Excerpt: 'Count Them One by One' By Gordon Martin

Share
Copy

Her first teaching position was in her own Clarke County. She boarded with a family there for two years, just 12 miles from where she had grown up.

Black people weren't allowed to vote in Clarke County. My parents didn't vote, and black people in general in Mississippi were not voting at that time. This business of blacks having the vote is post-Civil Rights struggle.

After two years in Clarke County schools, Eloise taught the second and third grades for five years in Jefferson Davis County 50 miles from Hattiesburg. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in December 1941, she was teaching in the public schools of Grenada in the Mississippi Delta.

I helped to register men for the draft in Grenada County after the bombing. We were complacent and had no idea anything like that attack would come about. We had thought we didn't need a draft, but we started it then. And the blacks in that area were registered at the school where I worked. There weren't any black people on the Selective Service Board, but I didn't get any sense that there was favoritism being shown between blacks and whites, as to who went first to war. Maybe I did not discern the kind of subtleties that I later learned to discern. But I didn't sense anything then. You see, we were so separate that we really didn't know what was going on among the whites.

During the two years she taught in Grenada, Eloise married Brandon Jonathan Hopson, a Baptist minister she had met in Jeff Davis County. He entered the service as an Army chaplain, and she traveled with him to bases in Alabama and South Carolina as he ministered to black soldiers in the segregated army.

But a new phase of her life opened in the fall of 1944 when he agreed that she could complete college. It was not at a small poorly-funded Mississippi teachers' college, but at Spelman College, the distinguished historically black college for women founded in 1881. It was handsomely supported by the family of John D. Rockefeller. Its alumnae now include Alice Walker and Marian Wright Edelman. Eloise was a full-time student there for two years, receiving her B. A. in English in June 1946. She loved Spelman, a part of the Atlanta consortium of black colleges that includes Morehouse College. It was, she told me, "like a Vassar to the black community."

Her next stop was Japan during the post-war military occupation, where she found it troubling to have servants assigned by the military. She taught at the elementary level while Reverend Hopson continued as a chaplain, but tensions accelerated in their marriage after their return to civilian life at a church in Braddock, Pennsylvania. Reverend Hopson did not want her to teach. He felt God had called him to preach, but it never occurred to him that I was called to teach just as much as he was called to preach.

Page
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...