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Diversity Thoughts on Martin Luther King Day, 2012

'As I write this homework assignment on this Martin Luther King national holiday in this country led by the first ever African American male, I'm thankful for enlightened parents who believed that all men are created equal, never mind the skin color,' Linda Marcum Waggener recalls, remembering her childhood in North Metcalfe County, KY and of the deep pain felt learning later of the painful experiences forgiving neighbors on the other side of the segregation line endured.

By Linda Waggener

It has been a quiet, peaceful Martin Luther King national holiday in these parts. I'm thankful for that. I came of age learning about the desegregation movement and am reminded of it today.

I grew up in rural south central Kentucky in the culture of a 160 acre farm where my mom, dad and his parents ruled and life was built around daily chores managing crops, livestock and food.


I learned to communicate in their language and dialect and that of the occasional visiting relatives and neighbors who lived a few miles in each direction who spoke the same. That small farm was the entire population of the universe as I knew it.

Differences were few. Basically survival was the order of the day, until civil rights issues reached our little community. Things became different then. Relatives and friends who'd never had any real differences were suddenly on opposing sides of the issue of desegregation.

As I write a homework assignment for Dr. Sandra Kroh's Language and Culture online class at Campbellsville University on this Martin Luther King national holiday in this country led by the first ever African American male, I'm thankful for enlightened parents who believed that all men are created equal, never mind the skin color.

One relative in particular would visit frequently and try to convince my dad otherwise. He campaigned for separate schools and said he had nothing against 'them' as long as they stayed in 'their place.'

That began my journey observing differences in people and beliefs and surroundings. I was very protected in my small universe and had no idea of the violence that was being done in many regions of the south until much later in life.

But even then as the civil rights movement was building, it was clear that discrimination abounds because of cultural loyalties, with the goal of keeping everything as it is and not accepting others who are different. As far as I know there were no cross burnings in the our area, however, there were cruelties, verbal and otherwise, which added to the resolve for change by African American families.

Later in life I would learn first hand about some of those subtle, quiet cruelties when I typed a newspaper story my mother wrote about an African American friend and neighbor named Lovie Clark.

I typed mom's words for her, and cried, when it came to the part about children, black children who weren't allowed on the white children's bus. In part the story reads:
"...The nearest school for blacks then, was called Cedar Top, a one room structure, located near Sulphur Well, three and a half miles from the Clark home. This meant that Lovie and her brothers and sisters had to walk seven miles a day for their early education.

But this was considered a time of socializing by these youngsters, for their path crossed that of several white children who were on the way to their own school and they'd all stop to visit. "Anytime it rained hard enough to make the creek rise while we were at school," Lovie recalled, "We'd spend the night with the Les Smith children because we couldn't get home."

There were six of the Smith youngsters she said plus five of the Clark's. This made a lively houseful indeed when they all got together. Their momma never seemed to mind though, according to Lovie.

When nighttime came she'd bed them down here and there all over the house. Come morning she would open two cans of salmon and scramble up a big skillet of eggs for their breakfast. "That woman could get more salmon patties out of a can of salmon than anybody I've ever known!" Lovie chuckled at the memory.

Ordinarily the children didn't mind the long walk to school, they had become accustomed to this. But there were times when the weather was bad their walk would be very unpleasant, especially when it was cold. The school bus for white students also traveled along the same route the Clarks took each day, but at that time blacks were not allowed to ride, so the driver never stopped for them regardless of the weather.

"There is no way to keep that from hurting." Lovie commented, "But I never look back. There is no use - that's just the way times were then." She spoke without resentment, simply stating things as they were in her youth. It was different for her daughters and granddaughters, things had changed by the time they came along. Lovie is happy for that..."
The passionate, sometimes explosive, discussions for and against desegregation in those days in that rural area changed my culture permanently and opened my mind to the many life changes to come. That experience started a journey of living the commitment of all people being equal -- and I've put my own word here as it should have been in the constitution -- people, both men and women being equal -- and has led to a deep interest in the specialty of communications. It led to choosing a spouse with those same open minded attitudes and to raising children who would be open to all.

The complete story and a follow up comment can be found at these links in Columbiamagazine.com storiesarchive:

-Story by Linda Waggener


This story was posted on 2012-01-16 23:30:51
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