‘The Way to Survive It Was to Make A’s’

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Photo: Creative Commons / Flickr / zbtwells
Media Outlet: The New York Times Magazine

Mosi Secret wrote for the New York Times Magazine's education issue about an effort to integrate the South's elite prep schools:

The road to Virginia Episcopal School was more secluded in those days, winding a few miles from the white section of segregated Lynchburg through a wood of maple and oak to the school’s rolling campus, shielded by trees and the more distant Blue Ridge Mountains. The usual stream of cars navigated the bends on the first day of school, white families ferrying their adolescent sons. Like nearly every other elite prep school in the South, it had been the boarding school’s tradition since its founding in 1916 that its teachers guide white boys toward its ideal of manhood — erudite, religious, resilient. But that afternoon of Sept. 8, 1967, a taxi pulled up the long driveway carrying a black teenager, Marvin Barnard. He had journeyed across the state, 120 miles by bus, from the black side of Richmond, unaccompanied, toting a single suitcase. In all of Virginia, a state whose lawmakers had responded to the 1954 court-ordered desegregation of public schools with a strategy of declared “massive resistance,” no black child had ever enrolled in a private boarding school. When Marvin stepped foot on V.E.S. ground, wearing a lightweight sport jacket, a white dress shirt, a modest necktie and a cap like the ones the Beatles were wearing, the white idyll was over.

Author:

Mosi Secret, Eric & Wendy Schmidt Fellow, will write a book about a little known effort to desegregate elite boarding schools in the South beginning in the late 1960s.