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SIX WORD » LIFE

My dad would have loved this.

by notjustagirlintheworld on January 21, 2013   |  FacebooktwitterTumblr


My father was a historian. He began his professional career writing about the abolition of slavery. He came to the US from Holland at the age of 6 (just ahead of Hitler's invasion of his homeland) and learned to speak English by charming the young ladies who took tickets at the local movie theater with a few words of his native Dutch. Before he came to the US he had literally never seen a black person. He was fascinated by black people and their plight. Arriving in the late 1930's Jim Crow was alive and well. He never lost that fascination or his frustration at the injustice. In the 1960s he left my mother with two small children in Williams town MA, where he was teaching, to march on Washington. It among his proudest accomplishments. A few years later, he followed his mentor to Lake Forest College in Illinois. His academic focus moved away from abolitionism to the the history of education. He remained focused on the inequity between the wealthy and poor (largely black) communities. He required his students to student-teach in under-funded communities both because those communities needed the most help and because he wanted his students (from a primarily white, private college) to see how their education and home life had differed from the children growing up in poor black communities long after Brown vs. The Board of Education. Eventually, he started a summer program on the Lake Forest campus for bright under privileged students. They lived in the dorms Monday-Friday (to get a taste of college life) and returned to their families on the weekend. They were ALL scholarship students. He felt if he could instill in them a love of learning and expose them to the life they could have at an early age, the course of their lives might well be affected. It was the capstone to his career and his true passion. He truly felt a kinship with black people, referring to them as 'my people.' To his dying day, he deplored inequity in all ways, but was most offended by, to quote MLK, those who "judged people not by quality of their character but by the color of their skin." When Obama was elected I cried for what we had accomplished, and for how amazed and proud he would have been.

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