9.25.2017

my white parents

This is how my mother looked during the 1950s
My parents were white as white: Mother from the Ku Klux Klan stronghold of southern Indiana, father from Alabama. But they were fiercely against segregation. I grew up in segregated Arkansas, where my mother worked to open day care centers for working mothers on the black side of town.
   On this day 60 years ago, in 1957, the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army escorted The Little Rock Nine, a group of African-American students, to Central High. The school had been ordered to integrate; Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus had blocked it. The NAACP brought suit, and the students were finally allowed entry, but it was not a happy year for those brave children.
   The year brought changes to my family as well. As a matter of principle, my father and a number of his University of Arkansas colleagues refused to submit a checklist of "subversive" organizations to which they belonged, among them NAACP. My parents were members.  Faubus's order required the document from all state employees, but my parents and their friends left the state rather than submit. And so at age 8, followed by my younger siblings, I entered school in the suburbs of  New York. The kids there were hostile to a southerner with a funny accent. But I can't even imagine what those other students encountered.

8 comments :

CBA said...

Bravo, Chere. Mere et Pere You are all heroes. I know you see the flaws, but in the Big Picture, your parents win an Academy Award.r, XXXX B

Anonymous said...

My parents were white as well. It's OK. There's no shame in it!

Monte Davis said...

We'd gotten out of Dodg -- er, Dallas for Massachusetts the year before. I know that retroactive sense of relief, funny accent and all.

Djmambo77 said...

I salute you, your parents and their friends for such honorable acts.

Kate said...

Your parents were way ahead of their time, as you are too, my dear.

Denise Vaughn said...

A good friend of mine was a freshman that year at Little Rock's Center High. He learned a lot from it! He tells about how he thought he was open-minded but realized that he had ingrained prejudiced thought patterns that he didn't even know were there. Years later, at a high school reunion, he danced with one of the black women from that first few in his class. It was something they both had been waiting for decades.

Claudia said...

Great story, Denise!

Kate Knapp Artist Blog said...

Yes good story never realized that was when and why you left the SOUTH..