Monday, February 15, 2010

My part in history

Park Avenue
Originally uploaded by DaCosta1
It's a strange thing to read about a historical movement or moment and realize that you, unwittingly, were part of it.

Years ago I read a piece by a fellow government information librarian about an older man coming into the library looking for tax forms. When he discovered he was in a depository for federal documents he asked if they had any publications about the Korean War. He had fought there and had always remembered one battle he and his comrades had marched to, fought at, and those who survived marched away from. Life went on, and no one ever told them the point of that fight or even who had won. He was thrilled to find a Defense Department book that told him what his part in the War had been about.

My tale is not so dramatic, fortunately.

I am working on a short story about the riots that hit Plainfield, NJ during the long hot summer of 1967. They effected my family in several ways. But in researching that event I came across an earlier one.

My first years of education were spent at Cedarbrook School, which was all White. In sixth grade I was moved to Washington School which was closer to home and had both Black and White students. The next year I moved to a junior high. I always thought it was weird that Plainfield had a special school for sixth graders, but never thought much more than that.

In one of the articles I read I learned that Plainfield fully integrated its schools in 1967 but two years earlier they had acquiesed to complaints by integrating Washington School, which had been all-Black even though it was close to some White eighborhoods.

It turned out I was part of the school integration movement. Nobody ever mentioned it to me - as far as I recall.

So what do I remember from Washington School? Two great teachers, Mr. Charloff and Mrs. Sonin. One new friend, Craig Sweet. And life went on...

Photo of Park Avenue in Plainfield by DaCosta1

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