I spent a delightful hour or so yesterday speaking with students at Greenfield School about revolutionary African-American teacher Mary C. Euell and the Wilson Colored Graded School boycott. I appreciate the opportunity to share community history and stories of resistance with young people, and I thank Jennifer Johnson, Greenfield’s librarian, for the invitation.
Greenfield opened in the fall of 1970, the same semester I started first grade. That’s not a coincidence. After 16 years of stonewalling post-Brown v. Board of Education, Wilson finally fully integrated its school system in 1970, more or less at gunpoint. Some in the city’s monied class had seen the handwriting on the wall, and Greenfield was just one of many seg academies that sprang up across the South.
Fifty-two years is a long time, but no guarantor of change for the better. Greenfield, however, has moved along the arc of the moral universe, and the faces of the teenagers who listened so attentively and asked such thoughtful questions reflect its progress.