Professors McCord and Tolliver collect/create thoughtful, polite students. We were told to use southern manners on the trip and we all do, so I am Miss Sherie and I remember to add the Miss or a Mr. whenever I talk to someone. Good manners are a key to good travel. The students reach out to one another and to the rest of us. It’s like being in the bosom of a loving family – respect, looking out for one another, wanting the best for each individual. This is a good thing because our group will be living together for ten days. “She” snores. “He” is always talking too loudly. The baby cries. We are wisely not looking for perfection from one another. We get along so well we are not just “surviving,” but enjoying.
There are similarities with Pineville, South Carolina in 1965. Four of us came from California together and lived together for three months. Anyone who has read You Came Here to Die, Didn’t You knows I did not always feel favorably about John. I suspect he wished I wasn’t around either. However, we had to work as a team. It was truly us against the world and we bonded, but under other conditions…
Think ahead! McCord and Tolliver do so. If we have lunch on the bus, as we often do to save time, hand wipes are passed out before the meal, paper towels during the meal and a piece of chocolate afterward.
Today was full. We visited an excellent Tuskegee Airman Museum. I have known the history of the airmen for some time. Rather than think of the trials they went through, and they did, I found myself thinking of my father who was also a pilot. The overall opinion of the military was that blacks were not intelligent enough to do more than cook and clean, let alone be pilots. They flew fighter planes and were assigned to protect the bombers. They never lost a bomber. When they came home from the war, they were again forced to the back of the bus.
Tuskegee Institute is beautiful and much bigger than I expected. It is one of the black “ivy league” schools which include Morehouse, Spelman, Hampton, Fisk and Howard. Last year one of the students on this tour fell in love with Tuskegee and Alana is now a junior there. She was our guide. Among other specialties, Tuskegee has an award winning school of veterinary medicine. The students built the school – brick by brick – and they started by making the bricks. Booker T. Washington led Tuskegee and expected that students be self-sufficient. He had a sauna in his bathroom. (Looked like a tanning booth when I first saw it, but I suspect he didn’t need one.)
George Washington Carver joined the Tuskegee faculty in 1896. Although one of his pamphlets boasted “How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing It for Human Consumption,” his studies were not limited to the peanut and he created cosmetics, beverages, food items like bar candy, foods for animals like hens, medicines, axle grease, rubber, plastics, nitroglycerine and more things that you don’t want me to list. I bought a pamphlet on “How to Grow the Tomato and 115 Ways to Prepare It for the Table.”
There was a museum at the Institute as well. This was a morning where we were reminded that people believe what they want to believe. It was obvious that blacks were brilliant if they were just able to rise above the prejudice that plagued them.
That gets us to lunch. Tomorrow I’ll do the second half of the day.
At the Tuskegee Museum: Miss Yvonne, Miss Marcia and Professor McCord
Miss Yvonne and Xavier