I spent the day at the Free Schools Association archive at the historic black college VSU. Amidst the boxes of correspondences and receipts for supplies, I found that Neil Sullivan, the superintendent, methodically evaluated the effectiveness and culture of the Free Schools almost from the first day. I found the survey given to teachers after the first month of school.
What was the most unusual incident you observed during the first three weeks of school?
I observed that children in the 16 year old age group did not know how to write their names
This is one of many responses like this. The teachers encountered many students, of all ages, who didn’t know how to read or write. Universally, it was felt that the students lacked confidence in themselves as individuals.
I think about how the white side almost won, they almost completely destroyed the livelihood and future of black people here, by closing the schools for 4 years. It is real psychological warfare.
I sat there for hours, looking through archival boxes, tearing up at the things I read. But even with the horror of this, there is a paradox. The opening of the Free Schools was a genuinely amazing and unique event. For every horrible fact about the schools closing, there is a moment of light and humanity in how federal government, Dr Sullivan, and all the faculty and staff managed The Free Schools.
Tonight, I remembered having to memorize the facts of Plessy v. Ferguson in high school for an American History exam. I remember at the time trying to memorize the name and significance: it declared that it was legal to have different public spaces for black and white people. In my head, because I was trying to pass the exam, the only space that I consciously thought about was a leisure train, which I had never been on at the time. Read more…
I’m reading a book with great overview of the messy history of school integration : Brown v. Board of Education: A Civil Rights Milestone and Its Troubled Legacy by James T. Patterson. This book is making me think that the battles for integrated public schools are where this country became what it is today (and current public school battles still speak to larger issues in our community and culture… just check out what has happened in my current hometown of Tuscaloosa, AL in the last six months here and now here )
But today is about weird Farmville and has nothing to do with all of that (maybe…).
The house I stay in is across the street from a recent mass-murder house. Find out more here.