Seeking justice in education: Part 2

It is part of a 2 column with 2 parts in honor of the Black History Moon.

A letter to the editor appears in the Wilmington News Journal in February 1950, written by Mr. Lewis, and describes the goals of a group of citizens and friends who “united to protest against overt discriminatory practices against black children in the primary school system. schools “. He made unsuccessful efforts that about 11 years ago tried to give equal educational opportunities to “colored children”.

The aim of the group was: “(1) To work to improve interracial activities and interfaith relations in the community. (2) Work as a collective group to eliminate discriminatory practices based on race, skin color and religion in the education system, employment system, entertainment and community facilities of our community. (3) seek redress for certain acts of discrimination in order to remedy such situations and to avoid further such discriminatory practices. ”

Two months later, Theodore Lewis and Ernest Bromley led a group of five local men to talk to Dr. Clyde Hison, director of state education, about segregating elementary schools in Wilmington. Hisson’s response matched what Wilmington’s people heard elsewhere. “… he told them that the law specifically places responsibility for the local school administration on the local Education Council, elected by the people. He told them to hand over their business to the local school administration. “

While this is on the sidelines, this is especially true of the problem of segregated schools. At a school board meeting in June 1950, attended by Mr. Lewis, he asked if board members had made a decision in the case of Charles (Hammy) Graham, who asked the board if his son could be sent to Midland School. . “He was told that students are not assigned to the school until August.” There is no reason to believe that the council approved such a request.

Who is Charles Graham? Mr. Graham was a devoted Wilmington citizen who ran a bar and restaurant attended by students at Wilmington College. In many ways he was a representative of the black community in southeastern Wilmington.

For me, this was another striking example of skin color discrimination and nothing else.

This latest attempt to integrate the Midland School was a death knell for the efforts of Theodore and Mary Elizabeth. According to the state’s director of education, Dr. Hisonga: “The ultimate authority in the racial segregation of Ohio schools at this time is the people of Wilmington through the election of school board members. So it’s not a decision of some agency outside of our community, it’s the will of the Wilmington community to keep black primary school children separate from the community’s white children. ”

This was undoubtedly a serious blow to this young Black family with three young children. How would Theodore and Mary Elizabeth react to this rejection by the Wilmington community?

Between the late 50s and early 60s, Mr. Lewis began participating in races, mostly on the Lebanese track and some at the Clinton County Fairgrounds. He shared ownership with a local friend and raced dozens of times on their horse Toa’s Chief. Over the years, they have had important successes.

Theodore was a very devoted member of the Black community in Wilmington. He was repeatedly asked to serve as a coffin for friends. He also appealed to the city executive committee to improve his property and neighborhood. He was active in the PTA, attended City Council and School Board meetings – he was a devoted citizen of the entire Wilmington community.

Mr. Lewis continued his commitment and involvement in the community later in life, volunteering at Clinton County Community Action, a program that continues to this day. “The goal of the Clinton County Community Action Program, Inc. is to provide services to its customers to work for self-sufficiency while expanding resources to improve the lives of residents in the communities they serve. ”

In the early days of the CAP, the following happened: “Submitting the constitution for approval to the original trustee was the committee and statutory agent of the CAP, Inc. Attorney Frederick Buckley, Theodore Lewis, Robert W. Moyer and Brooke Morgan. After studying and discussing the constitution, the Clinton County Community Action Program was adopted unanimously. ” In doing so, Mr. Lewis joined a select group of locals in setting up an important and long-lived agency to improve society.

This honor of inclusion represents a proper end to the life of service and sacrifice of the community that continued to marginalize him and his family. May each community be fortunate to have Theodore and Mary Elizabeth Lewis among them to give others hope for our collective future.

Neil Snarr is an Honorary Professor at Wilmington College.

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