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AfriGeneas Genealogy and History Forum

Keeping the African-American story alive

Keeping the African-American story alive

By Judith Egerton
The Courier-Journal

When Ruby Wilkins Doyle was growing up in western Louisville in the first half of the 20th century, public schools were segregated, and schools attended by black children were far from equal to schools attended by white children. Yet this child of a blue-collar father and a mother who worked as a domestic received an exacting education from teachers determined to instill their students with knowledge and a sense of history.

"In fourth grade we had to memorize verbatim the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments," Doyle, 81, remembered. The amendments, enacted after the Civil War, forbid slavery and protect individual rights. "Our teachers were highly qualified. Most of them had master's degrees but couldn't get jobs elsewhere, so they became teachers. They had high expectations for us," she said.

"And because of segregation in the housing patterns, our educators lived in our communities and were role models in civic issues, in their dress, in every way, and we looked up to them."

At night after Doyle's mother, Irene Hill Wilkins, cooked dinner, she read to her children. Her love of words and education, which included saving nickels for her children's elocution lessons, was shared by Ruby. She became an English teacher in the integrated Jefferson County Public Schools system and the author of a history that documents the leadership of black educators and the experiences of black students in Louisville schools from 1870 to 1975. One discovery of her research: Until 1941, black teachers were paid 15 percent less than white teachers simply because they were not white.

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Keeping the African-American story alive
Re: Keeping the African-American story alive

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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