A Picture in Time

There is a picture hanging in my parents’ kitchen that I must have walked by a thousand times. For some reason on my last trip home, I studied that picture. It is a class photo from the 1962-63 school year at King George High School in Virginia. There are 28 fourth graders and a teacher standing at her desk. The reason it’s hanging in my parents’ house? It’s my father’s fourth grade classroom and he’s easy to find. Dad is the boy sitting in the middle of the class with his typical wide grin. He is also the ONLY black student in the class.


In 1962 the schools in Virginia were still segregated. But my father, his older brother and six other black students were selected to attend the “white” school that year. He was told very little about how is life would change forever. Ironically, he still had to ride the black school bus to his new white school. Until that point in his life, he had very little interaction with white people. He was 10 years old and said all he remembers thinking was “what did I do to be punished like this.” Can you imagine how scared he and the other 7 students were walking into school?

Each of the students were escorted to a different classroom. My father’s teacher was Ms. Scott and she thankfully was a very kind and thoughtful woman. Ms. Scott tried to make the transition as easy as possible for my father. He said it was recess where the walls of racism in their young minds began to crumble. All ten year old boys just want to play.

I knew that my father spent the early part of his life drinking only from designated water fountains, having to sit in the “black only” section of Woolsworth department store, was only allowed to go to black beaches, black playgrounds, black churches. It’s was just part of my dad’s childhood. And to be honest my father and his family rarely talk about segregation. That’s how it was. 

Until recently I never really thought too much about it, either. Maybe it’s becoming a mom. Maybe its because our country is still struggling with racism and there is still work to be done. But when I really looked at the picture this time, I was filled with mixed emotions. I was proud of my dad and the other seven black kids. It made me mad they had to endure such an experience. It made me sad to think it was only 56 years ago. It made me realize what I have taken for granted. I want my son to grow up knowing that his grandfather played a small part in the Civil Rights movement.  I pray that by the time he is old enough to realize what his Papa did, Dr. Martin Luther King jr.’s dream is truly achieved.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream….” -Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.



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