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View Diary: I just realized I starred in a racist school program 50 years ago (103 comments)

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  •  At my school too (2+ / 0-)
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    skwimmer, Powell

    I grew up in a southern university  town that prided itself on its liberal open mindedness.  Sure the schools were segregated--although a "freedom of choice" plan that resulted in one African American attending my elementary school and no whites attending the Black school--had been adopted the year before I entered 5th grade. It was spring of 1963,  Civil rights marchers marched in the streets of our town like others in the south. And one of the 5th grade teachers continued her tradition of having her class perform  an adaptation of the 1935 Shirley Temple vehicle "The Littlest Rebel." The play aggrandizes  the love of slaves for their white masters. I think the production involved at least one white kid in blackface.  I was not in the class the put on the play, but looking back on it, I am astounded that this happened in this town and that it did not, to my knowledge raise a furor.

    As fifth graders we were not totally politically unaware. I remember Sunday school classes that focused on and supported the civil rights movement. But it was a time when we did not question the wisdom of our teachers. The discussion at school focused on the fact that the play had one girl rubbing the head of a boy and that the play was performed in the school parking lot so  they really could burn a mock up of the plantation house in the production. The omnipresence of racism and our innocent blindness to it was not a subject of discussion.

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