tv Mary Frances Early The Quiet Trailblazer CSPAN April 14, 2022 8:56am-9:58am EDT
welcome everyone to atlanta history centers virtual author talk series. my name is claire haley. i'm the vice president of public relations and programs here at atlanta history center is absolutely my pleasure to welcome you to today's very special author talk featuring mary frances early. now as i said earlier if you don't yet have your copy of her newest book her new memoir the quiet trailblazer you can get that from atlanta history centers museum store. you can get it on our campus or you can buy online with options for domestic us shipping or in store pickup. we're also coordinating signed copies of the book. so again, just send me an email after the program and i'll help facilitate that for you. so as we said tonight today's conversations with hank klevenoff, so i'm going to briefly introduce both mary frances early and hank and then turn it over to them to get started. mary frances early is a retired
music educator and she was the first african-american student to graduate from the university of georgia in 1962. she taught at atlanta public schools morehouse college spelman college and was chair of clark atlanta university's music department. she currently lives in decatur, georgia and continues to be an advocate for education and an active member of the uga community as you'll see from her virtual background the school of education or the college of education was also recently named for miss early. hank clevenoff who is today's moderators a veteran journalist and both the pulitzer prize-winning author and a peabody award-winning podcast host. he is a professor of practice at emory's creative writing program. he coauthored the race beat the press and civil rights struggle and the awakening of a nation which won the 2007 pulitzer prize for history. prior to joining emory who is a long-time reporter and editor for more than 35 years, including a stint as managing
editor of our hometown newspaper the atlanta journal constitution. so again, y'all are in for a treat to really wonderful speakers today as they're speaking if you have any questions that come up, you're welcome to drop those into the q&a and we'll get to as many of them as we can but hank this early. thank you so much for being here today. thank you. thank you so much claire for that introduction. mary francis is so good to see you. good to see you, too. thank i've been looking forward to this and and honored to be part of this. i want everybody to take one more look and if you don't if you don't have this book, please get it. it's a phenomenal and marvelous story. bye and about mary frances early. in atlanta musician music educator you've heard this but also a brave and a bold soul. with a graceful defiance and with that graceful defiance a
little bit of stubbornness. became the first african-american to receive a diploma from the university of georgi with that graceful defiance, a little bit of stubbornness, became the first african american to receive a diploma from the university of georgia. that was august 16, 1962. before we get started, i just want to give a little context. what that means is she began trying to get into the university of georgia in 1961. she was attempting it the same time charlene hunter and hamilton holmes were attesting to get in as undergrads. she was attesting to get in as a grad student. if you go back, those 61 years, it's almost amazing what the south was doing, rising up to stop people like mary francis
from getting into school or james meredith over in mississippi. it happened in alabama and it happened in georgia. when mary francis is trying to get in, the governor at the time has run on a platform of no, not one. everyone knew what that meant. no, not one -- in my term, i will not allow one negro student into a state university. he ended up eating those words, i have to say. in mississippi, the newspapers there would run -- actually wrote, one newspaper there in jackson, wrote a song -- you will love this, mary francis. they wrote a song and showed the sheet music on the editorial page. the lyrics went something like, never, never, never, never,
never, never, never. that was all. i mean, that's how the state -- all these states just rose up to stop a single or two or three african americans from getting into their state universitys. they were very sacred state universities. it was a dynamic time in 1961 when mary francis is finally getting admitted in may of 1961. the freedom rides were rolling -- the buses were rolling through the south, which was striking the fear of who knows what in white people that they might have to sit on the bus with a black person. it's just everywhere you turned you saw white resistance to what was so clearly -- maybe not
there at the time, but the inevitable. that someone of mary francis' mind and skill and talent and wherewithal would be a success at the university of georgia or any of the universities. that among many reasons are why i'm so happy to be here. if i might, take us back a little bit in time. okay? if that's all right, mary francis. >> yes, yes. >> i love that you point out in the book that you were born on a sunday, flag day, and -- because you are full of grace. your father i thought was very, very interesting. he worked for a company, the southern wax paper company for a while. highly regarded. had a letter of commendation from his white boss. then later struck out on his own
and opened up a restaurant on auburn avenue. 328 auburn avenue, part of a building that's still there, right? >> yes. >> the restaurant's name was the tuxedo coffee shop. am i right in understanding that your life growing up -- i don't mean your house, but where you were going to see your father -- your mother worked there, too, am i right? >> yes. >> she was cooking there. at the center of the old fourth ward and auburn avenue, you were only -- that whole life was only steps away from ebenezer bab baptist, from the home of dr. king, from nightclubs, banks. that was your life, am i correct? >> you are correct. that was the center of black life. i was in the middle of it. you know, today we talk about being in a bubble. well, that was my bubble.
as long as i was there at my father's restaurant and, of course, at the library, which was the only library at that time for black citizens, i was fine. getting there, going on the streetcar, you had to sit at the back. all of the things that really resonated in my life that with respect i guess disturbing came from outside of that bubble. so my parents did try to -- i had a brother, 18 months older. he and i were taught we were as good as anybody else. they did not teach us to hate white people. they taught us to hate those dreadful laws, the jim crow laws, that limited our becoming full-fledged citizens. so i took that in. i believed them. in my book, there is a quote.
it's from eleanor roosevelt. it says, no one can make you feel inferior without your consent. well, i never gave that consent. n americans with great accomplishment coming into the into the coffee shop and to what extent do you think that in informed your own aspirations, you know and and gave you role models. just walking in the door a cup of coffee. it did because there were very accomplished and you mentioned the fact that atlanta daily world was there the first black bank which was actually built by a former slave david t howard after home with david t howard high school was named there was so many people there were nightclubs. there were banks there were there was a library. there was a king home all of that inspired me and i never
strayed too far from that area because when i started teaching in 1957, i was i had just turned 21 because my birthday is in june and that was a very young teacher, but john hope school is on boulevard, which was again, very close to the king church ebenezer. so yes that area nurtured me and helped to i guess paid my way forward as an adult. mm-hmm, and people are people. who would be very important in your life who? jesse hill, for example, yes. yes, you would get to know very well, of course dr. king and others who who would assist you and i would imagine these were people who knew your family and and knew that you as i say came from good stock, you know, where
a family that took it that took education. seriously, even though parents were not especially did not have any higher education and i think your father had very little lower education if i'm not right. yes, my dad only had an elementary school. he had to work on a sharecropper farm with his family and he left there when he was 18 and went to the army. and came back to atlanta did not go back to jackson georgia, which was his hometown and he started working as you said for the southern wax paper company, but my dad was also he was he was really in that stupid man. he was a wonderful golfer and he played a big role in the golf lincoln and lincoln golf in club also was on a person who loved classical music he was the one who got me interested in classical music now, i think because he was in world war one.
he was probably deployed somewhere in europe and apparently was able to get he never talked about it was able to get to some concerts there. yeah. he started john and me and my mother we sat around on sunday evenings and listened to the bell telephone hour, which was it played of course as radio. classical music operas all of that and he started me playing piano because he saw that i was interested and he wanted me to accompany him because he was an amateur singer he sang at churches and weddings and things like that. so he was really a very instant man, although he had no high school education and certainly no college. yeah, that's very very impressive and you and your mother. had she at least had high school of education i think and then she but that didn't stop her from becoming a teacher, right?
oh, they felt she was the top student in her high school class and the 12th grade. she did go to 12th grade and her teacher became pregnant and they would not allow her to continue teaching. so the teacher i guess you recommended her to take on the classes and that was a one-room schoolhouse. maybe they could just throughout the south and she told me how difficult it was to teach the kids because the boys particularly the young men they had to stop going to school when the harvest season came around they had to help on their their families sharecropper farms. and so she had to customize their their learning and it was it was hard. i can't imagine teaching grace one through 12. yeah. um in i mean in giving all the teaching that you did in multiple classroom, you would know how difficult that would
be. yes, yes, but she they were determined that you were gonna go to college and and you did you went to clark college and it seems like that was just an extraordinary liberating experience for you, even though you were staying in atlanta. and i if you don't mind there's something in the book that i'd like to quote from. please go. um, it's from a journal entry of your own when you were 17 years old at the end of orientation at clark college. and so i can't let me just read what you wrote and i just find it so powerful. on saturday evening a freshman orientation week. i'm used as i walked back to my dorm. thank god i am an american an american who can go forward not as a --, but as a true american
citizen to greater heights into the pinnacle of success. tonight i say a fervent prayer for the freshman class of clark college and the freshman classes all over the world that they might dedicate themselves to the task of finishing this college course in four years if possible and then turn back to help their people who are not as fortunate as they move themselves the true citizens of the united states and of america, so that some day the -- race will not be called -- and the caucasian rose rays called white, but all will be united together in one race the human race having differences only in the pigment of their skin texture of their hair and having this in common. as citizens of the united states of america wow, that was pretty advanced thinking freshman on her first venture away from home.
yes, it was it it sounds profound to me even now and i still well, it's it's actually housed in the russell library along that papers and it was just a little blue notebooks maro-bound notebook, but i can't get well actually my mother captain. my mother was a horse. she kept all of my report cards through college. she kept papers that i had done because she was so proud of the fact i guess she was reliving she had wanted to go to college, but she could not afford it. and she she wanted to see this. she wanted to see me and my brother who went to howard university for a while. but they had great aspirations for us and they gave us the hope. of a better future and how i really verbalize that in writing at the age of 17. i had just turned 17 in june and that was september.
i don't know right it's i'm so glad frankly that your mother kept everything. okay, that's why we have this book exactly large part. it would be a very different book if we had to rely solely on memory on these things, you know, exactly and so jumping ahead to your decision to go to the university of georgia. what were you thinking? no one had done that when you applied? no, but you know i saw the riot and and i thought these were internal high students. i had graduated six years ahead of hamilton and charlene from china. hi. it was the quote the elite high school. they were trying to equalize education because i had gone to holland high school. i had gone to washington high school and when they opened china i was transferred there i didn't request going there, but
it was a great school. we had hand-picked teachers. we had teachers who were dedicated and closing the other schools. we did too. this was a new building and just the beginning of a new life or education for me i had for the first time textbooks i had never had new textbooks before because in the other schools elementary do high school. we got the discarded books when the white students received new ones and they were torn they had things written in them that we shouldn't have had to meet they were dirty. and i had new textbooks. i couldn't believe it. so turner was a favorite place of mine and when i graduated i had no idea that when i went to clark i would be sent back there for student teaching and it's there that i met charlene. i had written turner high school song and she wanted to interview me about that because she was an editor of the green light which
was turner highest newspaper and i got to know her i knew about hamilton because he was a star football player and a star student and then five years later we would the three of us would be at the university of georgia. yeah. yeah. i as one thing i think we i remember reading i think we've talked about of course your application to go to uga came some days after they had already applied. yes, and it's a it may be commonly thought and if so, it's a it's it's commonly thought wrong they got in that the doors just opened wide and that uga suddenly said, okay. well, welcome all of our -- students here that wasn't that at all whoever was going to come next was gonna go through the same have to jump through the
same hoops and go through the same difficult process that they had gone through and that's exactly what you encountered. am i right that you are correct? i had to i had to go to the courthouse to have my citizenship verified i had to go to have an interview with the registrar walter and danner as they had and that was very unpleasant. they did an investigated report supposedly done by the gbi the georgia bureau of investigation. i don't know they were following me around and i had no idea that this investigative report even existed until the year 2000. well after i had finished our university of georgia they had instigated a law that said that anybody on the 25 could not enter university of georgia's graduate student, but they made provisions for letting white students over 20 back and let's see my birthday didn't occur
until after i was on campus so they couldn't use that against me. oh and they did not want me there after they got my transcription the university of michigan where i had studied for two summers. and they had my clark college transcript asked for my high school transcript. they never asked graduate students for high school transcript, but i'd laugh because i had made all aids throughout high school and i knew it was better so they couldn't find any reason to keep me out. and so they turned i guess i'm surpassing here now. they turn all of my i guess the report from the investigative report and the report cards and whatever over to the state legislature. there was an article in the paper on may 10th 1961. and it was written by margaret shannon was a journal reporter
and it said that a high-level conference was held at the state capitol. where the officials now who would be making decisions unless it's the governor and the legislature. the the officials reluctantly decided that they had to admit this early based on her good teaching record and academics or they would suffer on the judge judge blue admitting her and perhaps an injunction for the state. they don't want that to happen. so people think that when shar enhanced and i called her shawn. then when they entered that the door was in open it was not it was not open for me, but after me they did not do anymore of those draconian requests of black students. they admitted them based on their their qualifications because because judge bootle had ruled that all qualified -- should be admitted.
but they try everything to keep me out. yes, i tell you that was the story through much of the south as many of us know now the federal judges who had been appointed by previous particularly republican administrations had come into these decisions having understood something and that was different from what many of the old line democratic segregationists understood, which was that they did not have to adopt reflexively all of those little segregationist and white supremacists. ideas, and and to interpret the law in that way and judge bootle would have been one. of course frank johnson the whole almost the entire fifth us circuit court of appeals, and so the federal judges had a a tremendous influence and bringing the south out of out of the out of its horrific horrific
past so you received your letter of admission in may of 61 that was still seven years after brown versus board and then because you were going as a graduate student. you weren't going for the four years that charlene and and hamilton were going you were going for a shorter period of time and so you graduated and august of 16th of 1962. i noticed at one point i think you said the university of georgia. accepted you, but they it they did not welcome you right and the student body could vary the food and body was very very chilly. i guess to hostel and hostels a better word, right? i think you wrote. you said the real problem that i face. and knew that charlene and hamilton face daily was that we never knew what to expect.
some days were rather normal others were days when i felt like a pariah because the ostracism or the racial taunts. i tried to take each day in stride and to depend on god's guidance. don't tell about those days. because i was i was gregarious person. well, i was quiet i still like interacting with people. and a lot of things happen that let me know that i was not welcome by the students some students had ridden the proclamation before i came saying that they would not welcome. these people came not to get an education, but they came to destroy our university and we will protect it. and they were not going to welcome these students and they would not associate with white students who welcome them. that carried on for a long time. i don't know why but i guess well.
all habits are hard. you know that that so musical south pacific where it says you have to be taught early. well many of them probably had been taught that they were superior and so in class they would sit far away from me. when i went to the agricultural auditorium to take the gre the graduate record exam they were so busy trying to find out about my personal life that they hadn't checked to see that i had not taken it. this i sat down on a roll close to the entrance. and all the students on that road got up and moved to another room. i went to the library one night and had derogatory language curled at me and the guys were there. well, they position themselves across the steps at the top as though to barmy and i said i'm going to be the bulldog. i'm supposed to be in i'll just barge through them. well when i got to the top stephanie broke, right? but i had rocks thrown at me
going to the post office because they didn't have we didn't have any cell phones up computers at that time. so you had to write letters even though atlanta was only 67 miles from athens, and i was writing a letter posting a letter to my mom and these young man across the street started throwing a little rocks and one of them hit me right under my glasses and i thought they could have put that i am so i picked up the rock and do it back. i did not hit them when i regreted that because i had been attending dr. king's church today is a celebration for dr. king. he was my hero. and i went to his church on the sundays that i was at home when i was able to go home and i confessed to him that i had i had heard that i had not been about. and told him what happened and he said don't wear francis. i would have done the same thing.
i didn't believe him, but it made me feel better because he said because you're human. so it was a decimal response to something that i thought should not happen, but nothing like that happened again, but there were many other things that happened that i didn't include in the book because i didn't want people to think that everything was naked the music department professors were very kind. all i wanted them to be was there and they were that and i make good grades, and so my my advisor told me at the end of the first summer. why don't you consider taking a leave of absence from your teaching job and coming back we can get some we can we can transfer a small credits from the university of michigan and you might be able to finish if you go through the summer session and that's exactly what happened. i did not go to the university of georgia to become the first graduate. it was no way i could have even i mean i didn't know when that
even passed the classes. but it happened and i'm proud of that but i'm proud of the fact that according to dr. king. i made a contribution to the social justice human rights in georgia and you did it by i mean you were prepared for the academic challenges. i mean that that was that may have been in question of the minds of the white people at the time, or maybe that was just their cover story. but in any case that was always going to be held up like well, is she up for this, you know, but your musical skills catapulted you into consideration for some choice assignments and opportunities the opportunity to perform in the chorus in the summer concert at the uga chapel and you were selected as one of the singers and a women's sex tip to sing a brahms love song. and so you want it to invite your family and friends naturally, and they said no you
called donald hollowell. who you know like the lone ranger, he always showed up at the at the right time and god what a giant he was. i'm so just i was one no more about people's interactions with him at the time, but and i know in the end. he too worried about whether that was going to be safe, right? he did. he said that. this the school uga was taking the stance of not allowing me to invite family and friends because it was a night. was an evening concert. and he they could not ensure the safety of my mother a brother or friends. well, i had thought about that. i mean i hadn't what would think about that? and so when i heard that and he said that he agreed so when the concert happened and there is a copy of the program and i think my name is with the sextet members. i don't remember because i haven't seen it in a while, but
i was the black standing on the stage with the other chorus members and i feel you know, that's it's a small victory but every little step is like building a house everything that you do that that's people know. it's okay, you know, the chapel's not gonna fall in because of black person is honestly but those were the kinds of things that tried me sometimes because i am human and was human then and i went off into dr. king's church to hear him preach because is message of love for all people his message of brotherhood and the fact that we we all are equal as children of god. i felt it in my soul. it gave me the strength to go back that the next week and face whatever happened because some people said why didn't you just quit go back to the university of michigan? i couldn't quit. i was committed because there
were people who were helping me and i could not let them down. i had chosen this path myself. nobody asked me to go to university of, georgia. i was not solicited to go. i made that choice myself. and so i felt that i had to stick to it no matter what. but i never thought about danger and driving back and forth oh, we've showing and our room together when i went back the spring of 62 and the summer of 62 we room together in that same room where they had thrown rocks at her. there were two bedrooms and we often noticed when we were going back to atlanta that a light blue car followed us when it got to the clark county line. it turned around and went back to athens. we found out later that that was the state patrol. they were charged with keeping us safe. in that in clark county, but outside of clark county people on our own.
which sometimes made me fearful, but i mean nothing happened. god is with us when we are doing the right thing and as dr. king once said the time is always right to do what is right. wow, remind our guests that we will be we're taking your questions if you put them in the chat and claire will join us again in about i don't know eight or so minutes so we can take some of those questions and and present them to mary francis. i just want to finish one little close the loop on something so when you try to invite your family to the concert at the uga chapel couldn't do it, you know. so then comes your graduation commencement, august 16th, 1962 and like any other student. you want it family and friends there? so tell us what happened?
well that time i'm mean you see i didn't really know. wait until like to know that i was really going to graduate so it was i didn't have time to just send invitations, but i invited my family and my friends my church. and 74 people when did their way in cars down seventy 74 people 74 seventy and more people came and it's the first time. i'm sure that uga had that many blacks out there. commencement but i was the only black graduating so i was truly invisible. they couldn't see me there were 76 or 700. undergraduates as well as graduate students, but when we got into the there was a funny situation it wasn't funny then but when i looked at the beginning of the mind there was a man standing there with a sword. and i thought i'll be expecting trouble and he's the first line
of defense. well, i found out later. he was the athens. police chief no sheriff and that was a tradition that dated back to some years before that. he was always at the beginning of the line. but anyway when we got in and they we did not go across the stage the wave of people do now they had all the graduate students first to stand and i stood of course along all the other grad students and they told us to well the president told us toss our tassels i did that was president omar client at home. anyway, i toss my castle and i was so pleased because i had achieved my goal now later on i went back after a year. i went back and down a second degree because it was still too few, but i knew that was a watershed moment, but you i knew that things would never be the
same because other students other black students would follow and charlene and hamilton would be the first and then that would be others but it was such a feeling of vindication for all that had gone on it was well worth it. i was happy because i had achieved my goal stayed the course and was getting a degree. that there were no medium present. so it was not. advertise and the right it wasn't an advertised and i think the news coverage of it was very spotty as we've discussed personally you and i have discussed one news. the white newspapers didn't didn't run it. that that you would graduated and then you were the that any better black had graduated from uga until weeks later and you know. i i six weeks later.
okay, um in the end you won so many honors have come your way you had a couple of fulbright haze scholarships to fellowships to travel to west africa for six weeks and to brazil the georgia music educators association, which for denied you membership. by 1980 was no longer segregated and the members couldn't resist doing what was the right thing to do and they elected you the president to the georgia music educators association you were director of music for a atlanta public schools massive responsibility. and you know, you can cite music. you heard all exquisite music and exquisite venues all over the world. mozart's, don giovanni and prague and your travels to south
africa and swaziland zimbabwe mozambique, and now not only a professorship that's named after you but looking at the photograph behind you. an entire college has been named after you the merry francis early college of education and of all. the buildings the colleges in it's an outer hold hall. so i can the man who tried to keep you out one of them, so. if i might ask you because it's such a hot topic and maybe you want to answer maybe you don't but that's up to you. his is one of the names that is controversially being kept on a building despite his segregationist and maybe even go so far as white supremacist attitudes that the georgia board of regents has decided to keep on george of buildings. what are your thoughts about your name and his name being
there lumped together on that same building and would you suggest that his name should be removed. no, i think it's it's a great sense of vindication. as far as i'm concerned, i don't really know how he felt. i know that many presidents have to yield to the political climate and if they are not in accordance with what the most of the politicians feel they might not keep their jobs. i don't know how he felt but what i do know is that it just shows that things can happen, and i'm sure that that would not have been his choice that my name would be above years on that building but as long as the college of education is housed in that building both will be there and when this happened in 2020 when i approached that building for the first time and saw it i was just over him
because people think that teachers they say you just a teacher but teachers shape the nation and i feel that what i did help to shape some of my students. i want to say something you won't say. when you talked about vindication, i do notice that your name is over his okay, but i do think that there's always maybe that isn't it since where there should be a plaque there that explains. who are these two people and i don't mean to put him down not but just to expand on that this building represents. you know a very dynamic time in our history and the idea that you your name is on there because you broke through a barrier. that you know in those times he felt compelled to to try to
mount against what you were after he today were he alive might think very differently and want to be the first to shake your hand. i don't know, you know, we like to think that i know you have a real special keepsake a couple of them. that's a couple of letters from dr. king. and would you feel comfortable if i were to read one letter? he wrote you. oh, i would be delighted. this was a direct letter to you from dr. king and and in his own handwriting to my correct with that. i mean it was was a handrail. i don't really know. no it was tight, right he signed, okay. he said i saw you at church sunday, and i had intended mentioning to the congregation that you would become the first -- graduate of the university of georgia. unfortunately, however with a
crowded mind it slipped my memory. i simply wanted to write this note to say how very proud we all are of you and your accomplishment. you have done a superb job and brought the state of georgia closer to the american dream. please know that you have my prayers and best wishes in the days ahead and i hope for you a future packed with meaningful fulfillment. it is always a pleasure to have you at ebenezer. i almost look upon you as a member now rather than a visiting guest. nice that that letter meant so much to me. because i i went to his church so that i could hear him. i knew he was a young man. he was probably seven or eight years older than me only and he was a good conversationist and he had patience and he was
interested i think in any aspect of civil rights were. mm-hmm, but i never dreamed that he would write a personal letter and he did he did not get to the graduation because he was in albany at the time. working with the civil rights right struggle there. but that that letter because the the original one is at the russell library, but it will always mean a lot to me. sure. yeah. all right. yeah, not many of us have anything like that in our collection okay, so i think as we go to the questions i there is one i see that i wanted to go ahead and voice from a one of our one of our people who's in the audience because i love this question. michael ulmer is asking as you navigated the turbulence of the 1960s.
did you have certain outlets? like any favorite music or books that helped ease the stress of the times? i had no in athens, there were no outlets if i were. still on campus on weekends. there was no place to go there the bars and all of the restaurants in there now. i think we're frozen. that me or excuse me. i'll go ahead. i think we were frozen there to for a second. i said that i went to killian's restaurant, which was the only black restaurant in town. that was my only outlet, but there was another places for me to go and nobody else invited me to go anywhere because the students were still standing off. they wouldn't i had no one to eat with no one to talk with.
so i i listened there's a song called stand by me. and it's really it's really a song that is about love against but i was thinking god stand by me and the lyrics they fit the situation. it was written i think in 1965, but that song resonated with me now since that time. i spoke but the freedom breakfast which commemorates dr. king's life in 2011, and it was kansas. it was postponed because we had snow in january and so it was changed february and i spoke about i had to change my speech to a speech about love dr. king's idea of love for people. and i was going to say the words to the the song.
what the world needs now is love sweet love, but i sang it. i mean it was just one thing. i didn't mean to sing it but it just happened. but music can can lift you i did listen to music on the radio didn't have a television. not am i dorm room, but if you can imagine going to classes? going to get food in the cafeteria where students get up you sit down beside. going back to your dorm and just studying. i was i had turned 25. the mac first summer and i guess i should have been old enough to really take that but sometimes the loneliness gets to you consequently. it was difficult. but i survived i mean i'm here today. i can't believe that almost 60 years have passed since that first degree. but it has and books at the time
were there and no one that i mean, i don't know that there would have been popular books books at the time, but i didn't know if you had anything that you read? that brought you. peace brought you solace and were inspiring to you. maybe maybe even the bible i was about to say the bible wasn't about the only book i had time to read because i was busy studying. and i i did study constantly, which is why i'm getting well, i mean that's what students have to do today. it takes um it takes a person who has the resilience. he just stick to it because all of us have weak points in our lives, but when i got to those points, i would go to the bible and i always kept the bible with me. something tells you were the only one who worried about whether you were going to get
good grades. well, i mean, i didn't know, you know, i had one professor who i didn't i didn't stay in his class money asked me to sit at the end of the he seated the students alphabetically and asked me to sit at the end. the last student's name was zachary, and i said no, my name begins with an e and he said no you said where i tell you to sit. listen. i said, no, i won't sit in that seat. i went into the deans of students office and i was assigned to a different section, but i didn't know how it's staying in that man's class. i probably wouldn't get it. yeah. i had no way of knowing how well i would do. no. i was a good student. yeah. yes. wow, you what a story i could go on and on. i don't want to hog the show here. i want to open this up for other people to ask questions. player, or would you like >> what a story. i could go on and on. i don't want to hog the show here. i want to open this up for other
people to ask questions. claire, would you like to take it from here? >> of course. thank you so much, miss early, and hank for being here today. it's been a wonderful conversation. to those of you who are intrigued, i promise, there's plenty more where that came from in the book. don't forget to get your copy of "the quiet trailblazer." we have several questions here. i will start with this one. we had a woman write in named monica. miss early, i was one of your students. it was a memorable experience. i knew you were special, but i didn't realize what an icon we had in our presence. she wants to know, how did you come to team there since it was a new middle school in atlanta public schools when you were there. >> i was transferred -- well, i started at john hope elementary. mr. long was -- he was a
wonderful principal and supporter of the arts. that was my first job. he moved to wesley avenue elementary school and asked me to go with him. i did. i moved to wesley. wesley was very close to the middle school that was built. when it was built -- he asked me to accompany him there. and i did. i was teaching at wesley with him and john hope and cohen with him. >> must have been a special person to follow to all those -- >> he was actually a tennis player, into sports. but he was a strong supporter of the arts. i never asked him for anything that he denied me, for the students, of course. >> another question picking up on that, grayson asked, being involved in music education at clark college and the local atlanta area for decades, in what ways have you seen the involvement of black artists
grow in georgia? >> well, black artists have always been in georgia. it started back in the days of slavery, actually. black artists have -- atlanta in particular, i won't say georgia but atlanta in particular has a strong showing. the only thing that i hope is that at one point we will have more black musicians in the atlanta symphony orchestra. they have made great strides here of late. there's still room for improvement. but we have always had wonderful musicians. i have seen a lot of growth. when you have been here for 85 years, you have seen a lot. >> i imagine so. a couple other questions coming in here in particular about some advice you can give to current educators and some experiences by yourself as an educator. i will start with the one from
sarah. she was curious, after you started your teaching -- you started your teaching career and went back to uga and then restarted it. during that career, did you have to deal with prejudice from your students? how did you approach that, if you did? >> i never taught in an integrated school. all of my teaching was done in all black schools. i went to all black schools. so that was not something that i had to deal with. but when i became a supervisor and then director of music, i had to work with white teachers as well as black. i had no problems at all, because i made them feel that they were part of it all. i was not their boss. i was their resource. i was their helper. when they realized that, i had no problems. >> sean asked if you can share an anecdote. could you share a story of you
telling your stories not to stand for dixie at the fox theater. >> yes. at john hope, my first teaching position, i took the students -- fifth, sixth and seventh concert, and the white students went in the morning and the black students in the afternoon, and i prepared my students to listen to beautiful symphonic music. they had a program and the kids could look at the program and read the words if they didn't know them. we all stood, and when i heard in the beginning the introduction, and dixie was being played, i told them to sit down. they couldn't sing it because i never taught them dixie, and
when they sat down everybody all over the auditorium, everybody sat down. and the conductor noticed nobody was standing or singing and he conducted the song to the end, and subsequent concerts did not include dixie, and he would sing the star-spangled banner or america the beautiful. it was a rallying cry for the confederates. >> do you remember what year that concert would have been? >> it was probably 1959. >> again, if people out in the audience have anymore questions, now is the time, but we do have time to get to the last couple. i am going to combine two questions here because they are very similar. the question is unfortunately racism despite it being more
hidden and abstract in the 21st century society, it still impacts society? >> now that the schools are integrated i think all teachers need to be aware of their great responsibility in leading students forward. i know about the critical race theory that people are afraid of, but teaching history is not critical race theory as far as i am concerned. i don't think it pits one group of kids against another. i every heard of people teaching slavery and having the black kids act as the slaves and all
kinds of things have gone on, but teachers, in terms of what he or she has to offer will want to give the best to their students because we are preparing students to go out into the world and make the world a better place, and if you can't commit to that you shouldn't be teaching, because teachers help to shape the world. right now we need that in our schools. we need it desperately. i feel sorry for the teachers who are forced to teach in-person without having a mask mandate. i know that many teachers are troubled by that. all i can say is god has protected me for 85 years and i am still trying to help him by protecting myself, and i hope they will, too. >> thank you for that. it has been such a hard year for teachers, a hard two years going on three for educators, and do you have anything you would like to share to the educators, because i am sure we have an audience right now?
>> i would say to the educators, you are in the best profession as you could possibly be in. as i said earlier, people used to say, she's just a teacher. but all of us are really teachers. some of us are prepared to teach certain areas, certain subjects, but if you are a teacher who is employed in a school, know that you are handling the most precious cargo that you could possibly have. you are helping students to grow, and if you can keep that in mind, i am making a contribution to my country, to my city, to my school system, and you will get that feeling that i got this morning when a student called to say that she was looking for the link because she heard that i was speaking
and she said that i taught her more than just music, i taught her how to live. that, to me, is what all teachers should do and they are capable of doing if they put their minds to it. >> thank you so much, ms. early. hank, a wonderful conversation leader as always. thank you for that, hank. at least six the presidents reported conversations while in office. hear many of those on c-span's newest podcast presidential recordings. >> season one focuses on the presidency of lyndon johnson. you'll hear about the 1964 civil rights act, the presidential campaign, the gulf incident, the march on selma, and the war in vietnam. not everyone knew they were being recorded. >> certainly, johnson's secretaries knew because they were tasked with transcribing many of those conversations. in fact, they were the one who is made sure the conversations were taped as johnson would signal to them through an open door between his office and theirs. >> you'll also hear some blunt
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