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Pedagogy of Survival

The Narratives of Millicent E. Brown and Josephine Boyd Bradley


Karen Meadows

With particular focus on the first-hand narratives of two desegregation pioneers—their stories, sufferings, and pedagogy of survival—this book gives voice to unsung heroes and the often overlooked view of the adolescent perspective to address the question of how one can endure and thrive in the midst of hardship and tragedy. While enduring her own personal trauma, the author wrestled with the question, “How will I survive?” The answer, she discovered, was in the actual act of surviving and in the navigational strategies she employed and witnessed in the lives of others. In Pedagogy of Survival, the author uses the narratives of ordinary people to highlight extraordinary lessons of perseverance. The integration of historical and present-day change agents challenges readers to examine their own lives and see that they, too, have the ability to not merely withstand trials, but to become agents of change. Everyone has a story that matters and can serve as a lesson for someone else. So what is your story? How will you use it to help others? Ultimately, what is your pedagogy of survival?
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Chapter 1. The Desegregation of Rivers High School


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Millicent E. Brown

Somebody had to do it.

—M. Brown, personal communication, February 23, 2005

On September 3, 1963, 15-year-old Millicent Brown and 10 other students were chosen to desegregate Charleston’s public schools. The Brown v. Board of Education case ruled that de jure (imposed by law) segregation in public schools was unconstitutional; Brown II ruled that states should comply with the law “with all deliberate speed.” Yet, it was nine years until Millicent, who would have attended Burke High—Charleston County’s school for African Americans—was admitted to the all-white Rivers High. She was the only African American enrolled in the tenth grade (12-year-old Jacqueline Ford, an eighth grader, was the only other African American student admitted to Rivers High that year). Her arrival was lively, but not in the way you might think. Her first day of school was consumed by repeated bomb threats and subsequent evacuations. Positive social interactions were few, as students and staff made it clear that her presence was unwanted at their school. Millicent described herself as a “very thin, tall, and lanky” 15-year-old, preoccupied with the typical developmental concerns of any other adolescent. However, her next three years at Rivers High were anything but typical. ← 1 | 2 →

Those of us who understand adolescent development (or anyone who has an adolescent son or daughter, niece or nephew, grandson or granddaughter) recognize the importance of belonging,...

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