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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Theme Unit
What Desegregation Meant to Margaret

What Desegregation Meant to Margaret
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 4 to 5
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   4.41

     challenging words:    jamming, leaky, pecan-tan, rundown, uppity, evolve, hurried, education, gonna, heading, illegal, segregation, ought, slacks, slender, schools
     content words:    Margaret Stowe, Little Rock Nine, Central High, Rock Nine, United States Supreme Court, President Eisenhower, To Margaret, Jean Elizabeth, Margaret Ann, Albert Johnson

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What Desegregation Meant to Margaret
By Brenda B. Covert

1     Margaret Stowe hurried to the kitchen table wearing a yellow blouse, brown skirt, and saddle shoes. She sat down to enjoy a breakfast of fried eggs, bacon, toast, and grits. Her parents and younger sister, Jean, had started without her. Her father was reading the newspaper. It was September 25, 1957.
2     "Look at this!" her father said, shaking the paper out and holding it up. "Yesterday the Little Rock Nine finally got into that white high school, Central High! I never thought I'd see the day."
3     Margaret paused from buttering her toast. "What is The Little Rock Nine?" she asked.
4     "It's a who, not a what," her father said. "The Little Rock Nine are nine brave Negro teenagers that have been trying to get into the white folks' public school. It's been three years since the United States Supreme Court declared segregation illegal, yet we're still in separate schools! The whites kept the good ones, and they leave us colored folk with old rundown schools. We're past due for a change." Then he slapped the paper with the back of his hand and laughed. "President Eisenhower had to send in the army to get those kids into school! The white folks were having a fit, but they're gonna have to get used to it." He took a sip of coffee. "Our Constitution states that all men are created equal. It's about time folks in this country started acting like they believe it."
5     As she nibbled her toast, Margaret thought of the school she walked to five days a week. Buses took the white students to their schools, but the colored students had no bus to ride. The classroom ceilings had brown stains from the leaky roof. Paint peeled. On any given day, a toilet was out of order. Students had to bring their own drinking water to school. There was no doubt about it; it wasn't a pleasant building in which to get an education.
6     On the other hand, all of her friends were there Alice, Melba, Dorothy, Fran, and the others. Margaret's mother helped the parent group organize Bingo games and suppers to raise money for school improvements. To Margaret that small school was more than a place to learn, it was a whole community of friends and family.
7     Her teacher, Mrs. Franklin, taught them Negro history once a week and said things like, "Your time is coming." "Segregation will be nothing but a memory." "You can be anything, but you got to get ready!" She taught her students to be proud of their heritage and to dream big. Mrs. Franklin, in her drab blue dresses, beamed with joy at the achievements of her students.
8     Mrs. Stowe cleared the table. "You'd best be heading off to school, Jean Elizabeth," she said. Jean slid out of her chair and ran off to wash her hands. "You, too, Margaret Ann."
9     "Yes, ma'am," Margaret answered. She went to the sink to fill her glass jar with water. She screwed on the lid and then picked up her books.

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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Theme Unit
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