Monday, October 9, 2017

125. Segregation in Gettysburg in 1949

The last few months of our senior year at Gettysburg High School in the spring of 1949 were filled with baseball games, track meets, final exams, a Student Council Conference hosted by our school, an Easter music program, dances and a senior prom.

One of the most memorable events was our class trip to Washington on  April 25 and 26. We left school early Monday morning and toured all the major sites, and returned to Gettysburg late Tuesday. Monday night the girls checked in at the Cairo Hotel and the boys stayed at the Martinique. 

Nancy’s diary for that trip reveals a forgotten and troublesome memory.  According to Nancy, our seven black classmates did not join us. That information prompted me to call our classmate Betty Lee Dorsey Myers who still lives in Gettysburg.

Betty Lee confirmed Nancy’s notes and revealed the reason they didn’t go was because they knew they would not be welcome in Washington.

Then Betty Lee also revealed that when we were in Gettysburg High School in the Forties, she and her black friends were never welcome at the places we frequented including the Teen Canteen.  Nancy and I were dumbfounded. How could there have been such racial discrimination, and we were not aware of it? Or were we simply naive? Nearly seventy years later, we are both embarrassed and ashamed.

Betty Lee also informed me that she is a former elementary school teacher in Gettysburg who graduated from Shippensburg University. She is also the author of Segregation in Death:Gettysburg’s Lincoln Cemetery.

Incidentally, Betty Lee prefers to be recognized as a “black” woman which is why she is described as such in this report.

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