Sunday, March 23, 2008

South Middle School eighth grader receives letter from civil rights pioneer

One of the highlights of this year's third quarter civil rights research project in Mr. Randy Turner's eighth grade communication arts class was when Raycee Thompson received a letter from Carl Holmes, one of the attorneys who helped conduct the research that helped the NAACP present the winning case in the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling.

Raycee wrote a letter to Carl Holmes, whom she had met briefly two years ago at an event in South Dakota.

"I received a reply letter from Carl Holmes. He was one of the attorneys who helped to do research for the Brown v. Board of Education case. The sad thing is he has bladder cancer, but he still decided to reply.

"In the letter, he answered my questions over the case. He told me that he researched the question, "Is the 14th Amendment being obstructed by school segregation?" He did the research because he felt it was the right thing to do and by doing the research he was treated differently; with more respect from his friends. He said initially he did have some doubts about winning the case, but he knew it would workout. The one thing I thought was the most important from this letter is the lesson Mr. Holmes thought teens should know:

"The roadblocks of hate and injustice can be set aside by serious study, hard work, and unflagging determination."

The content of the letter is printed below:

Dear Raycee:

We got your letter and unfortunately, Carl Holmes is in the hospital right now. He has bladder cancer. I took your letter to him and he dictated the following answers:

1. Did you believe the case had a chance of winning with a white Supreme Court making the decision?

Initially, I did not.

2. What kind of information did you research for the NAACP?

What evidence is there that the Congress which enacted, and the state legislators which ratified the 14th Amendment, understood or did not understand, contemplated or did not contemplate, that it would eventually abolish segregation in the public schools. This question, propounded by the Supreme Court, is the one that I worked on the summer of 1953.

3. When schools first began to desegregate, did you have any second thoughts?

No, because it was the beginning of change, even though I knew there would be problems.

4. Did people treat you differently because you volunteered to help research information for the case?

Yes. My friends thought it was a good thing to do, and in time as the significance of the decision achieved national attention, they were proud of my efforts.

5.How did the segregated schools affect you when you were younger and in school?

Not at all. I went to schools in New York City where there was no segregation by law.

6. Why did you volunteer to do research for the NAACP?

Because I felt it was the right thing to do at the time- I had just graduated from law school.

7.Recently, Sen. Ernie Chambers from Omaha, Nebraska, suggested that the schools be segregated again. How did it feel to hear an important African-American leader make such a suggestion?

I was greatly disheartened and I totally disagree with San. Chambers.

8. What do you feel is the most important lesson today's youth can learn from your generation's struggle?

The roadblocks of hate and injustice can be set aside by serious study, hard work and unflagging determination.

9. Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Thank you, Raycee, for your lovely letter and may you succeed in all future endeavors.

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