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Travelling During Jim Crow

As a kid growing up during Segregation, I attended a segregated elementary school. My parents were both teachers, and every summer meant an adventure travelling somewhere by car or train to one or the other location across the US. I got to see the Tetons, Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, and many of the great sights around the country as part of these trips. I recall my parents planning such trips, including stopovers at cities or towns along the way. We often stayed with relatives, if any were located in a town or city along the way, in a reciprocal agreement among family members.

Cruise Boat at Tappahannock Dock

The day of the trip, I remember my Mother always packing a cooler with drinks and food. In Virginia, along the old Rt 1, and a number of other Highways such as Rt 29 heading towards Charlottesville there were frequent pullovers with picnic tables and grills. Since the Restaurants were segregated, these provided places for black families to stop and picnic along the way, such as to avoid unknown towns where there may or may not have been facilities where they were allowed to eat. Travelling out of state, to except the big cities was an exercise in planning to find the “black community area” where there would be Motels and eateries for black folks. There were guides published by several enterprising outfits which listed black owned (and therefore safe) businesses in the various towns and cities. Headed south to my mother’s home, we always stopped in a certain town for gas or food. That town was Taphannock, Virginia – which at one point enjoyed a bustling black owned business environment supported in part by Casino Boats which plied the river.

So there were places to eat, stay, and the local gas station would sell you gas (for the most part).

I never saw a Green Book, but I saw several similar publications during that time. We never traveled South – so I have no idea how conditions were in the Southeast.

 

 

The forgotten way African Americans stayed safe in a racist America

For African American travelers, much of the U.S. could be a hateful and dangerous place, even into the 1960’s.

Jim Crow laws across the South mandated that restaurants, hotels, pool halls and parks strictly separate whites and blacks. Lynchings kept blacks in fear of mob violence. And there were  thousands of so-called “sundown towns,”including in northern states like Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota and Michigan, which barred blacks after dark, an unofficial rule reinforced by the threat of violence.

So in 1936, a postal worker named Victor Green began publishing a guide to help African American travelers find friendly restaurants, auto shops and accommodations in far-off places. Green dubbed the guide after himself – the “Green Book” – and published it for decades. Green says he was inspired by the Jewish press, which had long published information on restricted places.

The images below come from the New York Public Library, which recently digitized 21 volumes of the Green Book, from 1937 to 1964.

Jim Crow laws across the South mandated that restaurants, hotels, pool halls and parks strictly separate whites and blacks. Lynchings kept blacks in fear of mob violence. And there were thousands of so-called “sundown towns,” including in northern states like Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota and Michigan, which barred blacks after dark, an unofficial rule reinforced by the threat of violence.

So in 1936, a postal worker named Victor Green began publishing a guide to help African American travelers find friendly restaurants, auto shops and accommodations in far-off places. Green dubbed the guide after himself – the “Green Book” – and published it for decades. Green says he was inspired by the Jewish press, which had long published information on restricted places.

The images above come from the New York Public Library, which recently digitized 21 volumes of the Green Book, from 1937 to 1964.
The Green Book included listings for hotels, restaurants, gas stations, bars and beauty salons across the U.S., as well as travel articles, paid advertisements, and stories about local attractions. The guide first focused on New York, but was gradually expanded to cover the whole U.S. The first edition said on its cover, “Let’s all get together and make motoring better,” while the 1949 edition featured a quote from Mark Twain – “Travel is fatal to prejudice.”

While poverty and discrimination kept many African Americans from owning cars, a new black middle class rose up in the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s, and many of them were eager to escape poor treatment on public transportation.

Yet car ownership came with its own challenges. Many African Americans would pack meals, blankets and gasoline in their cars on trips in case they ended up somewhere where they wouldn’t be served or didn’t want to ask.

Green Books were sold at Esso service stations, one of the few gas station chains that served African Americans. The first edition retailed for a quarter, and Green soon upped the price to 75 cents.

Though the Green Book was a life-saving tool at the time, it’s also a vivid reminder of just how discrimination and prejudice made — and still make — the world much smaller and less free.

Though Green’s list was far from comprehensive, many states have only a handful of listings, and the guesthouses and motels featured in the photos look small and somewhat shabby today.

In the introduction to the 1949 edition, Green writes: “There will be a day sometime in the near future when this guide will not have to be published.”

“That is when we as a race will have equal opportunities and privileges in the United States. It will be a great day for us to suspend this publication for then we can go wherever we please, and without embarrassment. But until that time comes we shall continue to publish this information for your convenience each year.”

The last edition, published in 1963, was an international edition which described itself as a guide to “vacation without aggravation.” Green died in 1960, and the book gradually lost some relevance after the creation of a national highway system in 1956, which meant travelers no longer ventured as much into cities and towns, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination in hotels, restaurants and other public accommodations…See More including interactive maps here

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2016 in Black History

 

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Black Conservative Snidely Whiplash Repeats White Supremacist in Rant

For those of you who may be too young to remember an animated series on the “Rocky and Bullwinkle Show” show called ” Dudley Do-Right of the Mounties“, the principal villain in the show was “Snidely Whiplash” best known for tying innocent vixen Nell to the railroad tracks to be run over.

Never ones to stray from character, or be particularly inventive, we have the black Snidely – Peter Kirsanow, who was the right’s Lawn Jockey on the “U.S. Commission on Civil Rights” to support the racist groups under the Bushit Administration. So no surprise the black Snidely is quoting white supremacists, such a Jonah Goldberg of the racist infested National Review.

Civil Rights Official Cited By Scalia Dismisses Black Lives Matter Protesters As ‘Precious Little Flowers’

When Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Wednesday suggested that black college students should choose a “less-advanced” or “slower-track” institution, he referenced a brief filed by lawyers Gail Heriot and Peter Kirsanow, two opponents of affirmative action who say that the policy discourages black students from studying science and engineering.

It turns out that Kirsanow, who is black, is also not a fan of minority students protesting institutionalized racism, as he noted while discussing the Fisher case Monday on a panel at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

Responding to an audience question about the Black Lives Matter movement and students “browbeating” for reforms on college campuses, he questioned the existence of institutionalized racism in education and dismissed the Black Lives Matter protesters as “precious little flowers.”

“They are these precious little flowers that believe they’ve been discriminated against, 50 years after passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act,” he said. “It is incredible what we’re countenancing here.”

Calling institutionalized racism “a feeling,” he later added: “I keep hearing about white privilege. The most privileged students in schools in 2015 America are Hispanic and black students by far.”

Both Heriot and Kirsanow serve on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and were appointed by President George W. Bush.

During the court’s oral arguments on Fisher vs. University of Texas at Austin, an affirmative action case in which the plaintiff, Abigail Fisher, claims she was rejectedfrom the University of Texas at Austin in part because she is white, Scalia suggested that black students should not receive preference because they fare poorly at elite schools. He drew from several briefs filed in favor of Fisher and arguing against affirmative action, including Heriot and Kirsanow’s brief, which cites data to claim that fewer black students pursue science and engineering fields when admitted through racial preferences, and that black students in these fields do not come from prestigious research universities.

“One of the briefs pointed out that most of the black scientists in this country don’t come from schools like the University of Texas,” Scalia said. “They come from lesser schools where they do not feel that they’re being pushed ahead in classes that are too fast for them.”

Scalia then argued that because of that, schools like the University of Texas “ought to have fewer” black students.

“I don’t think it stands to reason that it’s a good thing for the University of Texas to admit as many blacks as possible,” he said.

On the panel, Kirsanow also discussed the “mismatch” theory, proposed by UCLA law professor Richard Sander, whose brief Scalia also cited on Wednesday. It claims that minority students admitted to elite universities under affirmative action find classes too rigorous and eventually have to drop out. That theory has been widely debunked.

Further, while it is true that the majority of Black graduates in the STEM curricula graduate from HBCU’s – the majority of those gradates who do matriculate to the Masters and Phd levels from non-HBCUs, and a  portion finish their PHd’s at elite universities. Unfortunately there are few African-American STEM graduates.

Another Lawn Jockey of the Month award for Snidely…

Black Conservative Jock Strap Award

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2015 in Black Conservatives

 

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Why Charter Schools Won’t Die

While at one of the downtown festivals a few weeks ago the subject of Charter Schools came up in casual conversation with a white friend who is involved in local politics. Over the past several years, the Charter School movement has been a disaster in DC, with one school after another either failing, or failing to provide the same level of education for the City’s bad Public Schools. My friend responded that the Charter School movement was now being driven by Gentrification. That the young, hipster white parents moving into the old neighborhoods didn’t want any part of the failing DC Public School System, and as such were the force behind continuing Charters.

This article sums up what is happening…

Burroughs School in NE Washington, DC in 1955

Why White Parents Won’t Choose Black Schools

Last year when I attempted to pick my daughter up from school, the volunteers in the carpool line tried to put a fourth grader in my car, not the four year old I was attempting to retrieve. Both of us were vehemently shaking our heads, both of us looked totally confused, but the man with the radio would not be deterred. There are only a handful of white kids at my daughter’s school, and only two of them are car-riders. One of them gets picked up by her mom, the other, her dad. This white girl went with the white mom, and I was a white mom. This must be the right van.

This slightly awkward, but hilarious interaction strikes at the heart of the change in our neighborhood. While we were once one of the only white people in the neighborhood, most of the abandoned houses are now snapped up and fixed up by young white couples, often with kids. Those kids don’t go to our school.

Though my daughter is not the only white kindergartner in my neighborhood, she is the only white kindergartner in her class. My new neighbors, ones who come into the neighborhood raving about how much they love it, do not send their kids to the school. While they love my neighborhood, they do not love my school.

A friend and I were recently chatting about her move to the neighborhood next to mine. I was surprised that she didn’t even look across the dividing line road we live about two blocks from. She shrugged her shoulders, “yeah, I really like your house but our real estate agent said we shouldn’t even look there because of the schools.” Because of the schools. The school I send my daughter to. She did not look at the houses with more square footage and a smaller price tag because someone who has never been in the school doesn’t find it suitable.

This summer, when I told the other moms at the pool where my kids went to school. I was repeatedly told to move them. This from women who had never ever set foot in my school. They had not had contact with our deeply passionate, and very responsive principal, had not met the pre-k teachers who my daughter loves more than Santa. They had not toured the various science labs, or listened as their child talked incessantly about robotics. They don’t know that every Tuesday Juliet comes home with a new Spanish song to sing and bothers me until I look up the colors in Spanish if I can’t remember them from High school. Juliet loves her school. Her mother, a teacher at a suburban school, and her father, a PhD candidate at the state university, both find the school completely acceptable, more than acceptable. We love it too.

But my neighbors will not send their kids there and my friends won’t even move into the neighborhood. They will whisper about it. They will tell their friends not to go there. They will even tell a stranger that she should move her kids immediately as they both wait for their children to come down the water slide. But they will not give the neighborhood school a chance. They will even go to great lengths to avoid the neighborhood school.

In July, through the neighborhood list serve I got invited to attend the charter school exploration meeting. A group of parents were attempting to start a charter school to center on diversity. They wanted a Spanish program and a principal that was very invested in the neighborhood. After inquiring I discovered the local elementary school had not even been contacted. The one with a principal who left his high profile high school job and came back to his neighborhood to an elementary school where he immediately implemented a Spanish language program. Before starting their own charter school, not one person had bothered even contacting the school already in existence. The school that has made huge strides, and could do even better with some parents who had this kind of time and know how. No one was interested in the school of the neighborhood.

The same people who were questioning the school I picked for my girls and starting their own charter school, wanted to talk to me about the This American Life Podcast about segregated schools. They wanted to talk to me about things I already knew. Our schools are more segregated than they have ever been. Our educational system is deeply inequitable. Things are only getting worse. They shook their concerned liberal head in sadness wondering what they could do. Then they made sure their child got into the very white, pretty affluent charter school that is not representative of their neighborhood. When one didn’t exist, they took their resources and began creating one.

When I am able to move past the anger, the frustration that people are talking about a school they know nothing about, I listen to what they say. Behind all the test score talk, the opportunity mumbo jumbo that people lead with, I feel like what is actually being said, and what is never being said is this: That school is too black. …The rest here…

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2015 in The New Jim Crow, The Post-Racial Life

 

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Art Student Hangs Segregation Signs as a Project

If you are older than about 55 and lived in the South – you most likely remember the “Separate but Equal” signs hung at everything from Retail stores, to Public Parks assigning separate facilities to black and white. It was called Segregation – and it ruled the lives of people in many locations in the South.

An Art student,, working on a project called “Art in Public Places” hung signs like this around the University of Buffalo campus. Needless to say, they caused a bit of an uproar.

Art Student Hangs ‘Black Only’ And ‘White Only’ Signs Around University Campus

On Wednesday, Sept. 16, students of the University of Buffalo were shocked to find “White Only” and “Black Only” signs hung near campus bathrooms. Students were sickened and traumatized by the apparent act of racism; by 1 p.m., the police had received 11 phone calls regarding the signage.

It was later revealed, however, that the signs reminiscent of the Jim Crow era were put on display by graduate fine arts student Ashley Powell, who is black, as part of an art project.

Before Powell admitted to hanging the signs at a Black Student Union (BSU) meeting on Wednesday night, students and faculty were left wondering about the source of the racist designations. “We didn’t know it was an art project, it could’ve been an act of terrorism,” a student explained to The Spectrum, the independent campus newspaper.

When Powell revealed that she was behind the act, a project for her “Installation: Urban Spaces” class, which requires students to install art in a public space, many students stormed out of the BSU assembly, some in tears. “It brought up feelings of a past that our generation has never seen, which I think is why it was so shocking for us to see,” Micah Oliver, president of the BSU, told ABC.

As an artist, I respect you as an artist,” said student Jefry Taveras in the BSU meeting. “But you should know racism isn’t art, it’s a reality and traumatizing.”

In a statement to The Spectrum, Powell explained the reasoning behind her installation, which addresses issues of non-white suffering and white privilege. “I apologize for the extreme trauma, fear, and actual hurt and pain these signs brought about,” she wrote. “I apologize if you were hurt, but I do not apologize for what I did.”

She went on to expand upon the motivations behind the project, which was intended to spark outrage and discomfort in viewers.

“My art practice is not an act of self-policing meant to hide my rage. Instead, it uses pain, narrative, and trauma as a medium of expression and as grounds for arguing a need for change in the first place. I understand that I forced people to feel pain that they otherwise would not have had to deal with in this magnitude. But I ask, should non-white people not express or confront their trauma? Should we be content with not having to confront that pain? We know it exists, and it often causes many of us immediate discomfort. Should we not be in a state of crushing discomfort?

These signs made you feel discomfort. They are tangible objects that forced you to revisit your past, to confront your present, and to recognize here and now the underlying social structures that are directly responsible for your pain and suffering. This project makes forceful what has been easy for you to ignore.”

University of Buffalo released the following statement regarding the incident: “After an initial investigation by University Police, it has been determined that the signs posted in Clemens Hall were part of a student art project. The University is continuing to review this matter through appropriate university policies and procedures.”

Powell is far from the first artist to toe the fine line between critiquing racism and embodying it. Brett Bailey’s “Exhibit B,” a performance recreating the “human zoos” of the 19th century, Ti-Rock Moore’s sculpture of Michael Brown’s dead body, and Kenneth Goldsmith’s poetic reading of Michael Brown’s autopsy have all caused dire outrage. However, it should be mentioned that the three artists listed above are white.

I don’t believe it matters whether the three artists mentioned above are white – or that Ashley Powell is black. Her installation indeed is a reality check on an era well within the lifespan of many black and white folks in America. It may be psychologically traumatizing to some – as are the works of renowned street artist Banksy. But it was a reality for the majority of the 20th century – a reality which hasn’t quite faded away to the dustbins of history…

And there seems to be no shortage of folks in some places who would willingly return to it.

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2015 in Black History, The New Jim Crow, The Post-Racial Life

 

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Resegregation and Purposely Failing Schools for Black Kids -Pinellas County, Florida

This one is jaw dropping. A County in FLorida which intentionally voted to re-segregate schools, and then intentionally denied basic benefits to the newly created poor schools.

This one is the New Jim Crow.

This Florida School District Is Failing Black Students at a Shocking Rate. That’s Exactly What It Chose to Do.

Last week, the Tampa Bay Times published a report of its sobering yearlong investigation of the Pinellas County School District, which is home to five of the worst elementary schools in the state, despite the county’s relative affluence. The school crisis in Pinellas County—on Florida’s west coast on Tampa Bay—is a familiar story of court-ordered integration followed in short order by devastatingly thorough resegregation.

But what happened in Pinellas offers an even more dramatic cautionary tale, and not just because the changes have taken place so precipitously: Just eight years ago, the school district voted to ditch integration by ending busing and reinstituting a “neighborhood schools” policy that amounted to de facto segregation. In the years since, the five elementary schools spotlighted went from good to middle-of-the-road to homogenously awful. One school that had had an “A” rating is now the second worst elementary school in the entire state of Florida. Students are failing at eye-popping rates, with 8 out of 10 kids failed at reading, and 9 out of 10 in math. Altogether 95 percent of black students are failing reading or math at these schools, which the story memorably labels “failure factories.” See also this powerful graphic account of “Why Pinellas County is the worst place in Florida to be black and go to public school.”

So what went wrong? Is it simply that Pinellas County—in particular the southern part of its largest city, St. Petersburg, which has been predominantly black since the 1930s, when discriminatory housing policies ghettoized minorities there—is afflicted with an irreparably poor, damaged student population? Not at all, and that’s precisely why this story is so disgusting, and so important. As the piece points out, while “there are places in Florida where deep generational poverty, runaway crime and rampant drug use make educating children an extremely difficult task,” Pinellas County isn’t one of them.

Statewide, Pinellas County is right in the middle when it comes to poverty rates, median household income, college graduation rates, and single-parent homes. More from the Times:

Poverty doesn’t explain Pinellas’ problems. One hundred eighty-four elementary schools are as poor or poorer than Pinellas’ worst schools. All but seven outperformed the Pinellas schools in reading and math.

The rate of failure in the five elementary schools is unlike anything that occurs elsewhere in Florida.

The reporters make a very convincing case that the kids in Pinellas are failing not because, as the school board members would have it, they’re trapped in a “cycle of poverty” but because the school district is setting them up for failure with at best do-nothing and at worst malevolent policies.

When the board voted to resegregate in December 2007, it vowed to pour more resources into what would become overnight-majority-poor and -black schools: more counselors and social workers, beefed-up after-school and summer programs. It did none of these things. Funding was erratic, and unlike other districts with high-poverty schools that have made efforts to invest in minority students (a computer tracking program in Broward County, a teacher-incentive bonus of up to $20,000 in Duval County), the Pinellas County board just shrugged off the plummeting scores and skyrocketing reports of behavior problems, and actively ended any attempts at intervention. More than half of teachers in the five schools requested transfers out in 2014, and some classes had up to 12 different teachers in a single year. The teachers who stayed were often the most inept and inexperienced.

Even after community calls for change, the school board members continued to attribute the abysmal state of their county’s black schools to the “cycle of poverty,” absent any influence from them.  “This is a nationwide thing, not just us,” the piece quotes school board member Peggy O’Shea, who voted for resegregation in 2007 and continues to defend her stance today, as saying. You get a good sense of her sympathies when she goes on to say, “We only talk about it in black schools, but we resegregated white schools as well.”…

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Posted by on August 18, 2015 in The New Jim Crow

 

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Tales of The End of Segregation – Prince Edward 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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Dead Confederates and Street Names

In the city of Richmond, Va is a street named Monument Avenue. On it, every few blocks are statues of the various personages of the Confederacy from Virginia who participated in the Civil War. The street was later modified to contain statues of famous people from Richmond, Va to include tennis great Arthur Ashe and famous oceanographer Matthew Fontaine Maury.  8 US Presidents hailed from Virginia, yet in our State capital there is a major street dedicated to dead confederate generals. Welcome to the South.

Now to say that Civil Rights upset some folks in Virginia is an understatement. One County, Prince Edward, shut their entire Public School System down for 5 years to prevent desegregation. So racism is no stranger to the state.

The City of Alexandria, Virginia was also the home and residence of confederate General Robert E. Lee. The Lee-Custis Plantation sat on the very grounds of what became the Arlington Cemetery. Several of Lee’s descendants still live in the City. The reason Arlington Cemetery sits where it is is that through the front door of his mansion, Arlington House,  Lee would have to confront some of the hundreds of thousands of those he was responsible for killing as part of the war…Each and every day. In case you are wondering where the Custis name came from, Lee’s wife, Mary Anna Custis Lee, was indeed the great granddaughter of Martha Custis, George Washington’s wife.

Arlington House, Formerly confederate General robert E. Lee’s home

Law requiring Confederate street names questioned

Alexandria, a Northern Virginia city steeped in Civil War history, is considering repeal of an old law requiring certain new streets to be named for Confederate generals.

City Councilman Justin Wilson introduced legislation for Tuesday night’s council meeting to do away with a 1963 law requiring that any new “streets running in a generally north-south direction shall, insofar as possible, bear the names of confederate military leaders.”

Wilson’s bill also would eliminate a requirement that new east-west streets be named for persons or places prominent in American history.

Wilson said he wants to remove a series of anachronistic laws, and his proposal also would repeal a ban on “lewd cohabitation” and laws regulating a bygone fad of “rebound tumbling,” a form of trampolining.

As a practical matter, there is little likelihood that the city will be naming new streets any time soon. The city, inside Washington’s Capital Beltway and separated from the nation’s capital by the Potomac River, is essentially built out. In fact, the street grid of the city’s Old Town section dates to Colonial times.

Wilson said that symbolically, he believes it’s a good thing to strip from the code a provision that in some ways glorifies the Confederacy. But he made clear he is not proposing that the city change existing street names, some of which honor Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Supreme Court Justice Roger Taney, whose Dred Scott decision denied citizenship and constitutional protections to blacks before the Civil War.

“I think we struggle in the city with our history,” Wilson said.

Alexandria was occupied by Union troops for most of the Civil War and, like the rest of Virginia, has a history of slavery and segregation. It is now a liberal bastion in Virginia – Barack Obama won 71 percent of the vote in 2012.

On historic Duke Street in Old Town, the building that was once home to the nation’s largest domestic slave trading company is now home to the Northern Virginia Urban League, which operates the Freedom House Museum there to tell the story of the slave trade.

Cynthia Dinkins, president and CEO of the Northern Virginia Urban League, said she personally supports any legislation that keeps the city from unduly honoring the Confederacy. Still, while she is wary of glorifying the Confederacy, she said care must be taken remember unpleasant parts of American history.

“Some of my challenge in dealing with Freedom House is that people don’t want to remember” that part of our history, she said.

Wilson said he has not heard of any opposition to his bill so far.

Officers with the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which has occasionally protested when it sees efforts to scrub recognition of Confederate leaders from the public square, did not return emails and phone calls seeking comment Tuesday.

A public hearing on Wilson’s legislation is scheduled for Jan. 25.

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2014 in Black History, Domestic terrorism

 

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