My “Witness” Part 2

My “witness,” Part 2: Our family was wounded and my parents’ marriage was mortally wounded in ways I didn’t appreciate when we moved to Jackson, MS in October 1969. On October 29, the Supreme Court ruled in Alexander v Holmes County Board of Education that Mississippi had had all the “deliberate speed” they needed to desegregate its public schools. Jackson Public Schools Administration spent an extra “holiday” period in January 1970 redrawing attendance zones and reassigning teachers. Just nine weeks after Alexander, Jackson Public schools were desegregated. Our house (owned by Broadmoor Baptist Church) was on the same side of Northside Drive as Boyd Elementary School, so my brother, sister, and I continued to attend Boyd, but we had new teachers and new classmates. Again, though there were other sources of tension in our home, I don’t recall anyone getting “worked up” about our attending a fully integrated school. If there were fears for our safety, no one ever spoke them aloud for me to hear. I know from reading history that there were White parents who immediately pulled their children out of public schools and put them in newly formed private “academies,” but no one talked about doing that with us in my hearing. By the end of February 1970 my father had resigned his position at Broadmoor Baptist Church and returned to Jacksonville. Our family was now in “survival” mode, since we were without an income and were living in a house set aside for the Minister of Music, who was no longer in that position or in residence. It is a great tribute to the kindness of Broadmoor Baptist Church that we did not have to move out of that house for the remainder of the school year. I had always had difficulty with math and had spent the summer of 1969 in “remedial” math in Jacksonville. My newly assigned fifth grade math teacher (my fourth of that school year) and I were not connecting. She happened to be Black. I’m sure that teaching White students and reporting to a White principal for the first time was quite stressful for her. I have sometimes been called “stubborn.” For exactly the same reason, I have also been called “Brown-eyed.” My mother sought to intervene in my math teacher relationship. The principal told her “Mrs. Altman, I can’t move a White student from a Black teacher’s class this year.” That was, by far, not the worst thing that happened that year, but it’s the only educational/academic consequence I remember.

About jaltman81

United Methodist Clergy
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