“Learn About” Questions
- What was the Freedom Train? What role did it play in the Civil Rights Movement?
- What is the Gettysburg Address, and what is its focus?
- How did Jim Crow laws impact the school experience of African American students?
“Learn From” Questions
- What memories stand out most to me from my school experience?
- Was/Is education valued in my family? Why or why not?
- What do I remember out my teachers…teachers I loved and teachers I struggled with?
I remember my kindergarten experiences very vividly. I went to a Catholic kindergarten, Saint Bartholomew, and I can remember plays that we had. One year I was Snow White and I remember the prince. And of course, I was four. The prince had to awaken me by kissing me on the cheek. That was the most exciting thing that a four-year-old could [laughing] But that kindergarten experience was terrific. When I finished kindergarten, I think it was the year that Ernest was born. And of course, my mother was not teaching that year so she taught me at home. And that was before homeschooling became a term that was used. So when I started school, I started in the 2nd grade because I had done all the 1st grade preparation. And during my school experience, elementary school experience, when I began there was a 2A and 2B half-year graduation and whatnot. And the school system changed to a full year, which meant I went to summer school to take a half grade. Anyway, it ended up in my graduating at 15, and but my school experience was, my aunt was the counselor/kind of vice president of the high school. And of course, people she also taught history and government and there are people whom she taught now who still recalled her very stern but very pleasant but no play attitude. And people learned. I remember my aunt used to talk about how Haile Selassie who was when she taught history and when she was counselor, I was her ‘guinea pig’. She would order standardized tests and would have me to take them to see what kinds of results, and I think from that time I never feared standardized tests. In fact, I used to enjoy taking them. But my school experience was just absolutely a memorable one. I was talking with a student at the college the other day and I was telling her back when I was, I think it was in the 7th grade, there was something called a Freedom Train. And this train went throughout the United States and it carried original documents, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution. And when it came to Little Rock, there was a program in the junior high and high school, we were in the same building. And my responsibility was to recite the Gettysburg Address. I think I got through about the first quarter of it and the rest of it just kind of became a blur and a blank. I don’t remember what I did to finish, but I can remember I got as far as four score and after that it was gone. But there were many memories in high school. One of the things, though, and it had to do I think with the Jim Crow arrangements, our teachers were, I always said, could’ve been the CEO’s of any Fortune 500 company because those were the, nursing and teaching, were the occupations and the professions that African American women could aspire to. So we had the best of teachers but again, the physical resources. I can remember hand-me-down books that we had received from Central High School. You could tell there was writing all in them. And one of the things I guess, if I regret anything, was the fact that there were no art courses offered at my high school and I always liked to draw and sketch and wished that I could have taken formal art. But that didn’t happen and we survived in spite of that. But you know, school was always, and of course, achieving as my brother said, you didn’t dare bring home anything less than a B because you would certainly be accosted by our parents, not in a negative way but again, my mother would always say, ‘You can do better. Always do your best’. And I always try to do that, even though I admit, I was not a fan of math. But I did realize that I had absorbed as much until now when I’m in a store and the person, the young person at the computer, can’t get the computer to add or subtract and I can do it mentally, that’s when I realize that, yeah, I guess I did absorb more math than I thought I did.