The Strike at Froebel

“We were in school one day, the next day when we went back, the entire white population of students were gone.”

Transcript for The Strike at Froebel

I was totally shocked when I moved to Gary. For the simple reason, I had not encountered some of the prejudice in Detroit in school that I encountered here. It was a shocker.

The schools, it was set up as a district. My mother had to go to Horace Mann school in order to get me transferred from Roosevelt to Froebel. Froebel was the only integrated school in the area. Emerson had a few black students, but that was because they lived in the area. Roosevelt was an entirely black school. I think there were two or three white students there because their parents owned property in the area.

I don’t think I really realized how serious race relations were until the strike at Froebel. That was a total shocker to me. 1943 or 1944 or somewhere in there, I’m not quite sure about the date. We come out of school one day, the next day, when we went back, all the other kids were gone. We were the only ones showing up. They let us come to school, and we stayed in school the entire time until Frank Sinatra. And he wanted to talk to the children at the school. I don’t think they let him come to the school. They had him go to Memorial Auditorium. The way they had it arranged, they had all of the other schools come in, and the last ones to arrive were Froebel… was really Froebel… Roosevelt then Froebel. Downstairs was already filled with the other schools. The first thing we thought was, “Hey, we’re involved. How come we’re not sitting down there?” That’s the first thing that went through our minds. We didn’t think about the prejudice or anything to it, but that was the first thing that went through our mind, “How come we got to sit up here?”

It was about a couple of weeks that it lasted. They were really determined that we were going to get kicked out, and sent to Roosevelt. Like I said, we were in school one day, the next day when we went back the entire white population of students were gone. And we were puzzled. Because there weren’t any fights, there might have been a few words exchanged at times or something like that, but we basically went to school with them, and left and went home. When we realized why they were on strike, we got angry about it. I would have liked to have gone up and shake somebody and say, “Hey, my blood is the same red as yours, so what is the matter with you?” That was the way I felt at the time, but that wasn’t going to solve anything. I never realized that even some of the teachers felt the same way about us attending the schools. Some of them let us know right away, which I appreciate it after I got older because at least they told me how they felt so I understand what their reaction to me was, and I could handle that.

We were angry, but we had learned. The first thing our parents said to us when they knew about that strike, “Don’t go in there and act foolish.” We were supposed to go there and act like we were proper young ladies and young men, so we did not what you say… wanna really hit somebody upside the head and say “behave yourself, cuz I’m just as good as you are,” but that was not allowed. We were not allowed to do that. I wouldn’t have been able to sit down for a week.

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