Excerpt: 'Living History'

After school ended in the spring of 1972, I returned to Washington to work again for Marian Wright Edelman. Bill took a full-time job with the McGovern campaign. My primary assignment in the summer of 1972 was to gather information about the Nixon Administration's failure to enforce the legal ban on granting tax-exempt status to the private segregated academies that had sprung up in the South to avoid integrated public schools. The academies claimed they were created simply in response to parents deciding to form private schools; it had nothing to do with court-ordered integration of the public schools. I went to Atlanta to meet with the lawyers and civil rights workers who were compiling evidence that, on the contrary, proved the academies were created solely for the purpose of avoiding the constitutional mandate of the Supreme Court's decisions, starting with Brown v. Board of Education. As part of my investigation, I drove to Dothan, Alabama, for the purpose of posing as a young mother moving to the area, interested in enrolling my child in the local all-white academy. I stopped first in the "black" section of Dothan to have lunch with our local contacts. Over burgers and sweetened iced tea, they told me that many of the school districts in the area were draining local public schools of books and equipment to send to the so-called academies, which they viewed as the alternatives for white students. At a local private school, I had an appointment to meet an administrator to discuss enrolling my imaginary child. I went through my role-playing, asking questions about the curriculum and makeup of the student body. I was assured that no black students would be enrolled.

While I was challenging discrimination practices, Bill was in Miami working to ensure McGovern's nomination at the Democratic Convention on July 13, 1972. After the convention, Gary Hart asked Bill to go to Texas, along with Taylor Branch, then a young writer, to join a local Houston lawyer, Julius Glickman, in a triumvirate to run the McGovern campaign in that state. Bill asked me if I wanted to go, too. I did, but only if I had a specific job. Anne Wexler, a veteran campaigner I knew from Connecticut, then working on behalf of McGovern, offered me a job heading up the voter registration drive in Texas. I jumped at the chance. Although Bill was the only person I knew when I got to Austin, Texas, in August, I quickly made some of the best friends I've ever had.

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