“As a child in Bradley County, I didn’t know prejudice. Then as I grew up, it seemed to be all around me,” Humes said. “I recall being last to be served at the ice cream shop. Later, as a teacher, children were removed from my classroom [because of the color of my skin].”
Humes told the group that creation of Black History month in 1926 is credited to historian Carter G. Woodson. The purpose then, and now, was to teach students the important contributions that black Americans have made to our society.
She spoke of the leadership of Frederick Douglass within the abolitionist movement after escaping slavery, and the nineteen missions Harriet Tubman undertook using the Underground Railroad. Her rescue of 300 slaves earned her the nickname ‘Moses’.
She then recounted the important literary works of Maya Angelou and Langston Hughes stating a stanza from his poetry, “A world I dream where black or white, whatever race you be, will share the bounties of the earth and every man is free.”
Humes gave a moving rendition of Sojourner Truth’s famous ‘Ain’t I a Woman’ speech, and spoke of the historical significance of Rosa Park’s singular act of defiance as the seminal event for the modern Civil Rights Movement.
“Martin Luther King, Jr. taught us that ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’,” Humes stated. She continued with Dr. King’s words “I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”
She shared the words of President Obama, “Hope is the bedrock of this nation; the belief that our destiny will not be written for us, but by us; by all those men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is; who have courage to remake the world as it should be.”
Humes concluded with the story “What if There Were No Black People in the World.” In the tale, a young boy learns that a great many items in our daily lives were invented by black people, including the comb and brush, ironing board, clothes dryer, pencil sharpener and fountain pen, refrigerator, heating furnace and air conditioner, electric trolley, elevator, and the filament for electric light bulbs. Humes paused in her speech, looked about the room and concluded, “Where would we be now without black people? Sitting here in the dark!”
Cynthia Humes was an educator for 37+ years, and remains active in service to our community.