I am always referencing the Little Rock Nine or one of their members. But I want to remember and honor a brave woman who was a courageous teenager. Dorothy Counts was one of 4 black students selected to integrate all white schools in Charlotte, North Carolina. On September 4, 1957, Dot as the then 15 year-old was known to her friends and family thought it would just another school. She had no idea of the hostile crowds that awaited her. She was mocked, harassed, bullied and spat upon, in other words terrorized as those students did not want her there. Amazing that Emma Warlick, wife of the White Citizen’s Council President John Z. Warlick walked with the crowd ordering the boys to keep her out and the girls to spit on her. Dot’s parents feared so much for her safety that they pulled her out after just 4 days of attending. Dot’s parents sent her to Philadelphia were the schools were already integrated.
Examine the photos. Dot has her head held high. She is not reacting to the terrorism surrounding her. Many of those who threw rocks at Dot, spit or her and otherwise harassed her are still alive. I hope that they are haunted by these images. Some, just like those in the Little Rock Nine apologized for their racist and imbecilic behavior. These racists could never imagine a time where Jim Crow and government sanctioned racism would be a thing of the past. Those images left many having to explain to their children and grandchildren why exactly they were so racist or why they stood by and did nothing. Some don’t like to talk about it, or ask why it keeps being brought up. Those folks may not have come to terms with their racist past or how they mistreated Dot Counts. Maybe they really are ashamed. Who knows some may even have worked or be working for black people. Oh the irony.
Fast forward 50 plus years and you will find Dot Counts-Scoggins has not only forgiven but has also become friends with some of the very men in the background jeering her. Today, they are cheering Dot. Dot was busy running a faith based child care center right there in Charlotte as she returned to pursue a college education. She is frequently asked to speak about her experience and was eventually honored with a diploma from Harding High School where over 50 years ago, Dorothy Counts broke the color barrier and integrated an all white school. In 2010, Harding named a building in Dorothy’s Honor. What a courageous young lady Dot was, and what a brave soul she is today!
Ronnie Hall and Woody Cooper then and now.
Jeanette Vaillancourt-Bambauer and Dorothy Counts-Scoggins
The Three Other Students (They integrated peacefully without fanfare.)