My family moved to Clarksburg in 1944 when my younger brother was born; I was 2 years old. Do not bother with the math – I’m 78. My ethnicity and age dictated that I attended Kelly Miller School, the segregated school, from 1948 to 1956 through grade school and junior high. With the Harrison County integration of schools, I transferred to Washington Irving High School.
I indicated my age just to imply that I am in the homestretch of life, but also to reflect on some of the lessons learned during my lifetime, particularly things learned that did not come from books. I attribute most of those ‘life-lessons’ to time spent at Kelly Miller. Two of those lessons learned were: A sense of belonging in this world, and a sense that I could achieve any/all aspirations.
To be fair, it was not the school that resulted in those strong life lessons, but the teachers. I remember that a large proportion of those teachers earned advanced degrees. That had no meaning to me while at school, but on reflection in my later adult life things fell into place.
During my college and early corporate training classes in the 60’s, there were few minority students – often only 1. Yet I knew I could endeavor because of that ‘sense of belonging’. I had learned sentence structure and the conjugation of verbs, Shakespeare, word derivatives (Latin), as well as a background in STEM. All were helpful in classroom and training classes. Yet, there was a stronger sense that I could achieve whatever target I set. That was a reflection of those teachers from their discussions and lectures, not from a lesson itself. Philosophy and psychology are not my strong suits, listening was and is.
Kelly Miller and its teachers prepared me for life. I guess most of you feel the same about your school experience, but this was unexpected from a black, segregated school in the 1940’s. The success of our alumni (some older than me) attest to that.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 West Virginia Black Heritage Festival has been canceled but that doesn't mean we're taking a break!