Boardwatch July 23, 2008: Mount Greenwood story is still one of racism. The more things change, the more they stay the same

On a summer July afternoon after schools were closed for the 2007-2008 school year, seven former students from Mount Greenwood School returned to their old school, for a group photo for old-times sake. All were professionally dressed. All had just enjoyed a very pleasant brunch together. No children were around, but adults across the street from the school, which sported a swastika sign on the front door (since removed). called out to them “Go back to your old schools. They replied, “This is our old school.”

Who were these seven students who were greeted so tauntingly? They were seven students who had integrated Mount Greenwood School forty years before, in 1968.

Originally thirteen students were scheduled to attend all-white Mount Greenwood School, but some dropped out because they were afraid. The students wanted to attend Mount Greenwood School in order to be able to attend Morgan Park High School. They went on permissive transfers and stayed six months at Mount Greenwood. After elementary graduation, they did go on to Morgan Park High School and all graduated from there.

By the end of the first day of school, hundreds in the surrounding crowd were protesting the presence of black children in the school. A police escort was needed to see that the children left safely, by the back entrance. During their time at Mount Greenwood, they ate lunch alone but they persevered because they wanted a better education.

Dr. King was assassinated during the time the seven eighth-graders were at Mount Greenwood. The children in the playground cheered.

One of the students, Toni Lewis-Anderson asked her mother to explain what they did that this was happening to them. Her mother replied, “It’s not what you did. It’s who you are.”

At the July 23, 2008, Board of Education meeting, on behalf of all seven students, Toni Lewis Anderson and Janis Weatherall-Clark received seven awards, signed by Rufus Williams, President of the Chicago Board of Education, given “In recognition of your History-Making Leadership, Bravery and Fortitude for Social Justice”). The awards were given to Toni Lewis-Anderson, who is now with a pharmaceutical company, Janis Weatherall-Clark who went on to get her Master’s Degree at Illinois State and who now teaches Special Education at an all-white school east of Bloomington, Illinois, Omar Hester, an entertainer in Amsterdam, Deborah Hunter-Russell, who attended the University of Chicago and is now an Accounts Manager at A.T. & T., Steven Palmore, a Jazz Musician, Adrienne Shumas-Thompson, an Orchestra Leader, and Nancy Ward Wysinger, who attended Vassar and is now an Accountant. 


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