Essay and picture courtesy of Robert L. Douglas recently posted on Facebook. This is the best description of my hometown that I have ever seen. I am also in that line of proud students.
This is a picture of teachers and students marching from old Wharton to new Wharton. I’m in there somewhere. This would truly be a rarity today, kids from an all black school getting a new state of the art school in their own neighborhood. Wharton went from an elementary school up to grade 4, to an elementary and junior high school up to grade 9. Growing up in the segregated south we went to school in an all black North Nashville neighborhood. Looking back on our education and the successes of so many of us from that neighborhood, I’d say we received a pretty good educational foundation from the schools in that ethnically rich part of town. Neighborhood schools like Wharton, Washington, Ford Greene, John Early, Moses McKissack, St. Vincent DePaul, and most importantly, Pearl High “Cool” School, where we received our PH.D (Pearl High Diploma), were definitely instrumental to our success.
Segregated and unequal was offset by excellent, devoted, caring teachers who made sure we were prepared to be twice as ready as our white counterparts. It didn’t matter where we were tracked, based on a standardized test in the 8th grade, whether it was college track or vocational (shop and home economics), we were pushed to succeed. We were uplifted and instilled with confidence and self-esteem. We believed we were better.
Within a segregated society, we also benefitted from everyone living in the same neighborhoods, doctors, lawyers, teachers, janitors, cooks, factory workers, we all lived together. On my street alone we had the school cafeteria worker to the beloved teacher, Mrs. Duncan, from the hospital custodian to the college Shakespeare professor, Dr. Hudson, who lived next door to the “Numbers Man” who owned a liquor store. He had the biggest house on the street. We were a diverse community where most, not all, but mostly two parent families lived, worked and raised their children. Poverty was offset by the richness of the people. We were culturally rich and benefitted from having many black-owned businesses and three HBCU’s (Tennessee State, Fisk, and Meharry Medical College) as neighbors. There were issues, as with any neighborhood, but in retrospect, it was a good place to grow up. If you remember it as I do, just say, yeah, you’re right.