CHAPTER 11. SEARCHING FOR A FAMILY HOME: CHARLOTTESVILLE, PHILADELPHIA, AND LYNCHBURG
My relationship with Mary Malloy continued even after the closing of the schools. My wife to be took a job in Front Royal, Virginia and I relocated to Charlottesville, so that we were about eighty miles apart. We continued to see each other although not as frequently as before. We considered marriage at that time but decided to wait until we were both able to work at the same time and live under the same roof.
I taught school in Charlottesville for about two years. I lived about eight blocks from the University. Charlottesville is more cosmopolitan than Farmville or Lynchburg. The University is the all-pervasive influence in the town and its many distinguished scholars and visitors from abroad give it that cosmopolitan flavor. It was also a bit more expensive to live there and the pace of life was quicker.
Charlottesville was a good town to ruin a fellow. It was very easy to get a job there because there were always college related jobs that could be easily had. For instance, there were always jobs available waiting on student tables. (I myself had waited tables at McAllister's Caterers in Philadelphia.) The tragedy of having easily available jobs, however, is that one tends to settle for the easy money rather than keep looking for a better line of work with more possibilities of career advancement. My friend Raleigh remembers me telling him this and he later thanked me. He became a detective in the police force, while many others were still in the same job waiting tables after many years of service.
In Charlottesville I became good friends with Ed Jackson. Vernon Johns told me that Ed was a descendant of Thomas Jefferson via the black slave Sally Hemmings. We stayed friends and later when DNA testing started to check the genetic links in the Jefferson-Hemmings connection I heard from him that he was considering going down to get tested. (I do not know if he actually got tested).
Mary applied for a teaching position in Charlottesville, but she was unable to land a job there. So I decided to leave Charlottesville after a two year stint and relocate to Philadelphia where I had learned teaching jobs were plentiful.
Malloy and I were married March 4, 1959. Shortly afterwards, I left for Philly with the understanding that my wife would join me as soon as I was settled. Mary lived for a short period in Lynchburg with our friend Ethel Wilson Fisher. When my wife joined me, she was hired almost immediately and we made our home in that city.
My wife and I were both substitute teachers. Many black teachers were only substitute teachers. It was cheaper for the school system this way. And it kept black teachers relegated to lesser paying positions. We both worked in the North Philadelphia district with all black schools. The schools were pretty bad and the kids were also pretty bad. We both wanted to get out of Philly.
I could not make the adjustment to conditions in Philadelphia. I found that the city was just too hectic for me. I guess the fast pace of city life, the noise, the crime, the filth and the ramshackle condition of many of the schools there all combined to make me uneasy and restless. So that when opportunity beckoned, I gladly left the big city and relocated in Virginia.
The immediate reason was that I was just a substitute teacher in the Philadelphia school system and in order to be a full-time teacher, I would have had to take several courses that I did not see any point in taking. (I guess, like Vernon Johns, I am just a little too rebellious to put up with stultifying bureaucratic rules.) But the real reason for leaving the north was that, although I was in Philadelphia, my heart was still in Virginia.
A funny thing about my return to Virginia was that when my family learned of my intention to leave Philadelphia they attempted to dissuade me from making such a foolish decision. They even set up a meeting for me with a woman high up in the Philadelphia school hierarchy. She attempted to change my mind, promising to open several doors that would have guaranteed me and my wife quick promotion through the ranks to a higher level. "Thanks, but no thanks" was my response. Now when members of my Philadelphia family visit, they come more and more frequently and stay longer each time. I think they have begun to realize that my decision was not so foolhardy after all.
I longed to be back in Virginia. And as soon as Prince Edward County reopened its schools, I applied. My wife was pregnant at the time with our first daughter, Mallory, and I thought Virginia would be a great place to raise children. I had the job all lined up and had quit my Philadelphia position on the promise of a job in Farmville.
Unfortunately, a former colleague of mine was not happy at my promised return. How this happened I will never quite understand, but somehow he got the impression that I was interested in his wife, a light-skinned black who actually repulsed me. I could not stand her because she often acted "white" in thinking she was superior to those of darker skin hues. Anyway, this colleague poisoned the superintendent of schools against me by reporting that I was a drunk.
I can remember talking with my friend Rev. Griffin about how unfair the situation was and the good reverend told me he would try to do whatever he could to help me. We were friends because we were about the same age and had struck up many a conversation at Reed's Cafe, which was the only place blacks could eat in Farmville. But then somebody told me that there might be an opening in the Lynchburg school system. I went to Lynchburg and put in my applications. At that very time a fifth grade teacher died in the classroom. Talk about being in Lynchburg at the right time. So in 1963 (I distinctly remember the date because this was the year of the Kennedy assassination) I started teaching school in Lynchburg. This started a career of twenty years in education there.
I borrowed through the Public Library's Interlibrary Loan System, a book, The Negroes of Lynchburg, Virginia, a publication of the University of Virginia, Number 5 of a series in the Phelps-Stokes Fellowship Papers. This slender volume, researched and written by Benjamin Guy Childs, contains a wealth of surprising information about Black people in the early days of the city. From the meager facts available, it is known that when the first census of the town was taken in June 1816, it was discovered that over twelve hundred Negroes, about two hundred and fifty of them free, were part of the three thousand inhabitants. Thus from the beginning of Lynchburg' life as a town, an appreciable proportion of the population has been colored. It may be further observed that an unusual proportion of the Negroes were free, since in the same year that nearly twenty percent of the Lynchburg Negroes were counted as "free persons," the percentage for the state at large was only eight. Many of the Negroes owed their freedom to the activities of the Quakers.
These statistics indicate that Lynchburg in that time contained about two and one half times as many free Negroes as in any other place in the state!! It is believed that early Lynchburg Negroes were employed largely as household servants or as laborers in the tobacco fields around the town. Very soon, however, they became useful in another capacity, that of boatmen for the large fleets or bateaus plying between Lynchburg and Richmond. Large numbers of them were engaged in this "hardy calling, demanding skill, courage and strength." (In light of this information, Lynchburg's annual Bateau Festival, can hardly be a true representation of the bateau industry of early times, since I do not recall seeing any black participants in the festival. Is the absence of blacks an oversight, or is it due to apathy, or is it because we did not know how important blacks were in this trade? I wish to be corrected if I am mistaken in my belief that blacks do not participate in the Festival. So, if you have knowledge that is different from mine, please let me know.)
For the first fifty years following the founding of Lynchburg, the Negroes were accustomed to attending religious services in the churches of their masters, where separate seats, usually galleries, were provided for them. Not a few of them became members of the white churches. In 1830, however, the first Negro church was built on Court Street, and the pastor of one of the leading white Baptist churches of the town served as minister of the new colored congregation. (This is, no doubt, the present-day Court Street Baptist Church).
The Negro population increased in numbers quite as rapidly as did the white. In 1850, the census showed a total of nearly four thousand persons of color, of whom nearly five hundred were free. During the ten years preceding the Civil War, the colored population was very materially affected by the influx of a considerable number of freed Negroes from other states, chiefly Louisiana and Alabama. (This statement raises several questions: Why Lynchburg? Why did these "foreigners" migrate here? Could it be that the cruelly restrictive laws that hampered and obstructed nearly every aspect of the lives of freed Negroes in Louisiana and Alabama were less stringently enforced here? Could it have been that Lynchburg, having historically had in its population a sizeable body of free Negroes, took a somewhat more relaxed and tolerant view of their black citizens? Or were there better opportunities for employment here?) These and others of the freed Negroes of the city made up what has been called the "colored aristocracy," the influence of which may be seen in the life of the Negroes even in the present time.
At the beginning of the Civil War there were nearly five thousand Negroes in Lynchburg, and more than one out of every six was free. The percentage of the colored population which was free was higher than that for the State at large and considerably higher than that for any other Virginia city. Much of this was due to the "immigration" of free Negroes. From this brief overview several important facts emerge: 1. Lynchburg has always had among its population, an inordinately large number of free Negroes; 2. the earliest black residents of the city found employment as house servants, and in the tobacco fields that surrounded the city; 3. later, the bateau industry which utilized the rivers as the cheapest, quickest means to send goods and local products to Richmond, employed many Negro boatmen; 4. Court Street was the first church built in the city for Negroes (1830); 5. Negroes have been part of the population of Lynchburg from its earliest beginnings; and 6. the Quaker founders of the city freed their slaves, thus creating a more relaxed atmosphere and a greater tolerance for free Negroes.
REDISCOVERING LYNCHBURG'S EARLY QUAKERS
I don't know when or how I first learned of the Quaker involvement in the founding of the city of Lynchburg, but I remember that for many years I was puzzled about some aspects of that involvement. Quakers founded the city of Lynchburg, but why is there no Quaker presence in the city today? Or is there?
And then I wondered about the Quaker Memorial Presbyterian Church -- why would a Presbyterian church name itself after the Quakers? What was the connection between those very different, apparently unrelated religious bodies?
Then there were other puzzling questions -- the Quakers, because of their well-known condemnation and rejection of violence, their refusal to bear arms, and later, their repudiation of slavery, could hardly have held to their beliefs and practices and continued to live comfortably anywhere in the South during the Civil War. At that time, massive community pressure was brought to bear on every able-bodied Southern man to support the Confederate cause. How did the Quakers bear up under this pressure? Or had they already left the area before the war began? When and under what circumstances did the Quakers disband and leave Lynchburg?
For a number of years, these questions surfaced occasionally, until one day as I passed Quaker Memorial Church, my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to find out if there was a history of the church that would answer my questions. I phoned the church and spoke to the pastor, Rev. Bernard Bangley, and when I told him of my interest in the history of the church, he referred me to a Mrs. Carolyn Eubank, a member whose knowledge of the history of the church was more extensive, he said, than his. (He had only recently come to Lynchburg.)
I found Mrs. Eubank to be most willing to share that extensive knowledge with me. In our first conversations she answered many of the questions that had for so long interested me. First of all, the question about the disappearance of the Quakers. It seems that many of them had left the area long before the Civil War. They left for a variety of reasons, chief among them being the fact that many of the Quakers having freed their slaves were no longer able to farm on the scale they formerly did. In addition, as a result of the manumission of their slaves, relationships with their slave-holding neighbors suffered to the point that many of the Quakers felt that they had little choice but to relocate.
Some years later, the Quakers sold the land on which the Quaker Memorial Presbyterian Church stands to the Presbyterians for $25 dollars, with the stipulation that Mt. Zion Baptist Church, which was built for black people on land owned by the Quakers, continue to serve its parishioners without interference from the new owners. (Mt. Zion Baptist Church still exists and serves a small congregation.)
Mrs. Eubank made available to me a book "Lynchburg's Pioneer Quakers and Their Meeting House" written by Mrs. Douglas Summers Brown, wife of former pastor of Quaker Memorial Presbyterian Church, Dr. H. Dockery Brown. This book documented and explained and enlarged on much of the information that Mrs. Eubank had shared with me. In addition, it provided a chronology that traced the development of the decision to manumit the slaves owned by the early Quakers: "Quaker records show that at a meeting on November 11, 1766, the Society of Friends (Quakers) declared that the Friends generally feel that the buying and selling of humans ought to be discouraged.'"
This discussion seems to be the first of all the Quaker Meetings in Virginia and in the South to confront this great problem. By 1771 the Friends had adopted the rule that Quakers were neither to purchase a Negro or hire or oversee Negro slaves on pain of exclusion from Quaker Society.
On May 3, 1779 the Quakers recommended that all Friends statewide set their slaves free by manumission and to discountenance slavery as a whole. By 1787 all Friends in Virginia had freed their slaves and not a slave was owned by any Quaker in America with the knowledge of the Society of Friends.
We see then that the manumission of slaves was not confined to this area, but wherever there were slave-holding Quakers in the slave states, they too, freed their slaves. Thus, thousands of slaves received their freedom at the hands of the Quakers. There were instances in which, because of laws forbidding the manumission of slaves, Quakers bought entire families of slaves and kept them in nominal slavery for their protection. A freed slave continuing to live in the slave states was liable to be seized and resold into slavery by unscrupulous men.
The cost of this magnificent tribute to the Quaker devotion to principle was enormous. I have information from the library at Haverford College which confirms that, incredibly, some Quaker emancipators not only freed their slaves, but compensated them financially for the time they had served! If we consider that in those days a slave was a valued commodity (one could purchase a sizeable piece of land and build a house for less than a prime field hand cost), we begin to get some idea of the staggering costs involved. And yet, the monetary cost may have been the least part of the total picture. The Quakers, who for the most part were farmers, in manumitting their slaves, willingly and knowingly divested themselves of their labor source. Whites could not be hired to do what was considered "nigger work," so the Quaker who had freed his slaves was compelled to limit his farm operation to what he and his family could accomplish.
As a result of these manumissions, the Quakers lost the friendship and esteem of their slave-holding neighbors. They became objects of suspicion and scorn. Jealousy may also have been a factor in the deteriorating relationships -- the Quakers, industrious, thrifty, and for the most successful, were the envy of the community.
The decision to free the slaves was arrived at only after much soul-searching, much agonizing, much prayerful debate. Indeed, some Quakers faced with the choice of manumission or exclusion from the Society, chose to leave the Society and to retain their slaves.
When I had absorbed this fascinating information, I began to wonder why I had never seen any reference to this hidden bit of history in any history book I had read, nor had I seen or heard any reference to it any where else. And when I questioned my friends I found them to be just as ignorant of this wonderful story as I was, which was rather surprising in light of the probability that long-time black residents of the area may be descendants of those slaves so long ago freed by the Quakers.
I was so moved by this wonderful story that I wrote an article about it that was published in the local black newspaper. Somehow my article found its way into the hands of someone at Quaker Memorial Presbyterian Church and they reprinted it in their church bulletin. They also put me on their mailing list, so that I received their bulletin and other announcements.
Some months later, I received an announcement of "A Reenactment of a Quaker Wedding." I attended the wedding and there I ran into Mrs. Eubank, my mentor in this regard. I thanked her for all the help and inspiration she had extended. Then, I told her that I had been so impressed by what I had learned about the Quakers that some friends and I had determined that we were going to make a contribution to the church in memory of those long-ago Quakers. She applauded the idea except for the manner in which we proposed to make our contribution, for I had told her that we wished to make it anonymously.
She objected, saying that, because of the historical significance of such a gesture, it could not be done anonymously, that someone would have to be identified, and that logically I was that "someone." She suggested a simple presentation ceremony at the church. I reluctantly agreed and I left her to cross the yard to sign the guest book, as all visitors were asked to do. As I walked to the table on which the guest book was placed, I thought what a wonderful thing it would be, if at the ceremony I could have present a descendant of our Quaker benefactors and a descendant of the slaves who received their freedom from the Quakers!
When I got to the table, I found a long line waiting to sign. I took my place in the line and fell into conversation with a lady just ahead of me. We talked about the weather (it was a beautiful fall day) and about other things as we waited. Suddenly, out of the clear blue sky, the lady (Mrs. W. Goode "Catherine" Robinson) pointed across the highway and said "Do you see that land over there? My fourth great grandfather, Christopher Johnson, used to farm that land. He was a Quaker and he freed his slaves."
I couldn't believe my ears! Here within five minutes of the thought, I had met a descendant of our Quaker benefactors! I wanted to hug her!! When I expressed my joy at meeting her and explained the plan to honor the early Quakers, she agreed immediately to assist in whatever way she could. As we parted, she promised to send me something in the mail.
A few days later, I received a letter containing a xeroxed copy of a deed of manumission pertaining to the slaves owned by her fourth great grandfather, Charles Johnson. When I called to thank her for this valuable document, she told me that there were other such documents recorded in the Deed Books at the courthouse in Rustburg.
I made several trips to that office and copied many of the Deeds of Manumission. In so doing, I learned that the number of slaves who had been freed in this area by our Quaker benefactors was 104 men, women, and children.
Among those slaves named in Christopher Johnson's deed of manumission was Thomas Napper, the only one for whom two names were given. The others were named by only one name. Napper, being such an unusual name, and considering that many words in the deed were misspelled, that is, spelled differently from the modern spelling, I concluded that the Napiers of this area are likely to be descendants of Thomas Napper. Further confirming this likelihood is the fact that in a conversation with a young woman who was a Napier, I learned that her grandfather was called "Old Man Napper." There definitely seemed to be a connection between the two names.
Armed with all this information, we held on February 19, 1994 a brief ceremony in the Old Quaker Meeting House on the grounds of the Quaker Memorial Church at which we presented a handsome bronze plaque to the church. The plaque bears the inscription:
"Dedicated to the memory of the early Lynchburg Quakers who, yielding to the dictates of conscience, gave the precious gift of freedom to more than one hundred slaves, this plaque is a symbol of the heartfelt appreciation, gratitude and thanks of the black community."
What gave the occasion a unique flavor was the fact that we had in attendance Mrs. Catherine Robinson, fourth great granddaughter of Quaker Christopher Johnson, and two black women, Mrs. Carrie Wade and her sister, Mrs. Henderson, who we believe to be descendants of Thomas Napper, one of the slaves freed by Christopher Johnson.
We were also honored by the presence of Dr. and Mrs. H. Dockery Brown. Mrs. Brown's book, you will recall, was an invaluable resource, a very great help in the research that made our ceremony possible. Mrs. Brown shared some reflections with the gathering. She proposed that Lynchburg be called "The Quaker City" for Lynchburg, like Philadelphia, owes its beginnings to the Quakers.
Our program was enhanced by the presence of Mr. and Mrs. R. Earle who wore authentic Quaker costumes, thus adding color and a bit of pageantry to the affair.
In every way the ceremony was a splendid event. Several of those who attended described it as "moving." It seemed to me that there was present a rare atmosphere of friendship, a fellowship that transcended race. The audience, which consisted of about eighty-five people, was pretty evenly divided between blacks and whites. Rarely have I witnessed an event in which the races have been brought together in a greater sense of harmony and brotherhood.
I was informed later that several of the members of Quaker Memorial Presbyterian Church visited the plaque on the Sunday following the ceremony and many of them expressed regrets that they had not known about the ceremony. They wished that they could have been a part of our program.
I am proud of what we accomplished on that day.
Given Credit Due
It seems to me that it would be appropriate to include the program in order to give credit to those individuals whose support and encouragement were crucial to the success of the event.
The Rev. Bernard Bangley, pastor of Quaker Memorial Church read a brief but highly appropriate Scripture.
The Rev. Winston Jones, pastor of South Lynchburg Baptist Church, led the devotions and offered a splendid benediction prayer, which I have included at the end of this essay.
Deems and Gracie Melvin supported and assisted in making our program a success. Mr. Melvin sang two solos and led the congregational singing. Mrs. Melvin offered her culinary expertise to provide a light repast at the end of the service.
W. E. And Geraldine Clarke gave a donation to offset the cost of the plaque. Mrs. Clarke also offered to help provide cookies and punch, but she and Mrs. Melvin found that ladies of the church had already made provisions for the collation.
Mt. Zion Baptist Church, which had a strong historic bond with the Quakers, sent a representative, Mr. Houston Ross, who shared a number of memories and reflections.
My brother, Rev. W. H. Rowland Powell of Philadelphia, sent his best wishes and a donation to help pay the cost of the plaque.
My remarks may be of some interest, so I have included them, as follows:
It occurs to me that I was in error in thinking of the Quaker manumission of their slaves as a kindness, an act of humane generosity, a great favor. No, the manumission was none of these, for acts of kindness, favors, generosity are choices. One may choose to be kind or unkind, generous or selfish, one may choose to do a favor, or to withhold a favor.
The Quakers had no choices. For them, in this situation, there were no options. They did what they did not as a matter of choice, but because the alternative for them was a troubled conscience. And so, the Quakers, following the dictates of conscience, made free men of thousands of slaves throughout the slave states.
But what did it mean to be free?
In those times, there were many cruelly restrictive laws that severely limited the rights and activities of free black people. Eventually, most of the slave states passed legislation that forbade absolutely the manumission of slaves. In some cases, manumission was permitted, but only when it was accompanied with provision to repatriate the freed men to Africa.
At one time, many slave holding communities required that a slave who had been freed leave the state within a short time after manumission. Should he fail to comply, he risked seizure by the authorities who would then sell him back into slavery. The presence of a black man without a master was thought to cause dissatisfaction and discontent among the other slaves and, therefore, it was unacceptable that a freed black be allowed to remain in the neighborhood.
Edward Tunis in his book The Tavern at the Ferry writes: "Many American Quakers were slave owners in early times, although they treated their slaves as fellow humans. Many Quakers freed their slaves as a matter of conscience, but in the South they hesitated to do so because freeing them would amount to cruelty. Unscrupulous men would recapture the Negroes and resell them to masters who would mistreat them. The Friends abstained from buying or selling slaves for many years before they resolved in 1776 that any Quaker who owned a slave would be disowned by his Meeting."
In the face of increased opposition to manumission, the Quakers resorted to a number of strategies in order to continue their efforts at emancipation. In North Carolina, for example, "they took a step which no other Friends in the world had to do: the Yearly Meeting itself became a slave holder in order to free its individual members of the sin; in 1808 it appointed trustees to hold nominal title of Friends' Emancipated Negroes until such time as they could be removed from the state -- by this peculiar device, North Carolina Friends could say, with all the other Quakers in America: We hold no man in slavery!'" (From "Quakers and Slavery in America" by Thomas E. Drake, associate professor of American History, Haverford College.)
The Benediction Prayer Offered by Rev. Winston Jones
We adore Thee in prayer and hymn and seek to adore Thee also in all that we do.
We praise Thee that we were created and have been re-created in Thy Love.
We thank Thee that, through the grace of Christ, we stand before Thee as individuals, the very hairs of whose heads are numbered; but also as children adopted into the family of God, wherein we are made members of one another.
We have come today remembering that the month of February had been set aside as "National Brotherhood Month" and "National Black History Month" to honor men and women who exemplified true brotherhood at its best many years ago. Courageous men and women who dared to defy public opinion and public law and remembered that there is a law above any man-made law, The Law of God!
It was revealed to these brave saints that "God hast made of one blood all nations to dwell together on the earth, and Thou has told us that we shall live in peace with all men."
We are thankful for their obedience to the Holy Spirit that led them to emancipate many of our forefathers in spite of the social disfavor and great financial loss. May we as a people and a community ever remember our debt to these pioneers of true brotherhood.
And Father, give us such love that we may remember day by day that "It makes no difference whether the flesh be black or white, brown or yellow. The Savior wore for all the thorny crown." May these thoughts of the Holy Spirit be used to help us in this world that Thou has committed to our own hands.
We ask this through our Lord, Jesus Christ.
"One of life's tragedies is getting what you want." -- Oscar Wilde
Back in Lynchburg I contemplated the progress or lack of such at Virginia Seminary since my father's resignation. My feelings about the replacement of Allen for Powell in the presidency: Virginia Seminary got what it wanted, and it deserved what it got!
Once Dr. Allen had the presidency of Virginia Seminary he did not seem to know what to do with it. And he proceeded to run the college into the ground. The size of the student body shrunk from 140 at the time of Dr. Powell's resignation to 33 students. At the end of the Powell years, all buildings had received extensive, though modest, renovation. At the end of Allen's reign, according to Dr. M. C. Southerland (who followed Dr. Allen as president), "Hayes Hall where I lived temporarily was in bad shape. Rain came in part of it and we spent thousands of dollars on each of those building to put them in shape to take students. . . when I came here." At the end of the Powell regime an auditor's report exclaimed that "Provision has been made for all known liabilities." Dr. Southerland estimated the school's indebtedness at the beginning of his term at between $200,000 and $300,000 dollars. I was told that Dr. E. C. Smith, long-time Allen supporter, suggested that the school be closed down and whatever income could be raised be awarded to deserving students, enabling them to pursue their education elsewhere. What delicious irony! Dr. Smith, who had used his not inconsiderable influence to unseat Dr. Powell, now in effect was saying that the man of his choice had failed, and he now saw no alternative but to close the school!
In attempting to understand the failure of the Allen administration, one very perplexing question arises: How did Dr. Powell accomplish so much in the deeply depressed state of the nation's economy during his tenure, and Dr. Allen so little in a time when the economy was booming in the post-World War II years? I think the answer lies in the fact that there was something wrong at Seminary. And I think that "something" was Dr. Allen himself.
It appears that God looked with favor on the efforts of the self-sacrificing Dr. Powell. And this is not really surprising for Dr. Powell was a devout Christian. He strove to live a Christian life before the world. God was first in his life and in his labors. He freely gave to God the credit for every success that came his way. Whatever successes he enjoyed at Seminary he took to be indications of God's approval and he was humbly profuse in his acceptance of God's kindness to him.
Dr. Allen was another matter altogether. It seems almost as if his administration was doomed from the beginning to the end. And that's not really surprising either. I find it hard to believe that God would continue to bless the efforts at Virginia Seminary, and in so doing give His approval to the administration of an individual who had utilized every means, most of which were definitely unChristian and unGodly, to advance his own selfish agenda. Men of power who use immoral means to gain their goals are usually men that are primarily concerned about their own welfare. And, ultimately, men concerned about their own welfare create havoc for the institutions they run.
I have been told that in the final year or two of his administration, Dr. Allen suffered from a mental deterioration that seriously impacted his ability to function in office. He left the school in 1964 returning to his home in Baltimore where he died soon after. It was reported that at the time of his death, he was completely insane.
I think that whatever mental distress Dr. Allen suffered was directly related to the recognition of the fact that he had failed as president of Virginia Seminary. And what a bitter realization that must have been! After all the scheming, all the plotting and conniving, all the skullduggery and vilification, circumstance had brought him face to face with the terrible realization that he had failed and failed ignominiously!
Understandably, Dr. Allen was not one of my favorite people. Still I cannot rejoice in the manner of his passing. I can only hope that God in His infinite compassion will forgive his transgressions.
THE CIVIL RIGHTS STRUGGLE IN LYNCHBURG
When I got to Lynchburg, the civil rights movement had already past its prime. Most of the biggest problems had been solved as far as the movement was concerned. Politically speaking, nothing much was going on. The civil rights movement in Lynchburg was one of the least violent of all the civil rights movements in the country. This is especially true when comparing the violence unleased in the town of Danville (south of Lynchburg) with the situation in Lynchburg.
An early worker in the area of civil rights was the poet Anne Spencer. She was a tall and thin woman. She was very lively and animated, especially when talking with Vernon Johns. She was not universally liked among blacks in Lynchburg, probably because she did not have much to do with the common black man.
One of the most important persons in the local struggle was Olivet Thaxton. His house was the big stopping place for civil rights workers coming to Lynchburg. Every civil rights worker coming through Lynchburg knew that if you got to the home of Olivet Thaxton that you would have a good meal and a warm bed. It cost him a lot of money to be in the movement. In retaliation, white contracts were withdrawn from his trucking firm and he lost the business. He even spent thousands of dollars of his own money to keep the movement going. Thaxton marched a bunch of kids under his leadership to a local "whites only" swimming pool and had them start swimming.
Since the end of the civil rights movement, many people have claimed to have done wonderful and important things for the movement. Olivet Thaxton had quite a few uncomplimentary comments about many of these people.
Before the civil rights movement came to Lynchburg, Dr. M. C. Allen sued Southhampton County, where he had been a principal for ten years, to compel the county to provide buses for black children as it did for white children. The case went all the way to the Virginia Supreme Court where it was decided for the plaintiffs.
Continuing his fight against racism, Dr. Allen's activities drew the attention of the Klan, which burned a cross on his lawn to warn him that it would be unwise for him to remain in the county. Dr. Allen prudently left, not because he feared for himself, but because of his concern for his family and the other black residents of the county. Thus it would appear that Dr. Allen was a stalwart, fearless defender of the rights of his people, a fierce champion willing to put himself at risk to secure for black people the rights to which they were entitled. But how does that reputation jibe with his behavior during the Civil Rights struggle in Lynchburg?
L. Garnell Stamps, a Lynchburg activist who was intimately involved in the Civil Rights struggle locally, tells us: "Dr. Allen did not support the movement. In fact, he warned the students of the college not to get drawn into the activities (sit-ins, demonstrations, etc.) that were sweeping across the Southland. His warnings went unheeded and several students not only involved themselves, but a number of them went to jail where some of them remained in custody for more than a week. When the students were released from jail and returned to the campus, some of them were expelled. . . .
"Also, two members of the faculty, Rev. Virgil Wood and Mrs. Mildred Saunders-Dyson were fired. They had been openly and actively involved in the planning and implementation of certain aspects of the struggle. They supported and encouraged the students to defy not only Virginia's laws, but also the advice of Dr. Allen."
LLOYD FOX AND INTEGRATION
A few weeks ago, the local chapter of N.A.A.C.P. honored the young people who first integrated Lynchburg's schools. The daily newspaper carried an account of the affair, and gave a brief synopsis of the honorees' descriptions of the trials and difficulties they encountered in their pioneering roles.
I was particularly interested in those experiences because, by coincidence, I had just a few weeks before, had a conversation with a young man who, like the honorees, was in one of the first classes to integrate the city's schools.
Integration caught up with this young man when he was about half-way through his school career. His first six years were spent in segregated R. S. Payne Elementary and Dunbar High Schools. Then he was assigned to Linkhorne School where he had his first encounter with integrated classrooms.
What were his impressions of the new experience? The first thing that struck him, he said, was the fact that riding the bus back and forth carried him into neighborhoods that he had not visited before, and he got an opportunity to see and appreciate the homes that he passed. He could not help contrasting the beauty of the homes that he saw daily with his own neighborhood in center city.
About school work he said "Classes were tough at first, I think, because of a different approach to teaching, different materials, etc. from what I had been exposed to in the segregated schools. Different, not better," he hastened to emphasize.
"Teachers were nice," he continued, "with one exception. This guy gave me failing grades every report period, no matter how well I performed in class. Finally, encouraged by Mr. John Davis, one of my teachers who took a real interest in black students, I confronted the teacher and showed him my report card. He was able to see that I was earning A's and B's in all my other classes, and in fact, had just missed the honor roll because of the low grade I received in his class. The next report period my grade improved to a C-."
I complimented the young man for having the courage to confront the teacher, but I was disturbed by the probability that other black youngsters not having his courage, were being cheated of the grades they probably deserved. Fox confirmed that this was so, and he named one of his classmates who was always in a confrontational relationship with his teacher, and was finally suspended, interrupting his education, if not ending it.
"I didn't participate in class activities as much as I formerly had in the black schools. I was very conscious of being a minority. There were only three or four black students in each of my classes, and although the experience encouraged a closeness among us (the black students) it did not encourage class participation,. I guess we wanted to be as inconspicuous as possible."
About his relationships with white students, he had this to say: "Most of them were friendly and seemed to be cordial, but in spite of this, I never accepted their invitations to parties and gatherings at their homes. I just felt it would be better not to expose myself to what might happen if I accepted. So, maybe it's my own fault. I did make one or two enduring friendships among the white students, friendships that last until now."
Musing over his school experience, Fox said: "What we had before integration was unique. The old Dunbar was exciting, it was ours. We knew our teachers and they knew us. We knew our teachers cared about us. Our neighborhoods were ours. There was a kind of cohesion that we seem to have lost. There were strong role models in our neighborhoods. Dr. Taylor lived just a block or two away; W. T. Lewis lived just across the street from me; Dr. Walter Johnson a few blocks away; and Dr. E. Johnson also lived in the area. "Teedee" Thornhill and Garnell Stamps and a host of other strong personalities were available to us. We had good churches and other institutions that welded the people together. There was a kind of family feeling, a unity spirit among the people who lived in center city, but with the influx of drugs and other dividing factors, that feeling of being part of something unique and desirable and good seems to have been weakened."
Fox told me that he had planned to go to college, but opted to go into the service instead. He feels that this decision may have been an error in that when he joined he was led to believe that certain advantages would result, but the painful reality he learned was entirely different. Those advantages were not available. Quite understandably he feels cheated.
Fox is a bright, intelligent young man and I promised to do whatever I could to help him to complete his education. He, like so many other of our young men, have much to offer.
WHO WILL TELL THE CHILDREN
October 24, 1985
The pre-integration black school was probably the most effective means by which black youngsters could learn about themselves and about the history of black people in America. Teachers in the all black school traditionally perceived that their responsibility to students was not merely to instruct and educate within the curriculum mandated by the state, but also to uplift and inspire, to acquaint pupils with the realities of being black in white America.
Every teacher in the segregated black school was in a sense, a teacher of black awareness. No matter what was his area of expertise, he taught in terms of the black experience, for he realized that on him devolved the responsibility to teach our story which does not appear in the textbooks approved by the state: the magnificent, profoundly moving history of the struggle of black people to assert their rights to a place in the American dream.
In the segregated school, the black teacher played a vital role in the preservation of black tradition and culture, with the result that every child who was educated in the all black school received a liberal exposure to black art, music, literature, and history. He learned about great black men and women of the past, as well as those who were currently contributing to the betterment of black people.
The ever decreasing ranks of black teachers and the requirements of the integrated classroom have greatly diminished the black teachers' capacity and opportunity to influence the thinking and performance of black children. Those black teachers currently employed do what they can, of course, but an essential element, exclusivity, is missing. Black children no longer have the attention of black teachers and black teachers no long focus exclusively on the needs of black children. And to the extent that this is true, the traditional impact of the black teacher is weakened.
Thus it becomes increasingly possible that a black child may complete his public school education knowing nothing about his own rich heritage. To my mind, this is a tragic loss, but it is an inevitable, predictable by product of integration. Integration, after all, is a two-edged sword. It cuts both ways. It will undoubtedly bring much good to black people, but it will also take away much that is good, much that is uniquely black, much that has great significance and value to us.
But there are some losses we cannot afford to sustain, not even for the sake of integration. And the dwindling opportunity to teach our children in school about the history of black America represents such an enormous deficiency in their education that those of us who value our traditions and our heritage must seek and find alternative ways to offset this tragic omission.
Who will tell the children? Who will tell our youngsters about the great contributions of black people to America and the world? Who will tell them about the heroes and heroines who gave so much to make the way easier for them? How will they learn about the torturous pathway black people have been compelled to follow as we made our painful way from the degradation and horrors of slavery to our present status?
Does our story, our history, lose its value and significance because we're moving even closer to full and complete integration; so that it's no longer important that our children have the essential knowledge about themselves?
I think not. If anything, the value of our history is enhanced by integration because that history gives to our people the confidence and will to survive whatever crises life has in store for us. After all, we have their precedents in our history to guide us. Again, who will tell the children?
An excerpt from the article of 11/19/86
Finally, has integration failed? No, integration has not failed, for it made it possible for black children to receive the same quality of education that has always been available to whites.
We will have failed integration, unless we can motivate our young people to prepare to meet the challenges and opportunities that integration offers.
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