Public schools in our country aren’t really doing so well. Dropout rates are high, and even some of those who do receive their high school diplomas are left unprepared for college or the workforce, despite the government’s attempts to standardize schools. Having studied critical issues in education while at Duke, I was initially drawn to LTP as a way to reach struggling students, and to teach lessons much more valuable than any test preparation could. Incorporating LTP into the classroom gives students a voice, especially those who are not encouraged to express themselves at home or in school, and creates a safe environment for students to tell their stories. During our time at The School for Creative Studies, our first LTP internship site, I was amazed at the bravery of many of the students as they wrote about an injustice they had faced in their life. Their writing was eloquent, meaningful, and all their own.
During the Memories from Past Centuries project at Club Boulevard Elementary, we asked our students to study primary historical materials and then write narratives about slavery from perspectives of slaves, loved ones of slaves, and slave masters. Oliver’s story stuck with me from the first time he shared it, and as I got to know him in our small groups, his writing from the perspective of Clay Bobbit’s mother became even more powerful. He refers to Clay as “the mischief king,” getting “his fair share of cow hide across his back.” In addition to his vivid details, Oliver illustrates his emotional connection to the project when describing Clay’s sister’s death and how this changed Clay’s personality. Oliver closes his monologue with, “And every day, when the sun set behind the rolling hills, he would weep next to Deliah’s grave.”
My youngest child, Clay Bobbit 11 years old is the most stubborn child I ever came across and that’s saying something. He would disobey Massa Grant Bobbit’s orders and get his share of cowhide across his back. Sometimes, before he brings the food for white people, he picks some off for himself. Master Grant ain’t the only person that beats him. Cause in our cabin, Clay is the real prankster so sometimes he deserves a little smack to the ear. Just cause he’s the mischief king don’t mean I don’t love him. He may be the craziest one in the family, the craziest one I’ve known, but he’s still my son. My other two children, Henry and Deliah, are Clay’s role models ‘sides Jack (husband) and me.
Once Clay was ‘bout 15 years old his sister died of yellow fever. Since then Clay was never the same. He would obey Massa Grant Bobbit’s orders absentmindedly, following the rules no matter what and every evening when the sun set behind the rolling hills, he would get out and weep next to Deliah’s grave. We were like the dogs cleaning off the scraps of food the Master’s family didn’t eat. Clay started to get over his sister’s death…