousins who lived in New York City. The city was teeming with pirate radio stations, some of which only covered a few blocks. You could hear music that never made it onto any of the big company stations, whether latin, fusion, or jazz, San Francisco also had several famous pirate radio stations, which played part in the emerging culture of Haight-Ashbury.

Our technological society has allowed folks to create and voice their opinions through the airwaves. As in anything, some of that is good, some mediocre – depending on the originators and the thought put into their work. Seems like 100 years ago, but in the pre-internet age, there was an effort to re-create “Low-Power Radio“, to license station covering small area, such as community as democratic means of expression and local interest outside of the mainstream media. So called Pirate Radio was common prior to the 80’s, principally in urban areas, and derived their audiences from folks tired of the basic canned Top 40 formats and weak community interest programs by the licensed operators. It was pretty much eviscerated by Reagan era FCC rules. Black folks operated pirate radio, because of the “daylight rule” and difficulty in getting licensed. The FCC limited the number of stations in an area in any particular format. In the 50’s and 60’s almost no black radio stations were allowed to operate between the hours of sunset and sunrise on the then popular AM Spectrum.

That changed after Reagan, and there was an effort to restart the format. I started a LPR Station in the late 70’s which was looking to use low power as a means of communications in a business area, oriented toward providing information to the community about training and education being offered, events, business talks by local ventures, and interviews of local businessmen. The stiffening regulations of the Reagan FCC pretty much put the end to that effort due to the rising expense and regulations favoring the big companies. The goal had been to leverage that into the emerging Low Power TV in 1982 – however, the price on that skyrocketed, making breaking even extremely difficult. Since then, LPR and LPTV  never really took off, but folks are still trying. Some people believe it is the future of free over-the-air-radio. The cost of entry into LPR is less than $1,000 today, and the broadcast range, receivable by standard FM Receivers is about 3 miles. LPTV is substantially more expensive, due to the migration to Digital.

A modern equivalent of LPR is the YouTube Channel. No longer restricted by geographic region, small operators may host their own news and opinion shows. Three of the videos below are from just that sort of show. This group about the confederate flag…

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2015 in The Post-Racial Life

 

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The American Revolution

On this Independence day, it should be remembered that black folks fought on both sides of the War.

Lord Dunmore’s proclamation which offered freedom to any slave who joined the British Army

The American Revolution was not a whites-only war

July 3 at 6:41 PM

Peter Salem was a legendary black soldier of the American Revolutionary War.

There are aspects of the American Revolution that are neither well known nor appreciated. To be sure, the signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave and great men, as ex-slave, abolitionist and fiery orator Frederick Douglass acknowledged in his July 5, 1852, speech in Rochester, N.Y. But Douglass, noting slavery’s continued existence 76 years after the first Independence Day, advised the crowd: “This Fourth of July is yours, not mine.”

“What, to the American slave,” asked Douglass, “is your Fourth of July?”Douglass said that the “rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me.”

Douglass’s denouncing the injustice of slavery in the midst of a celebration of liberty is now a storied event.

But less understood or appropriately recognized during most July 4 celebrations is that the American Revolution, although not fought on behalf of slaves, was not a whites-only undertaking.

John Singleton Copley

The political freedom resulting from the war was earned on battlefields at Lexington and Concord, at the Battle of Bunker Hill and beyond, with the help of black soldiers, both free and enslaved, who fought with the Continental Army.

The Revolutionary War victory was every bit theirs, as well.

At least 20 blacks were among the ranks of the rebels when the British launched their attack on the American position outside Boston in the Battle of Bunker Hill.

Peter Salem, born a slave in Framingham, Mass., earned his stripes as a minuteman fighting at Concord and later at Bunker Hill. Salem is credited with firing the shot that killed British Maj. John Pitcairn, who led the Redcoats when they attacked at Lexington.

Getting into the fight wasn’t easy for Salem or other blacks at the time. At the start of the war, George Washington opposed the recruitment of blacks, whether free or slave. Washington had plenty of company. Many slave owners considered the training and arming of slaves akin to inviting insurrection.

Thomas Peters: slave, millwright, soldier…and politician. His voyage from slavery to freedom began when he was kidnapped from Africa and sold into slavery; at the onset of the American revolution, he seized the opportunity to reclaim his freedom fighting with British forces. A talented craftsman, he became a leader of men on the fields of battle. The war’s conclusion found him traveling once again, hoping to redeem the British promise of freedom in Nova Scotia. In the 1780s and 1790s, the former sergeant found himself fighting in unfamiliar territory: the world of British politics. From New Brunswick to London, he tirelessly pursued freedom and justice for his community. He would help found the country Sierra Leone.

But they soon found that there weren’t nearly enough white men willing and able to fight the British, so Washington relented.

Salem fought in other battles, and after the war, lived in a cabin and worked as a cane weaver. He died in a Framingham poorhouse in 1862.

Twenty years later, the town erected a monument in his honor.

Former slave Salem Poor was also at the Battle of Bunker Hill. His service drew the praise of 14 officers who petitioned the Massachusetts legislature to grant him a reward. They wrote “that a negro man called Salem Poor, of Colonel Frye’s regiment, Captain Ames’ company, in the late Battle at Charlestown, behaved like an experienced officer, as well as an excellent soldier. To set forth the particulars of his conduct would be tedious, we would only beg leave to say that in the Person of this said negro centers a brave and gallant soldier. The reward due to so great and distinguished a character, we submit to the Congress.”

It was not to be. Poor died in a Boston shelter for the homeless in 1802.

Saul Matthews was a slave when he enlisted as a soldier in the Virginia militia, according to the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Matthews served as a spy, undertaking missions into British camps to collect information on troop positions and movements. He, too, drew praise from top leaders of the Revolution.

When the war ended, Matthews was returned to slavery for nearly 10 years.

He petitioned the Virginia General Assembly for his freedom. It was granted in 1792.

The 1st Rhode Island Regiment, called the “Black Regiment” because of its large number of African American soldiers, engaged in five years of fighting in New York, New Jersey and Virginia.

Christopher Greene commanded the 1st Rhode Island Regiment until 1781, when he and many of his black soldiers were killed in a skirmish with loyalists. Greene’s wounded body was reportedly dragged from his house into the woods and mutilated as possible punishment for having led black soldiers.

After the war, as the Army’s official Web site reports, some black soldiers, like those who served in the 1st Rhode Island, went on to live as freed men. However, many others, after having fought for freedom, were returned to slavery.

Frederick Douglass’s “This 4th of July is yours” assertion was biting oratory. But in helping to earn America’s freedom, the black soldiers of the Revolution have made the Fourth of July all of ours.

The nation should salute them, too.

The First Rhode Island Regiment in action at the Battle of Rhode Island. August 1778

Most of the black soldiers that fought on he American side were re-enslaved. Those that did manage to escape slavery were poorly treated, and denied soldier’s pensions for over 20 years. The British evacuated over 3,000 Black Loyalists to Nova Scotia. Some were evacuated to London and over 4,000 were evacuated to Sierra Leone. Most of those who stayed in the new country were re-enslaved. Those that  escaped that fate either moved to the North or to the Western Frontier.

 
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Posted by on July 4, 2015 in Black History

 

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A Long History of Attacks on the Black Church

This one from Vox News, explaining the history of attacks on the Black Church as a mechanism of suppression…

3 Black Churches burnt in North Carolina, Georgia and S.Carolina in the past 5 days.

In Charlotte, N.C., authorities say a June 24 fire at Briar Creek Baptist Church was the result of arson and is being investigated as a possible hate crime. NBC News reported that more than 75 firefighters were needed to extinguish the three-alarm fire, and an hour passed before the blaze was under control. Two firefighters received medical treatment for heat-related injuries. The church sustained $250,000 in damage, including a collapsed ceiling and significant damage to a space used for a children’s summer camp. The sanctuary was spared, sustaining smoke damage along with the gymnasium.

A June 23 fire at God’s Power Church of Christ, a predominantly Black church in Macon, Ga., has been ruled as arson, although there is no indication it was a hate crime. As was reported in the Macon Telegraph, the front doors of the church were locked and wired shut when authorities arrived, but a side door was unlocked. The Federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives was called, as is the case with church fires, and authorities also noted that electronics and other air conditioning equipment had been stolen from the church in two burglaries. A $10,000 reward is available through the Georgia Arson Hotline for information leading to the arrest of an arsonist.

Macon-Bibb County fire Sergeant Ben Glea­ton told the newspaper that while the investigation into Tuesday’s fire at the God’s Power Church of Christ continues, enough evidence had been discovered to rule the blaze had been deliberately set.

The arson ruling came a day after North Carolina authorities said a predominantly black church in Charlotte was purposefully burned, and roughly a week after a white gunman opened fire in an African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina, killing nine people.

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2015 in Black History

 

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Black Folks Can’t Hike

White men can’t jump…Black folks can’t hike…

Some stereotypes just seem to happen.

Doing the single thing on those dating sites, and it seems the first thing every white woman puts in her bio is her love of running marathons and hiking through the wilderness. Black women…I don’t think so!

White women… “Ran a 10k last weekend and here are the pics!”

Black women … “Looking for a God fearing man”.

White women…” Here is me climbing El Capitan”.

Black women… “I am a God Fearing, loving,caring,honest and independent woman. ”

White Women – “I love all water sports, sailing and boating, as well as snow skiing and x country skiing.
Have an ocean kayak and a couple of small sail boats that are lots of fun.”

Black Women …”Please understand that If you are not interested in God, then I’m not interested in you! He is the apex of my life!”

White Women …”I love my Vespa scooter and jumping out of airplanes, tandem of course.”

Yeah…

 

White People Love Hiking. Minorities Don’t. Here’s Why.

White people simply love to spend their free time walking up and down mountains and sleeping in the forest. Search “hiking” in Google Images and see how far you have to scroll to find a nonwhite person. Ditto rock climbing, kayaking, canoeing, and so on. That white people love the outdoors is so widely accepted as fact that it’s become a running joke. The website Stuff White People Like has no less than three entries on the subject: “Making you feel bad about not going outside” (#9), “Outdoor Performance Clothes” (#87), and “Camping” (#128). The latter entry reads, “If you find yourself trapped in the middle of the woods without electricity, running water, or a car you would likely describe that situation as a ‘nightmare’ or ‘a worse case scenario like after plane crash or something.’ White people refer to it as ‘camping.'”

That quote is almost certainly how most blacks, Latinos, and other minorities view hiking and camping. The Outdoor Industry Association—the top outdoor-recreation lobby in America (and based in Boulder, naturally)—insists that outdoor enthusiasts “are all genders, ages, shapes, sizes, ethnicities and income levels,” but research by their own nonprofit organization, The Outdoor Foundation, shows underwhelming diversity. Its 2013 outdoor participation report notes that last year, 70 percent of participants were white. “As minority groups make up a larger share of the population and are predicted to become the majority by 2040, engaging diverse populations in outdoor recreation has never been more critical,” the report reads. “Unfortunately, minorities still lag behind in outdoor participation.”

In a front-page story today, The New York Times details these very problems facing the National Park Service—only one in five visitors to NPS sites are nonwhite, according to a 2011 study cited in the article—and the “multipronged effort to turn the Park Service’s demographic battleship around.” Clumsy metaphors aside, the article does a respectable job at detailing the various efforts—namely outreach, all-expenses-paid trips, and creating more national monuments recognizing minority figures in U.S. history—to increase minority participation. Less complete are the reasons the Times gives for that low participation.

Many white Americans who grew up going to the parks had towering figures of outdoor history — not to mention family tradition — blazing the trail as examples. And those examples, like Daniel Boone and the fur trappers of the Old West, tended to be white.

As Stuff White People Like says, “In theory camping should be a very inexpensive activity since you are literally sleeping on the ground. But as with everything in white culture, the more simple it appears the more expensive it actually is.” You may need to fly to your destination; otherwise, you’ll need a car and a full tank of gas. A backpack, tent, and the necessary gear will run you at least $1,000. And then you need some free time—which, if you work two jobs, you probably don’t have. That may explain why 40 percent of outdoor participants come from households with incomes of $75,000 or more, according to the Outdoor Foundation’s report… (…More…)

I guess God doesn’t go outdoors…

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2015 in The Post-Racial Life

 

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Toni Morrison and Stephen Colbert on Her Books and Race

Toni is awesome! She deconstructs race as a social concept….

 

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2014 in The Post-Racial Life

 

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