Updated: Apr 23
The majority of my grade school education was received through Detroit Public Schools. Although segregation does not exist today as it did back in the early 1900s, I can only recall having one caucasian or white classmate, whom I would sit and eat ants with during storytime when I was in kindergarten. The difference in the color of our skin really did not stand out to me at that time. Now that I think about it, the lack of diversity really did not stand out to me until I was either in the third or fourth grade, when I started to learn about the history of slavery and the civil war.
When I learned about Ruby Bridges, one of my deeply admired heroines, I began to wonder -after all she went through- if I was still only allowed to go to schools for "colored children". It did not makes sense to me that although a decision made in 1954, when Brown v. Board of Education declared it to be unconstitutional to segregate children in schools based on the color of their skin, that schools would remain segregated up until 1960.
In 1960, Bridges was among six black children to pass a test which resulted in them being the first black children to receive approval to attend an all white school, William Fritz Elementery of New Orleans, Louisiana. Three of the children transferred to another all-white school while two remained at their old school, leaving Bridges to attend William Fritz Elementary as the only black student. Due to many violent threats, Bridges and her mother were escorted by federal marshalls and spent the first day at William Fritz Elementary in the principle's office. The parents of the white children pulled their children out of William Ftitz Elementary to boycott the integration of black children attending school with white children. Even after parents slowly gave in and allowed their children to attend school at William Frtitz Elementary, Bridges remained the only black student in her classroom with the only teacher who agreed to teach a black student during her entire first year there.
This integration did no only complicate life for Bridges. Her family suffered as well. Nevertheless, Bridges mother was determined for her daughter to not only receive a better education than what was being offered in the all black schools, but she also wanted to be a part of a movement that would help change the lives of all black children. When given a decision to impact the lives of many others, Bridges and her family (despite the many threats upon their lives) did not give up.
Upon my freshman year, I attended a predominently white school. I was both disappointed and nervous about my mother's decision to not allow me to go to one of the schools the other kids from my eigth grade glass were going. Entering Clarenceville High School, I had my defenses up. To my surprise, the mojority of the students paid no mind that I was black. In fact there were several other black students already attending school there who had also gone to the middle school across the street. Even moreso, Clarenceville Schools supported me during difficult times and worked with me to overcome the obstacles that were present in my life during my highschool years. I had an amazing school counselor who supported me through my process of emacipation and connected me with a loving family to help suppport me as I finished out my education at Clarenceville High School.
After learning about all of the heroines who had made the life that I live a possibility, it was during my years at Clarenceville High School, that I actually experienced having the power to make the seemingly impossible possible. If Sojourner Truth could win a case againt a white man in court during the 1800's, surely I could win a case in 2004. If Harriet Tubman could make multiple trips along the Underground Railroad, guiding slaves into freedom, surely I could emancipate myself. If a sexually assaulted black girl, such as Maya Angelou, could grow up to become more than just a Phenomenal Woman, so could I.