One of the goals of the Don’t Duck History project is to give voice to those who are not often featured in American History documentation, and this is a prime example. When we read about civil rights and particularly the Greensboro, North Carolina Woolworth’s lunch counter sit-ins, what is normally presented are the brave African-American college students who boldly, yet peacefully, participated in a movement where equal treatment was the ultimate goal. Certainly, they deserve to be featured for their courage and contribution to positive change. They were later referred to as the “Greensboro Four”, and their names are Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair, Jr. and David Richmond.
And then there’s Ann Dearsley-Vernon. Her story appeared on my Facebook page recently, and apparently she’s been hiding in plain view right here in the city of Norfolk VA. Yes, I admit to having a history of living under the occasional rock. So who is she? Well, you should watch the video in the link below, but the quick and dirty is that she and some of her college classmates went to a certain Woolworth’s lunch counter, and upon noticing that African-American (college) students were attempting to be served, she and her classmates stood so that their seats would be available to the other history makers there that day.
Take just a few minutes and watch the video (and read about her story) here.
A relatively recent trip to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History landed me in front of part of the actual counter where that history was made. It had been donated to the museum after the Woolworth’s store closed in 1993. I don’t recall reading about Ann at the museum, so I did a quick Google search about the sit-ins and again, nothing. Now I’m not saying there is nothing out there, but my point is that you will probably have to dig to find it, or actually even know to look for it. Lo and behold, when I googled her name, I came to this blog that tells more about her part of the story. I’ll bet there are many other similar stories that have never been told or not widely known, and my goal is to have a place where those stories can be archived digitally (via a website) as well as some of them ultimately ending up in a book. Thinking ahead, let’s say a series of books. (I also found this article about her and her attachment to a different museum, as an artist. Check it out.)
Back to the African-American students, well, one in particular; Franklin McCain. He was interviewed by NPR in the link here, and one of the things he mentioned was that there was additional support for their courage that came from outside of the black community on their first day of sitting. In actuality, many people took the steps that they were comfortable taking, toward positive change. Many were women, and their stories need to be told, too. Upon recalling a “little old white lady” looking in his direction, McCain wrongly thought her stare was one of disdain, but he learned he was wrong when she approached them, and said “Boys, I am so proud of you. I only regret that you didn’t do this 10 years ago”. She has a name, too. I wonder what it is so that I can google it.
My journey continues. Peace, squeaks, and quacks!
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