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Carol Perkins: Reflections during Black History Month
Metcalfe County High School was integrated during Carol Perkins senior year. Today she remembers two classmates. Carol Perkins remembers the two young men who transferred from Ralph Bunch in Glasgow. Both of the men, Ernie Hayes and Joe Edwards, are now gone. This column is a thoughtful memory of what it must have been like to be pioneers in integration.
Next earlier Carol Perkins column: Carol Perkins: People who are able to fix things
By Carol Perkins
During Black History Month, I reflect on writers I taught in American literature. Although far more white authors listed in the table of contents than black; and more men than women, but among the few black writers were giants.
Two I always loved were Langston Hughes' "Madam and the Rent Man" and Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
Lessons during Black History month should not be limited to the famous but should include those with whom we have lived. How interesting would it be to tell students about the 50's and 60's when segregation was the norm. Tell them of "colored" water fountains and "black only" areas in movie theaters, and about black students and white students not going to school or socializing together right here in our own counties. Invite guests who remember the burning of crosses, church raids, and men in white hoods on the loose right here in our area. Students will be appalled at the insanity of the times. However, the truth about those days is part of the history.
Integration came to Metcalfe County High School when I was a senior. Word spread during the summer that black students normally attended Ralph Bunch in Glasgow were enrolling. Neither my parents nor my friends discussed this topic, so I entered school with no prejudice or negative expectations.
When the two black students joined our class, I was not anticipating any hateful words or comments, although I'm sure I was naive. They played sports, which could have been tense, but if anything was ever said about a black boy playing (which I'm sure some parent complained if a black boy took a white boy's spot), our coach, Cortez Butler, would have nipped it in the bud. They rode buses to games as a team.
At the time, I didn't think about how these students felt. In retrospect, why would they want to give up their high school experiences at Ralph Bunch to come to our school? Why would they want to part with their classmates to attend a school of strangers? Did I think they were happy to get to go to a "white" school? I didn't think about it at all.
We graduated and class reunions came and went, and neither of these students attended. Joe Edwards, one of the two men, passed away a few years ago, but I didn't know much about what happened in his life. Then just this last week, I heard about the death of Ernie.
Ernie Hayes grew up in Metcalfe County. He was the son of Brownie and Magnolia Hayes, whom all of us knew.
I thought about his legacy the day I heard the news. Not only was he one of the two black students to enroll, he was the first black basketball player for the Hornets and the first of two to walk the graduation line. He also must have been among the bravest and strongest of our classmates. None of us knew what it took for him to ride the bus that September morning and take the first step inside the building. Were his parents worried? Did they fear what would happen?
Ernie Hayes and Joe Edwards wrote their own history back in 1964. It won't be read in textbooks or celebrated with a parade, but it is nonetheless important in the lives of the Class of 1964, and in the eyes of their parents and family. In my opinion, both were heroic.
(My new book, A Girl Named Connie, is available at Blossoms Florist and Boutique Unique, 507 Happy Valley Road, Glasgow, KY 42141, Phone 270-629-3597; the Edmonton/Metcalfe Chamber of Commerce, 109 E Stockton Street, Edmonton, KY, Phone 270-432-3222; and the Lighthouse Restaurant, 1500 Sulphur Well/Knob Lick Road, Sulphur Well Historic District, KY 42129. Phone 270-629-3597. And Also on Amazon.com)
Contact: Carol Perkins, PO Box 134, Edmonton, KY 42129. Phone 670-432-5756. firstname.lastname@example.org
This story was posted on 2017-02-08 19:23:20
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