Everyone has a story, the saying goes.
Millicent E. Brown and her family perhaps have more stories than most.
The Charleston native and history professor at Claflin University is known for her role in the 1963 federal case that integrated the first public schools in the state, among them Rivers High, and eventually led to desegregation across the state. Rivers is now closed.
Her father, J. Arthur Brown, a well-known civil rights leader, was local and state NAACP president from 1955-65.
This week, Brown and her sister, Minerva King, the original plaintiff in the NAACP-sponsored lawsuit, have been invited to share their story with StoryCorps. You can do the same.
StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that travels the nation in a van recording stories of people from all backgrounds. It will be in Charleston starting Thursday through Nov. 17. Stories ultimately could be heard on the website or Friday mornings on NPR’s “Morning Edition.”
Brown and her sister will talk to StoryCorps about their experiences and recollections as children of a civil rights activist, like the time when a cross was burned on their front steps in the early 1960s.
While most children played during the summer, the Browns marched or picketed. “Minerva was arrested for sit-ins in Charleston,” she said.
Brown went on to graduate from Rivers in 1966, as well as the College of Charleston and The Citadel, and ultimately earned a Ph.D. in history from Florida State University in 1997. She wrote her dissertation on the history of civil rights activism in Charleston from 1940 to 1970.
“In many ways, I didn’t know what the heck I was getting into” when the lawsuit started, Brown said.
But it became real and personal when an all-white, all-male school board challenged her about why she wanted to leave the all-black Burke and go to all-white Rivers.
“Don’t you like your school? Don’t you like your friends?”
It was intimidating, Brown said. She said she had wonderful teachers, but her school lacked resources and had “almost-ready-to-be-discarded textbooks.”
Rivers and other white schools had lockers and better science labs. It was about choice and resources.
Brown said the lawsuit was a community effort. She is working on a project called “Somebody Had To Do It,” to identify young activists who stepped forward in the late 1950s and early 1960s to end school segregation.
Brown’s story is just one of many. StoryCorps is your opportunity to share yours. For so many years, blacks were left out of history books, newspapers and magazines.
If you are interested in telling your story, visit storycorps.org or call 800-850-4406 for a reservation.
Reach Assistant Features Editor Shirley A. Greene at 937-5555 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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