My mom got into college at 16 years old. She was a math whiz and an excellent student. Unlike me.
Back then Black people were limited to the colleges they could attend. Even though Honest Abe had freed us in the 1860s and even though the Declaration of Independence in 1776 said something about all men being equal, in the 1960s my mom was only allowed into a Black college.She chose Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. John Lewis did too.
Fisk was very strict with the young ladies. They had to sign in and sign out whenever they left the dorms. One afternoon her friends said there was something that was going to happen downtown at the drug store and since a few of the girls were going as a group, she would be allowed to leave campus.
It turned out it was one of the first civil rights demonstrations ever. It was a concept so new my mom didn’t even know what it was. They had all assembled to protest the segregation of the lunch counter at the drug store.
When my mom figured out what was happening she turned right around and got on the bus and got back to school
ASAP. She was a proper southern gentlewoman (still is). She did not want to break the law.
Later when she moved to Washington DC she’d march along with the multitudes with MLK and was even at the I Have A Dream rally. She said they were behind the stage and could only hear it.
When John Lewis died yesterday she texted me to ask if I had heard. Then she said, “he was at Fisk when I was there.”
I said, “really? Was he at that first protest you ended up at?”
She said, “he led it along with Diane Nash.”
And here I thought I had gone to college with cool people.