Hello SK fans,
We have a lot to cover today and we’re going to try and make it brief. Fifty-one years ago today, Sept. 10, 1963, My Pub was 9 months old and eating solid food and hasn’t stopped eating yet, and … wait, that’s not where we are going.
Fifty-one years ago today, President John F. Kennedy ordered the National Guard to intervene at a high school in Alabama so nine black students could attend their classes.
You see, the day before, Alabama Gov. George Wallace decided that he would overrule the Federal mandate allowing all students access to public education, regardless of their color, ethnicity, etc. He ordered patrols to block the doors so these students could not enter their schools. JFK answered by sending the National Guard in. Wallace got the message, and on Sept. 10, the students were allowed to attend classes. They endured several racist encounters during their pursuit of academia, which we will not cover here. It is however, a shame, that anyone be denied education for any reason.
I bring up this incident because it parallels something that happened to my father A. Bronson Alcott, when he was running the schools in Boston back in the mid 1830s. My father, known as one of the first Education Reformers, encouraged debate, discussion, recess, access to books for his tiny pupils, as well as furnishings designed to fit 6 to 12-year-olds comfortably. Before he designed child-sized versions of desks and tables, children as young as 5 had to endure hours sitting on backless wooden benches we so often associate with early school houses.
My father had a full enrollment of children who loved learning and a roster of wealthy parents happy to pay their tuition at his progressive educational institutions.
My dad was also an abolitionist and an idealist and a colorblind one at that. He could tell the difference between red, brown and green but not black and white. Whenever he looked at a human being, he did not see blue eyes, brown hair, short stature or skin color. He only saw a person. So, he thought nothing of welcoming little Susan Robinson, a black child, into his schoolroom.
He was mystified when suddenly parents withdrew their students. Within days, class size dwindled from 30 something to four, which consisted of me, my sister Anna (Meg in Little Women) a boy who lived with us and Susan. Within weeks, my father was bankrupt and had to close his latest school. He never recovered financially. However, he never gave up his philosophy that all children are entitled to an education, no matter where they come from or who they are.
I’d like to credit A. Bronson Alcott with being among the first to integrate classrooms, something that is, at last, mainstream today.
Hope you enjoyed today’s history lesson in education and racism, xo LMA