Showing posts with label breaking through. Show all posts
Showing posts with label breaking through. Show all posts

Monday, August 25, 2014

Alta Cooke Broke Through in Education


The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s had ended before a black woman first became principal of a  high school in Long Beach.



Alta Cooke, Breaking Through Lighting the Way
Alta Cooke Posed for Article
in the Press-Telegram, Long Beach

Alta Cooke, first black female high school principal in Long Beach, was an influence on many young lives in that city. No black woman had been promoted to the position until 1987.




For this project, the women were asked to select pictures from their personal albums to include in the book. In a Press Telegram (Long Beach) newspaper article, Alta Cooke chooses pictures from her family album.

in looking through her private collections, Cooke re-discovered a little-known part of her career--law enforcement and recently renewed an old partnership between the Long Beach Unified School District and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Teenage Alta Cooke
Teenage Alta Cooke
In viewing these historic photo album pictures Carolyn Smith Watts and Sunny Nash discovered a treasure of not only memories, but historical accounts that exist nowhere else. Carefully collected and stored, mostly for their children and families, women like Alta Cooke have meticulously documented a segment of Long Beach experience, previously unknown outside these privately preserved archives, images that will be included in the exhibition to augment and complete the story of their journeys and their city's.


Featuring women like Alta Cooke in BREAKING THROUGH Lighting the Way will help to expose the community to their stories and contributions to race relations in America.



Alta Cooke, College Graduate
Alta Cooke, College Graduate
"Women who want to be successful in today's world should listen to what their mothers, fathers, grandparents and mentors have to say about life," Cooke said. "Apply these lessons to what you want to do for yourself and then go out and do it. Accept professional challenges. Be prepared for life. Remember, there are going to be many challenges."

Born and raised in Long Beach, California, Alta Cooke went off to New York for two years and studied music in Potsdam, New York. "I went there for two years and had a wonderful music experience," Cooke said. "[But] it was too cold there for me, so I came back to California and enrolled at the University of Redlands."


After graduating from the University of Redlands, Cooke earned a Master of Science in Music Education at the University of Southern California. 




BREAKING THROUGH Lighting the Way Edited by Sunny Nash
BREAKING THROUGH Lighting the Way

Profiles of African American
Women who made a difference
to the history of Long Beach, 
California


Edited by Sunny Nash
Foreword by Carolyn Smith Watts

Bobbie SmithAlta Cooke, Carrie Bryant
Dale Clinton & Lillie Mae Wesley (not present) 


In preparing BREAKING THROUGH Lighting the Way, the Carolyn Smith Watts and Sunny Nash team learned that people of color all over the nation, including Southern California, have felt or, at least, have seen the effects of race at some time in their lives throughout American history.

Examples of racial awareness can come at work, home, school, church, public facilities and any place people of different ethnicity may be in the same places at the same times. 


Many times, today, people are not even aware of their biases. They simply gravitate toward people who are more like them. If BREAKING THROUGH Lighting the Way does nothing else, it will make people aware of the other person and may help people better understand what others have gone through in the past and why they are still sensitive to racial slights in the present.


In Early America, the pre-Civil War era, Reconstruction and the Jim Crow days, the inability of the United States to take any meaningful steps in race relations was due to the Jim Crow system in place for more than 100 years, a system that was designed to curtail the advances freed slaves had won after the Civil War. The Jim Crow system ballooned during Reconstruction, with particularly harmful consequences. In cases of black men, the fear of lynching loomed; in the cases of black women, the fear of rape before being lynching loomed.

The Jim Crow system stymied any attempt at race relations by committed black and white citizens in a nation, still reeling from the effects of the Civil War and Reconstruction. Nearly a century and a half later, the emotions of younger generations are still tainted by Jim Crow. When a person of color feels a sting of racial discourtesy with poor service in a restaurant, is it such a surprise given our history? On the other hand, what about the person too young to remember Jim Crow? Should he or she be blamed for the past racial climate in our nation simply based on the color of his or her skin? Remember, a coin has two sides. BREAKING THROUGH Lighting the Way explores both sides.


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© 2014 BREAKING THROUGH  Lighting the Way. 
All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
 www.breakingthroughlighttheway.blogspot.com
~Thank You~

Breaking Through Lighting the Way

Evelyn Knight Remembers Jim Crow Signs


African American Women Fleeing Jim Crow South Sought Refuge in Long Beach, California.



Evelyn Knight, one woman in the study, BREAKING THROUGH Lighting the Way
Evelyn Knight
Born: Africa Town, Alabama
Evelyn Knight, one Legend in the study, BREAKING THROUGH Lighting the Way, marched with Dr. Martin Luther King from Selma to Montgomery because she saw the national news coverage and could not be deterred by friends and family from the significant stance against Jim Crow in Alabama where she had been born and raised. So, she took a leave from her job, packed a bag and boarded a bus headed for Alabama. 

Evelyn was born in African Town, Alabama. She is the descendant of a long line of protesters. Now, that is another story you will be fascinated to learn. And you can learn her story directly from her when the BREAKING THROUGH Lighting the Way Exhibition has its Grand Opening on September 29, 2015. Keep watch, here, for the details as the date approaches. 

"In 1965, I was looking at television one afternoon and I saw the brutality being heaped upon my people in my home state of Alabama. I knew what it was like because I had experienced the racism. Later, Martin Luther King pleaded for anyone around the country to come down and help to protest the dastardly acts in Alabama," Knight said, repeating King's words, "Please come and help us." And she was compelled to go and help.

Evelyn is back from the 50th anniversary Selma march. She went for the original march with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., after hearing his call to action. "Alabama is where I was born," she said. "I had to go then. And I had to go back!" Hats off the Evelyn, a living Long Beach Legend. 

Bloody Sunday Selma to Montgomery, Alabama
Bloody Sunday
Selma to Montgomery, Alabama
BREAKING THROUGH Lighting the Way will allow audiences of all ages and races to learn from these women and to experience through primary accounts what life in America was about in the days of Jim Crow, and the struggles of African Americans and, particularly, African American women. 

Evelyn Knight and many of the other women in the study, BREAKING THROUGH lighting the Way, upon their arrivals in Long Beach, had left behind them the signs that most dressed them.



Segregated Women's Restroom Sign  Deep South into the 1960s
Segregated Women's Restroom Sign 
Deep South into the 1960s
"The signs were not posted, but as a black person, you knew where you were not welcome," one black woman reported about her early experience in Long Beach into the 1960s. "The signs were on the faces of those around you or serving you in a restaurant."

But remember, white southern Jim Crow enthusiasts had also migrated to California during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl seeking opportunities a,d, regardless of their poverty, brought racism with them and perpetuated oppression of people of color. 


The Federal Fair Housing Act of 1968 set up protections for certain populations against Jim Crow housing. 



Deep South Housing Restrictions, 1960s
Deep South Housing Restrictions, 1960s
Black women relate their own experiences with racial conditions in the Deep South states of their births and former southern homes, as well as Long Beach, where many fled in hopes of finding better racial treatment. In many instances, better conditions were to be found. However, there was racial strife even in Southern California, including lack of employment opportunities, segregated housing, deeded restrictions, inferior schools and other Jim Crow treatment. 

"There were no signs saying where you could go or where you couldn't go like in the south," one woman said. "But you learned pretty quickly how rental housing went. And then if you wanted to buy a house, your choices were limited to certain neighborhoods because of deed restrictions. White homeowners were legally restricted from selling their homes to buyers who were not white. It took an act of Congress to change all that, even in Long Beach" 

Segregated Laundry
"It was common to be ignored when others were being served," one woman said. "Some services were reserved for white customers when sometimes the services were being delivered by black workers. There were signs in some businesses saying your business is not welcome here or if there wasn't a sign saying you can't come in, the poor service made you not want to come back."

"It did not matter how well you dressed you were or how nice your shoes matched your suit," one woman said.



BREAKING THROUGH Lighting the Way

BREAKING THROUGH Lighting the Way
Edited by Sunny Nash
Foreword by Carolyn Smith Watts

Bobbie SmithAlta Cooke, Carrie Bryant
Dale Clinton & Lillie Mae Wesley (not present) 
"If you were colored, that's what they called us back then, you were not going to be considered for professional positions. No matter how smart you were or how much education you had back then, you would not be hired to sit in an office to greet the general public. And it took a long time for that to change."

Racism existed in Long Beach and Southern California.


Employment opportunities, college education and equal housing required changes in racial attitudes and these black women helped to bring about those changes in Long Beach. 

"For many years after laws were written," one woman said. "Employers had their ways of getting around them."






ushistory.org homepage

© 2014 BREAKING THROUGH  Lighting the Way. 
All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
 www.breakingthroughlighttheway.blogspot.com
~Thank You~


Breaking Through Lighting the Way
Breaking Through Lighting the Way