|Joseph A. DeLaine|
In a county that was three-quarters black, and where the children often didn't go past the 6th grade because they were needed back home to work, schools were less than adequate:For more information, you can view a video of Joseph. B.B., and their sister Ophelia remembering their father's role in desegregation. If you live near Charlotte, NC, visit The Levine Museum of the South to see the award winning exhibit COURAGE which tells this grassroots story through photographs, personal histories, and other artifacts.
As described in an editorial in yesterday's Charlotte Observer: "School was in old dilapidated buildings heated with pot-bellied stoves, with 75-80 students crammed into single classes with one teacher. Falling apart, hand-me-down school books bore the stamp 'colored only' so students knew their place in society. Getting to school required a walk of nine miles or more for many because the public school system refused to provide buses."
This was the system that Rev. DeLaine worked against in spite of the risks to his life and to his family's life. The brothers didn't realize it, but at the time armed black men guarded their home at night--extremely dangerous work.
B.B. said, "Our father was outspoken. He had nothing to lose." As a result of his courage and bravery many children eventually gained access to public transporation to the same schools which whites attended.
Joseph commented on how teenagers today don't know what it's like not to have to go into a restaurant through the back door. In a sense, this is a tribute to his father's legacy; segregation is now a part of our country's history.
But there are lessons about racial prejudice that we don't want to forget. This applies to many cultures and races. As B.B. said, "Like Jews, you have to know the past [in order] to know the future."
And I guess that is why I am writing Half-Truths. It is a part of Charlotte's not-so-long-ago past. A past that we all can stand to learn from.