The impetus for this post is a trip to the Moton Museum in Farmville. I hoped it would be uplifting, I suppose. My uncanny ability to choose the wrong direction to go through galleries didn't help; and I missed that the banners in the darkened auditorium key the visitor into the major themes. The major themes do not include the final act of desegregation. I found that unsatisfying.
It certainly wasn't the scope of the museum to dissect whether integration failed us. The exhibits praise the well-educated African-American teachers and preachers and other leaders of Prince Edward County; there are oral history interviews of former students describing the expectation that they'd all go to college. These gave me that icky "gee it seems like things weren't so bad." Yet I know separated but equal never is. I also know schools full of kids with no expectation of or interest in college; schools that are predominantly black. When I substitute taught, I guarantee I met no Ivy League-educated teachers -- even in the wealthy school districts -- like the principal of Moton School was.
I was charmed to learn that Barbara Johns, a student leader of a 1951 student strike -- one that led the teens of Prince Edward County to be folded into Brown -- went on to become a librarian. I was interested to see she was something of an "outside agitator," a New Yorker staying with grandparents.
One moment of clear uplift and understanding came from my internal rebuttal to a quotation from a segregationist.
The second from the last was easy: I have been made better by attending integrated schools. There's that to be thankful for on the day we remember the life of Rev. King. There's that to be thankful of as we approach the swearing in of a horrific bigot as our president. I, at least, have been elevated.