“Learn About” Questions
- When did southern universities desegregate their classes?
- What is “restorative justice” and what are some examples of it being implemented?
- Why did northern universities accept African American students long before southern universities?
“Learn From” Questions
- Have I ever been to a college or university graduation? Who was graduating and what did it feel like to be there?
- Have I ever taken part in a celebration to honor one of my parents, grandparents or family members? What kind of honoring was it and what role did I play?
- Have I ever become aware of something unfair that I needed to make right? How did I respond to that? Has that ever been done for me?
Well, you are asking about my family and I probably have mentioned this. One of the things that I’m I guess proud of, but also I think was pretty important, I can remember my mother working on her master’s. Now, I preface that by reminding that during that time in the ‘50s and before, black teachers were not allowed to matriculate at southern universities. And school systems would pay for them to go away for 6 weeks in the summer to northern universities. My mother’s friends received master’s from University of Minnesota, University of Iowa, New York University because the universities at home would not accept them. But in the late ’40s I guess it was, the University of Arkansas began offering courses on Saturday in trailers in an area that is now occupied by the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. So my mother began taking these courses because she couldn’t go away for 6 weeks in the summer because we were young. And of course my father was working and it just wouldn’t work. So she began taking these courses and in 1951, she completed her work and I was standing with her the day that the postman rang the bell and gave her this box. It was from the University of Arkansas. When she opened, there was her diploma and I guess her hood and a letter that congratulated her for earning her degree but stating that this is not the time for you to come to the campus to participate in commencement. And I remember my mother read the letter and then she handed it to me and I read it. When I gave it back to her, she crumpled it, threw it in the trash can and walked away. She never said a word but I knew that she was hurt. She probably talked with my aunt about it but again, in those days, adults didn’t discuss adult things with children. But I never forgot that. So in 2011, I remember it was January the 4th. I was in my office. I was working with the national board then and for some reason, I went online, pulled up University of Arkansas, read the chancellor’s bio and when I read it, he seemed like a formidable person. So I sat down and wrote an email to him and I told him, I introduced myself. I told him about my brother and I told him what happened to my mother. And I said it is our wish that one day one of us could receive her diploma in the manner that was denied her. And when I hit send, I said, oh boy. I realized that the University of Arkansas was playing in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans that day and I said, nobody’s gonna ever read this email, I might as well just forget it. Two days later, I received a response from the chancellor and he said he was so sorry about what happened, the University has changed and he wants to do something to make it right. So we began to communicate and I guess it was later that month in January he asked if Ernest and I could participate in a conference call with he and his vice president for diversity. So we did. And at that time, he said, ‘I have an offer I’d like to make to you. I’d like you to be our guest at commencement in May and receive your mother’s diploma’. So that May, my son and I went to the university and when we checked into the hotel on the campus, first thing somebody said, oh, you’re the family that’s gonna receive the…and everybody evidently on campus knew about this. And the next day, oh, and in the meantime, I mentioned this, I was at the beauty salon where I go, and I was talking with one of the customers whose daughter had just moved to Arkansas. And I was telling her, I said, well I’ll be going to Arkansas in a couple weeks and I told her why. She said, oh, I’ve got to tell my daughter about that. I didn’t know that her daughter was a writer for AARP. So her daughter called me the next day and said she told her editor about this story and her editor said, we want that story. So they sent two videographers to the University of Arkansas who were there when I arrived. And this became really blown out of proportion, but it was a wonderful experience. That morning of graduation, we were guests at the reception prior to the graduation. We were escorted into the, well it wasn’t a hall, the arena, because there were 4000 graduates and there were 20,000 people in attendance. And our seats were marked ‘Family of Lothaire S. Green.’ And my son and I sat there and we were told that the marshals would come to get us when it came time for us to come to the stage. The chancellor made the most beautiful, beautiful speech about why my mother didn’t receive her degree, simply because of her color. And what I didn’t know while he was doing this, her picture was on the Jumbotron. I’m glad I didn’t see it. It was on the Jumbotron and after he made his speech, he gave me her diploma. But prior to that, the day before when we arrived on campus, we went to his office, he not only had copies of her diploma made for each of us three, but he also had researched her record and had her transcript, first time I’d ever seen it. And she had made all A’s and one B in the three years that she had pursued her master’s. So it was just an extraordinary experience. In fact, after graduation we were in the lounge and the lounge person had gotten to know me and the lounge was crowded with parents and graduates and whatnot and I mentioned to one of the waiters, I said, I think there’s gonna be a news piece coming on at 5 o’clock. So they cut whatever they were looking at off and sure enough, at 5 o’clock, this interview that I had done with the television station came on and people turned around and they said, that’s you isn’t it? But, no, it was one of the local television stations interviewed me after the graduation. In fact, he asked me, what do you think your mother would say about this? I said, I know exactly what she would say. She would say, ‘Treopia, you know you should not have done this.’ [laughs] but I did say to him, you know, things, what happened to her, was unfortunately a sign of the times. But I give people credit when they try to correct situations. And to me that’s what it’s all about, recognizing that what was done was not the right thing but to try to do something, as the chancellor said, to make it right. And that’s what they did.