Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Meet My Experts--Part I

As promised, today you're going to meet four women I have interviewed in the process of writing Half-Truths. I hope you'll enjoy a glimpse at their lives--"back in the day"-- and a few of their insights which have contributed to my book.

Thereasea Elder

T.D.'s Truths by Stanley and Janice Frazier
In 1962, Thereasea was one of the first black public health nurses to 
integrate the white nursing community in Charlotte.

Thereasea as an Army Cadet

At JCU's exhibit honoring the African Americans who 
integrated the medical profession in Charlotte. 
June, 2014

Thereasea has given me hours of her time answering innumerable questions about her community growing up, what it was like going into a KKK community as a black nurse, and the challenges which Lillie and Kate (my characters in Half-Truths) could conceivably face. One day when we were talking about race she said, "None of us were the same color. 'If you’re black get back, if you're brown stick around, if you’re light and bright you’re damn near white.' This wasn't said in our home, but it was said the streets. Even though everyone was brown and knew in general what that meant – that white blood was there—the specifics wouldn’t have been shared."

Vermelle Diamond Ely

Vermelle Diamond as Miss Queen City Classic

Vermelle and I at the Second Ward High School
Alumni House, 2010

Although she has been legally blind for all her life, Vermelle is co-author of the book, Charlotte, NC which is part of the Black America Series. When we talked about passing she told me, "Black girls who passed did it for their convenience. To get their hair done, go to the front of the line, get waited on, or go to eat in a certain restaurant. Their parents wouldn't have encouraged them." Speaking of my characters she said, "Lillie and Kate might have tried to see if Lillie could pass--just for fun and to see if she could get away from it." And for the record, "Lillie could have gone wherever she wanted with Kate because she was so light she could pass. Kate would have stuck out in the black community-but she would have been accepted there."

Daisy Stroud
Daisy and Gerson Stroud wedding
Circa 1948 

Outside their home
Circa late 1950's-mid 1960's

Daisy Stroud
December 2010

Daisy talked about the Cherry neighborhood (where Lillie lives): "There was a lot of pride there. They were the strivers who made sure their children had the opportunity to go to college." She remembered Bishop Daddy Grace: "He had beautiful light-skinned girls fanning him when he sat on his throne. It was an honor to be one of his girls; they were attractive and had good hair. They looked more like they were a different race." Similarly, "Young women who represented Second Ward High School were light-skinned….They were the privileged ones…We accepted in our race that some were like this. Then we would try to be like them because their beauty brought them privileges."
Dorothy Counts-Scoggins

In 1957, Dorothy Counts was one of the first black
students admitted to Harding High School in Charlotte.

She was met with jeers

and harassment. Her parents withdrew her
after four days. 

Photo taken at Johnson C. Smith University
where Dorothy grew up. 

June 2014
"I wanted to make sure that what happened to me at age 15 growing up in this community wouldn't happen to someone else." Dorothy has spent her life advocating for better education for all children passing along her father's legacy. "We knew separation was wrong but my parents taught me acceptance and tolerance. My father, a professor at Johnson C. Smith and a minister, wasn't able to do anything about the separation. But when Kelly Alexander, Sr. asked him if he would be willing to test the new civil rights legislation, (Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 outlawing segregation in schools), our family agreed."  
I am indebted to these women--and the other experts who have shared their life stories with me. My work is a richer tapestry as a result of their honesty and forthrightness. 


sheri levy said...

Wonderful! You certainly have meet some historical leaders that have helped make a difference. Keep writing! Can't wait to see your story in print!!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Sheri. Comments like yours keep me going!

Barbara Younger said...

Carol, Love the histories and the photos!

Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

I'm so impressed with your research. And yes,you have met some amazing experts. That's just about the best part, isn't it - meeting people who've been there and who add authenticity to our stories.

Kathleen said...

What extraordinary women! Such a great resource for your manuscript. Thank you for giving us a glimpse into your research process. I am so looking forward to seeing the completion of your Half Truths tapestry!

Linda A. said...

Great to hear first hand experience to influence your story. These photos are rich and so is your research. Wishing you all the best with your book.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks LInda, Kathy, & Joyce. I have been blessed by all these women- their life stories and their examples.

Ann Eisenstein said...

Wonderful women and such great research! Thanks for sharing, Carol!

Linda Phillips said...

I've heard you talk about these ladies, but it's really neat to see their pictures and know how much they have impacted your story. As always, I'm super impressed with your diligent research. I KNOW it is going to pay off in a terrific end result!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Linda and Anne. They're part of my team!

Rosi said...

Fascinating post, Carol. How wonderful for you. Looking forward to the book!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Rosi. I'm working!! But have a long way to go...

Anna E. G. said...

You have been able to meet some amazing people,Joyce. What an amazing way to help your story grow.:)

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Elena. Now you have met some of the real people who have inspired my story!

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