Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The first day of school, 50 years ago

In 1957, Dorothy Counts walked to and attended school as one of the first black students at Harry Harding High School in North Carolina. What she did that day was incredibly brave, and must have been terrifying. Taunted and spit upon, she had rocks thrown at her and the teachers ignored her. All because she was black. And throughout it all, she was calm.

Take a moment and look at the photos documenting her first day
. How far have we come from this day? I hope far, but I think we both know I'm fooling myself if I believe that. Dorothy Count at age 15 did a breathtaking thing. 50 years, 50 years. I hope no one has a walk like that again. Ever.


Rozanne said...

Those boys look like *such* thugs.

It's impossible to imagine what must have been going through her head.

Kathryn said...

Those pictures make my heart hurt and bring tears to my eyes.

Monogram Queen said...

You know it is almost unbelievable to think that happened.. but it did. Kudos to her. What a brave, brave girl. Sometimes it's hard enough to be a teenager... In some situations it's hard to be a woman...I imagine it's hard some days to be black also ... and she was all three.

bemused said...

There is no doubt in my mind that some whites behaved cruelly that day. But I also wonder how many of the children - thug-like or not, they were children - grew up to be ashamed of how they behaved that day. They were a product of the times and of their upbringing and that wasn't going to change without life-altering events such as this one. Bravo to Dorothy Counts for her courage and for being a part of this watershed event.

I winced when I viewed the picture with the handmade sign lettered with an ugly term. I remember how awful - almost physically painful - it was the day one of my best friends was called that. She did her best to ignore them. I could barely contain my outrage. I don't remember anymore what I said to defend her (high school was many years ago) but I am still proud that I did not let the insult go without rebuke, especially since it was out of character for me.

LeLo said...

Rozanne-I wondered the same thing: what was she thinking throughout all of that? How brave.

Patti-cake-Yes, all three. And it IS unbelievable, isn't it? It makes me wonder what we'll look back on in 50 years and shake our heads at. I have some ideas...

bemused-Reading through some information about the day, it sounds like the white girls seen sitting with her befriended Dorothy, but through pressure from others, stopped being her friend. I read that a mother and a Klans member told the girls to spit on her. Sigh.

bemused said...

Oh, how awful, Lelo!

Have you ever watched very young children play together? They pay absolutely no attention to skin color or other differences among themselves. Bigotry is taught and we've got to do all we can to break the lessons passed through the generations.

Anonymous said...

Portland has its own problems with race. See the mercury article here:

Anonymous said...

I am ashamed to admit that my very first boyfriend was in this group that treated that girl so badly.

I had left the school that year because my family moved. I didn't see him again until a few years later. I told him how ashamed I was of him and he told me he was so sorry that he had participated in this travisty.

He was truly sorry and I let him know how ashamed I was. I didn't see him again until maybe 5 years later. He had grown into a good man and still felt shame.

I'm not excusing him, but I cringe everytime I see these pictures and read about this poor girl. I'm so glad she grew into a wonderful, strong woman.