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  • When I arrived on campus to receive my dorm assignment my freshman year at college, I was greeted by the dorm mother with a looked of alarm.. Part of the application process included providing a photograph of myself, but apparently the color of my skin was not obvious from the photo. I was told that a mistake had been made… that I would not be allowed to room with the young white woman from Nebraska who had been paired with me. After all, the dorm mother explained, what if I were to have African American male visitors come to the dorm? THAT would upset the dorm atmosphere.

    My would-be roommate was no happier with my rejection than I. My new friend and I filed an anti-discrimination lawsuit against the school, and since the college was funded with both state and federal funds, we won our discrimination case against the university and both on- and off-campus housing became integrated.

    I wasn’t the first in my family to feel the sting of discrimination at the college in Greeley. My mother was raised in Denver’s Five Points neighborhood. was the youngest of her siblings. Each of them worked and sacrificed their savings to send her to the Colorado State College in Greeley. But in those days, African Americans were not allowed to live in the dorms at all. It was necessary to find African American families in the area who were willing to take in college students.

    For my mother, this was the Anderson family. Life in Greeley was different from Five Points. There was little public transportation in this farming community and things were more spread out. Mother told me about her long, painful walks to school in the dead of winter.

    In the fall of my first quarter, to get a feel for the walk my mother endured every day, after church one Sunday I ventured out with a friend to Mrs. Anderson’s old house. We walked to the campus in the dresses and heels that we wore in those days. To Mrs. Anderson’s house and back to campus. My mother did not exaggerate the distance or the discomfort.

    Mother wanted to become an elementary school teacher. The requirement for any teaching certificate is student teaching. During those times Blacks went out f state to meet this requirement. Financially, mother was unable to do this. Consequently she did not receive her elementary school teaching degree.

    Fighting for my rights at the dorm was just the beginning. I soon joined the Greeley chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality, or CORE, and in 1965, I was the co-leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and traveled across Colorado speaking against segregation in education and housing.

    I was the first black principal of a secondary school in Denver, and I’m very active in several local organizations. Among them is my work with the League of Women Voters where I am a member of the women’s issues committee. We have studied and made city-wide reports on the concerns of women transitioning from welfare to work, and from prison back into society.

    I am a 2003 recipient of the Martin Luther King Humanitarian award. A 2002 Living portrait of African American Women in Education award winner from the National Council of Negro Women. And a 1999 Pioneer Award winner from the American Association of University Women.

    Today, I live in east Park Hill where my husband and I raised our beautiful daughter, who now has a daughter of her own. My college roommate, Dr Mary Sawyer, Iowa State University professor, and I are still good friends. And we still believe just as strongly today as we did when we first arrived in Greeley, that civil rights are a vital principle of democracy. In the fulfillment of Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream we continue in the hope that one day all people will be judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin.


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    All Together Now, a national StoryLab Project sponsored by the Center for Digital Storytelling, engages communities and individuals by using first-person stories to increase awareness of civil and human rights.

    As the world marks the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Justice, All Together Now seeks to honor the legacy and impact of civil and human rights movements of the 1950s to the present day by collecting intergenerational and global stories of civil and human rights.

    Stories will be shared in educational contexts, museums/public exhibitions, and community conversations around the world. The stories compiled in this project will support those who see themselves at the center of our collective story of social justice.

    Contact us at atn@storycenter.org to set up your own All Together Now event in your city, upload your stories to the project on Cowbird, and join in!

    – StoryCenter
    www.storycenter.org
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