Monday, April 19, 2010

USC-Columbia to UNC-Greensboro

It was a VERY busy few days from last Wednesday to Saturday.

I began by driving down to Columbia, SC, a new town for me. Because it's both a college town and the state capital, it's a good blend of interesting people and good restaurants. I was there to speak formally (or as formally as I can get) to a class on Southern Writing, then to meet informally with faculty and students over several meals. I also spoke at the absolutely gorgeous Richland County Public Library.

The South Carolina capitol is beautiful, too, but pure "Forget? Never!" The Confederate flag no longer flies from the main pole on the dome, but it has a place of prominence on the grounds. (Evidently there was a spirited argument as to what the flag should be made of. Silk flutters nicely with every breeze, but silk isn't produced in SC. Cotton is, but when cotton gets wet, it takes forever to dry and hangs more limply. They finally compromised with a blend of silk and cotton.)

On the marble facade itself, each pockmark from a Yankee shell is marked with a bronze star. Happily, the campus is a broad mixture of races and cultures and I enjoyed my stay there.

Then it was on to my old alma mater, UNC-Greensboro where the Class of 1960 was holding its reunion. Must admit that the only truly familiar face was Lois Bradley Queen, who roomed across the hall. We had fun wandering down memory lane with the others. I had been asked to speak and read at the afternoon wine and cheese reception. Because ours was the first class to integrate, I read passages from HOME FIRES in honor of Betty Ann Davis Tillman and JoAnne Smart Drane, the two who were brave enough to walk through the fires of bigotry for their education. I was married and living in Italy when some members of my class participated in the Woolworth Lunch Counter Sit-in that resulted in the KKK burning a cross on the campus.

Although Mrs. Tillman died early, I did finally get to meet Mrs. Drane and express my admiration. She says she was naive back then. Naive to believe in fairness and equal rights and that the words of our Constitution really do mean what they say? I don't think so.

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