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. 


July 12, 2020 at 1:00 PM

By: Karen Gunty

Black Lives Matter

I was a student at Mount Greenwood at this time. As a young child, although I did not recognize it at the time,I was forever changed. Dr. Martin Luther King became my personal hero for all of my adult life. As I walked to school and crossed Homan Avenue, I was appalled at the adult behavior outside of the School. It broke my heart to see hundreds of adults yelling racial slurs to children. To this day I vividly remember the racial tension.

In the school, the atmosphere was much different. I made new friends. We learned together, played at recess together and most importantly accepted each other. One of my fondest memories during this time was the girls teaching me how to double dutch jump rope at recess. If only the world could see life through the eyes of a child.

I am appalled that in 2020 we still have so many racial issues.

I do not know what to say except that I am here to love, listen and learn in hopes of finally making changes so that America can honestly say Black Lives Matter and equality is here for all!

February 21, 2022 at 9:27 PM

By: Stephen Pederson

My experience as a white Mt.Grernwood 8th Grader since 1968...

My comment here is probably more about

my mom's courage who stood up for 7 prescious black children made in the Image

of God than about myself.

Somewhere our family lost the original copy of my mom's op ed piece in Mount Greenwood Express a month or so before the 7 (out of originally 13) black children were reported to come to Mt.Greenwood School.

Anyway, in the article my mom, Edith Spitler-Pederson wrote to encourage Mt.G

Parents to make room for the children of

color and comments along those lines.

Needless to say, not only did she get an

uproar of backlash, but our family began to receive on-going hate mail and threatening phone calls to the place where

we had to change our phone number. How sad, yet a life lesson that helped me do

what I could/can to stand as an alie and

fight for causes of racial and economic injustice.

Yes, I do remember Toni Lewis, Janice Weatherall, Omar Hester and most of all, Steven Palmore, who generally sat in front of me in my Morgan Pk. home room the following 4 years. Virtually, everyone of these 7 now older adults, have become very accomplished individuals in their career fields. And hopefully, I'll get to see at our 50th Morgan Park Reunion around Sept.30-Oct.2. Many friends I knew in Mt.Greenwood we're not racists, but many, in fact, we're and basically reflected those deep-seated attitudes taught by or caught from their parents.

May God have mercy on us with fear, ignorance, and hatred at times, and change our hearts towards love to then use the gifts He's given us... to help heal this country and the city like Chicago, without being color-blind.

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