Friday, May 18, 2012


FREEDOM CENTER- a powerful name for a powerful place
On the west cost The National Underground Railroad -Freedom Center was a place of legend. Yesterday our University of San Diego class entered the Cincinnati legend and the dream came to life as we were transported to an amazing space full of history, reality and hope. The five story museum located on the banks of the Ohio river encompasses a lineage of heroes from the past that impacted history by helping those enslaved or helping create freedom.

The Freedom Center describes the essence of the museum as a place that,
"...celebrate[s] freedom's heroes, those brave men and women who came together to create a secret network through which the enslaved could escape to freedom. From their example of courage, cooperation and perseverance, we relate this uniquely American history to contemporary issues, inspiring everyone to take steps for freedom today." 

Our first stop on our journey through the freedom center stared with Courage, a seasonal exhibit that forces on ending segregation and moving to a world of integrated education. Courage was not just the name of the exhibit; It was the essence of a generation. The courage to put individuals lives on the line in the pursuit for equal education and freedom to learn. Our group was given a tour by a historical scholar named Carl Westmoreland. As educators and students, our class discussed how we all recalled the history of the impact of the Brown vs.Board case however we lacked a complete understand of the events that preceded the case. This exhibit showed the courage and will power of Rev. J.A. De Laine and other brave citizens of Clarendon County town along with five other lawsuits in various areas of America that fought for equality in education and civil rights.
Our class with our guide, Carl Westmoreland
Reading about an even has a completely different impact than walking through and seeing the faces of history. One of the biggest takeaway from this exhibit involved how was when our tour guide Carl showed us a photo of the Briggs vs Elliott Petition of November 1949. It was when Carl reminded us that each of these one hundred signatures belonged to no one famous. Each person was not trying to contribute to the petition for the recognition, and in reality the act of signing the petition could put their lives and families in danger. There was even a sign that was posted above a makeshift petitions that visitors could sign reading "The signers of the petition risked everything, their homes, their lives. their safety. Would you sign your name?" (picture seen to the right).
Would you have the Courage to sign your own name?

This reflected on the idea of what black people were fighting for. Since students of color were not given this opportunity they were driven to make change. Carl made a reference how change starts with a "drive, a want, but most importantly a need." Carl assisted our class to be thankful and appreciative of the opportunities we have and how education was probability available and insisted. If we as individuals did not go to school these days, people would just assume that we were too bright however in the past if a black individual did not go, it was due to his/her "laziness or inability to learn." This was assumed for the black community however their ability was not the true concern. Since a majority of black students came from rural backgrounds the could not afford the time or resources to appreciate a proper education. In a way it was many ways the black culture was looked down upon because their lack of education caused their unhappiness but it was the lack of access to education that was the true problem.
This theme was very relevant throughout our EDUC 597 course. The idea of judging and accusing caused people to avoid the injustice and believe that things were fine they way they were. In class we read William Ryan's book Blaming the Victim. In the book Willam Ryan states,  "If one comes to believe that the culture of poverty produces persons fated to be poor, who can find any fault with our corporation-dominated economy?" (p.27). This goes back to the idea that if no one fights for he injustice or the reality or unfair opportunity then who will invoke change? The change is only driven by those that want to change. If each person of the De Laine family gave up, then all the previous history or fighting for change would have been lost. The fight is still not over especially in the school system.

As educators it is hard not to be placed in a box and it is hard to not come into a position without biases. The exhibit made us think how we want to be the unsung heros like those that signed the petition and fight to give equal education for each and every student in our classroom. Although I am not famous, although no one may read the words and the passions I share in this blog; at least I am not silent. The Freedom Center reminds us we need Courage, Cooperation, and Perseverance to make hope and change still exist.

According to Lindsey Gross, my EDUC 597 classmate, her experience about Courage was, "education provided a pathway for people to impact society and become active citizens for fighting for liberation." The idea of being active is important. Actions can speak louder than words.

Freedom Center. (2012). In Courage: The Vision to End Segration, The Guts to fight for it. Retrieved May 17, 2012, 

Ryan, W. (1976). Blaming the victim. New York: Vintage Books. (p. 27)

Carl Westmoreland (tour guide). (2012). Courage: The Vision to End Segration, The Guts to fight for it. Quotation given May 16, 2012 in guided tour. 


  1. These posts are thought provoking especially with the petition that asked "Would you sign your name?" In the comfort of my home and the solace of knowing that my ancestors fought this battle for me, it's easy enough to say "yes, of course" but if I were honest with myself I would have to say that this is a very difficult question to answer and am curious to know how others would answer as well. If I didn't have my kids at the time of the petition (thinking of Rains) then I would definitely have more 'courage' to do what was right, but with my children, I would have to weigh my options and consider what support system I had and what the alternative was. My response to the whole situation would probably be similar to Ellen Craft's. Either way, it seems to be a thought provoking trip.

  2. I found the connection Melissa made to the tour we received from Carl at the Freedom Center to the book we read in class, Blaming the Victim, to be an extremely prominent theme throughout all races and challenges in facing educational equity. When individuals continue to blame the lack in achievement or intellectual worth/ability on the victim; in this current situation the enslaved and those trying to find freedom, we are making assumptions and placing negative views onto an entire race of people. The problem with this is that the affluent prominent society individuals are creating these view points; from singular experiences and their own personal wants and needs to continue to increase their well-being in society and to keep these individuals in the lowest aspects of life and human dignity. Many of these assumptions are created around the notion that African American slaves did not have the intellectual ability to participate or benefit from education and their main aspect was to be used as laborers. The Encyclopedia Britannica created an entry entitled “Negro” that bluntly supports an aspect of this notion, “skill in reckoning [mental arithmetic] is necessary to the white race, and it has cultivated this faculty; but it is not necessary to the negro” and that “[their] mental constitution is very similar to that of a child.” From the very beginning of the educational description of Negros we have categorized them as having lower intellectual capacities and abilities and automatically in the educated world putting them below the general population; never allowing them to stand at an equal educational level as other races of the human population in the world, and hindering their ability to ever reach educational equity.


  3. Melissa, thank you for bringing up Reverend J.A. De Laine and the members of Clarendon County, as this was the part of the exhibit that stuck with me as well, as well as set the stage for the rest of the trip. Carl Westmorland’s exhibit exposed the beginnings of Brown vs. Board, and the events and people that we never hear about. The common people of Clarendon County came together to not only stand for what they believed in, but also really do something about it. They wanted change and expected a better educational experience for themselves. They “fought for equality in education and civil rights” (Davis, 2012, para. 4). In your blog, you mentioned the sign stating, “The signers of the petition risked everything, their homes, their lives, their safety. Would you sign your name?” The question is, how many of us would actually sign our name? We would like to think that we would immediately sign our name, but when it comes down to it, many of us would probably take a step back. We say or even just think that we want to be a part of making a difference, but that is as usually as far as it goes. Carl Westmoreland shared that if anything we all need to be informed observers. Is just being informed enough? In my opinion, being just an informed observer is not going to get us any further than we already are. Just knowing is not enough.

    The exhibit quoted J.A. De Laine, “He practiced a very practical band of religion: You don't wait out here for God to do something for you. He gave you a brain—go do it for yourself.” This is what the people of Clarendon did. With the support of the common folks and the backing of individuals such as Thurgood Marshall, African Americans did their part in the fight for equity. Through this process, people lost their jobs and livelihoods because of their courage to what they believed in. They put their lives on the line everyday because they not only made the decision to fight the fight, but also followed through.

    The exhibit ended with asking, “What can I do today? Where is courage needed in our society now?” As educators, we see the need for courage in the classroom—for our students. We desire to provide our students with a meaningful learning experience, and to not only present them an opportunity, but to also allow them to gain accessibility in to the world of knowledge and understanding. So how can we make this happen? You had mentioned that by writing this blog entry, have done something because you are no longer silent. But what is the next step? What are you going to do to make a change? How are we as educators going to put our desires into motion to provide our students with the education they deserve?

  4. Melissa, I thought your quote from William Ryan’s Blaming the Victim truly ties into how No Child Left Behind was once seen as one of the greatest civil rights movements since Brown vs. Board of Education. “If one comes to believe that the culture of poverty produces persons fated to be poor, who can find any fault with our corporation-dominated economy?” (p.27). In the current criticism of No Child Left Behind, this act had been looked at as a failure to our education system. But what we are forgetting to look at is, the end goal that this law was really fighting for. We were looking to better our children’s education and close the achievement gap, but have lost that insight because of how the act was put into place. Ultimately, we were looking to fight for our children’s right to an equal and fair education, but that insight was lost in the sense that we are no longer looking for ideas to close that gap, we are looking for excuses as to why this act is failing in our school systems.

    A Nation at Risk mentions, “Our society and its educational institutions seem to have lost sight of the basic purposes of schooling, and of the high expectations and disciplined effort needed to attain them”. Although this article was written before the act of No Child Left Behind, we are still facing the same issues of educational equity for our children in our schools. Some may “Blame the Victim” and see it as their fault that they don’t want to improve their intellectual ability and others may see No Child Left Behind as a barrier that stands in the way of how they teach their students. What we should really be focusing on is how to break through the struggle of educational equity.

    * Ryan, W. (1976). Blaming the victim. New York: Vintage Books.
    *A Nation at Risk (1983)