My Friend, Miss Marie
February 14, 2013
I had the distinct privilege of being acquainted with a unique woman. Her accomplishments were versatile and prolific. During an era when an African American was lucky to attain an eighth grade education, Miss Marie graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education in 1930 from Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She went on to obtain her master’s degree in student personnel administration from Columbia University in New York. The 1940 census records her as being a school teacher in a public school in Bienville Parish, Louisiana.
As a youngster, Miss Marie attended a one-room school in a local church. From that time, she was determined to teach in one of those schools, but she never made it back. At an early age, she went to Baton Rouge in order to attend Southern. She worked in the laundry to help pay her way. On graduation morning, before she could get herself ready, Miss Marie had to iron the shirts of various faculty members. Dedication to her goal of getting an education gave her the strength to keep going. Even in her nineties, Miss Marie could still fold sheets with a finesse I have never been able to emulate!
Retiring as assistant principal in May 1968, Miss Marie’s educational career of nearly 40 years began and ended at the same school, although the name changed three different times during her career: Bienville Parish Training School, Arcadia Colored High School, and Crawford High School.
I remember when her youngest grandson graduated from college. Miss Marie gave me the biggest smile as she announced proudly, "I’ve accomplished another goal! I have seen my daughter and all my grandchildren graduate from college!" Yes, education was important to Miss Marie.
I became acquainted with Miss Marie through her grandchildren’s friendship with my children. I was drawn to this remarkable woman through the stories she told of her life growing up in Louisiana. Her grandmother was born a slave, but refused to talk about that time of her life. She told Miss Marie, "Those were bad times. I don’t want to talk about it." Tracing Miss Marie’s life and family through census research, I was able to confirm her memories. As we sat talking in her kitchen, her daughter would also ask questions about various family members: who, what, when, and where. The first step in genealogy is to talk with family members. And the second step is corroborating those stories through census records and other vital records from the county--or in the case of Louisiana--parish records.
Below are listed some how-to books available here at the Midwest Genealogy Center. These will introduce you to some resources for African-American research:
- Afro-American Genealogy Sourcebook
- Beginning African-American Genealogy [sound recording]
- Black Genesis: A Resource Book for African-American Genealogy
In another blog, I will share a particular event of Miss Marie’s life that showed how much she valued her rights as an American citizen.
Midwest Genealogy Center