"I have always imagined that Paradise will be some kind of library." ~ Jorge Luis Borges

Monday, January 16, 2012

Standing up and Sitting in

On this day where we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I am remembering a very special experience.

For four years I traveled with a high school track team to the Outdoor Nationals in Greensboro, North Carolina. It was incredible to watch high school athletes push themselves to amazing heights and demonstrate incredible athleticism. What was equally, if not more, exciting were the two visits we made to the Woolworth's where the sit-ins movement started.

It was June of 2009.  The athletes had all competed for the day, so we grabbed our maps and set off.  After some time driving the streets of Greensboro, and likely some unexpressed reticence on the part of the crew, we found it!

The Woolworth's in Greensboro, NC

The site was in the process of being converted into the International Civil Rights Center and Museum. We asked the (slightly bewildered) workmen if we could step inside and actually walk on the floor where the Sit-ins had taken place.  One might imagine that high school juniors and seniors fresh off a track would be fairly nonplussed about the event, but they weren't! 

Stepping through the main entrance of Woolworth's

I am not sure if it was my enthusiasm (which can be infectious) about visiting a place I had read and heard so much about, but I think that was only part of it.  The students were excited in their own right.  The workmen even let us walk over to the area with the counter and stools. We quietly stood there.  I know history came alive for them at that moment.  I thought of the people who had passed through the doors and the history that had transpired.  

Plaque honoring David Richmond, Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain and Ezell Blair, Jr.

I wish Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney had been published then.

I love this book!  I really like the illustration below because it's unending lunch counter reminds me that we are on a journey.  We have not yet achieved a fully inclusive society that welcomes and celebrates all of its members.

I know these high school students would have loved the book and had a deeper connection with the visit had they been able to read it.  Luckily, my students do get to read this book!  I will be sharing this book with my fourth grade students as part of our Civil Rights Movement unit and am excited to share my experience visiting the Woolworth's. 

The side entrance to Woolworth's

The track team and I went back to the site the following year.  The International Civil Rights Center and Museum had opened and we spent a few hours immersing ourselves in history.  The museum is incredibly well organized and presented and I will return again some time in the future, but there was something very special about that first visit.  On this day where we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I am thankful for all the people who have stood up and sat down to make this world a better place.

No comments:

Post a Comment