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Pedagogy of Survival

The Narratives of Millicent E. Brown and Josephine Boyd Bradley

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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 2. The Desegregation of Greensboro (Grimsley) Senior High School

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THE DESEGREGATION OF GREENSBORO (GRIMSLEY) SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL

Josephine Boyd

If you start it, you must finish it.

—C. Lee Boyd, personal communication, March 20, 2005

On September 4, 1957, in Greensboro, North Carolina, 17-year-old Josephine Ophelia Boyd entered all-white Greensboro Senior High School. Josephine was among six other African American students to enter all-white schools that year; however, she was the only student to enroll at the high school level. Her first day did not garner much of a welcome. Entering amidst a hostile crowd, barking German shepherd dogs, and the shouts of “Go Home [N-word]!” (Boyd, 1995, p. 367) was the antithesis of her first days at the all-black Dudley High School. It was approximately one minute and a half to the main entrance, but when Steve Hartman from CBS News asked, “How long that walk felt?” Dr. Boyd Bradley said bluntly, “Forever” (Alfano, 2006). While the headline in the Greensboro Daily News (1957) read “Negro Student Enters Quietly Today,” Josephine’s account of this day is very different, and her senior year memorable in ways unimaginable.

What type of person warranted such obscenities? Who, entering the school, could provoke such vile reactions? Based on the level of hatred displayed, one would not assume that Josephine Boyd was merely entering the ← 55 | 56 → high school districted for her geographic area. What people may overlook is that the mobs that typically surrounded and taunted students who desegregated...

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