Seventy Years Ago...


Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Civilization, Existentialism, Fascism, History

“On **May 17, 1954**, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren delivered the unanimous ruling in the landmark civil rights case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. State-sanctioned segregation of public schools was a violation of the 14th Amendment and was, therefore, unconstitutional. This historic decision marked the end of the "separate but equal" precedent set by the Supreme Court nearly 60 years earlier in Plessy v. Ferguson. It served as a catalyst for the expanding civil rights movement during the decade of the 1950s.”


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated on April 4, 1968, a Thursday. My graduating kindergarten class at Bethlehem Community Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, was told by our teachers on Friday, who cried with us and reassured us that the men outside with Confederate flags, shooting in the air, reveling “that n----r’s dead” would not harm us, or prevent our celebration. We slept as well [as possible] through nap time and dressed for our day and [our] parents. Not one child in my photo of the event is smiling. Not one.

I attended segregated schools in Winston-Salem, NC, until my fourth grade year in 1971. “All deliberate speed” had some considerable foot-dragging.

I was bused across town for 4th grade only to Rural Hall, and their kids were bused across town to Fairview Elementary for 5th and 6th grade. I was bused to Mineral Springs Middle School for 7th -8th grade. ALL the former Black High Schools, like Atkins, Carver, Hanes, and Paisley, had to be “9th and 10th grades only,” as North, East, Parkland, and West were reserved for the higher grades for high school graduation.

“We have fought hard and long for integration, as I believe we should have, and I believe that we will win, but I have come to believe that we are integrating into a burning house. I’m afraid that America has lost the moral vision she may have had,” as the nation is not deeply concerned “with the plight of the poor and disenfranchised.” This failure, King argued, would only further stoke “the anger and violence that tears the soul of this nation. I fear I am integrating my people into a burning house.” Dr. King confessed to his friend, the Civil Rights activist and entertainer Harry Belafonte.

I am sixty-one years old, a grandfather, and a late entrant to the ranks of a Ph.D. I am sad to say that despite the movement's optimism, NOTHING has changed.

Ecclesiastes 1:9 “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

“What's past is prologue.” William Shakespeare, The Tempest.

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