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Rep. Keith Ellison Reviews the Civil Rights Movement with s.t.a.r.t.

May 7, 2013

Rep. Keith Ellison Reviews the Civil Rights Movement with s.t.a.r.t.

Rep. Keith Ellison visited s.t.a.r.t. on Wednesday, May 1st, to review the Civil Rights Movement and to help students discern what problems s.t.a.r.t. might solve. He began with a thoughtful review of history, reminding students that when our country began, only white, Protestant males were allowed to own property. He went through many milestones of human rights, including the 15th Amendment guaranteeing  (male) citizens the right to vote, and the 20th Amendment securing the right to vote for women.

He also spoke to how youth essentially launched the the Civil Rights Movement in 1960, with youth demanding service at segregated, whites-only lunch counters, beginning in Greensboro, N.C. Not only did students stay the course in the sit-in movement, but they also played a critical role in the “Freedom Rides” to desegregate public transportation throughout the South.

Rep. Ellison told s.t.a.r.t. that they will play an important role too.  He praised the s.t.a.r.t. students for their courage, but reminded them that there would be work ahead.   One example, he said, was that in a school district where only 200 of our 3,200 teachers are African American (and reflect our majority students of color), it is crucial to keep that history alive.

Students talked with Rep. Ellison about their concerns, including continued segregation in the hallways and little interaction with adult elders of color in our schools.  They also talked with him about how they wanted to see more of their cultures reflected in school curriculum.

Rep. Ellison reminded students that their unity across cultures and races was their strength.  He encouraged them to keep that in mind when times get tough.

He thanked students for their work, while promising them that he was their “adult ally” and would advocate for s.t.a.r.t. amidst his own efforts.  He lauded them for their Creed, which states that “we are not born prejudiced.  We learn prejudice and can unlearn it,” that “all students are capable of success,” and that “we deserve safe places to learn about our cultural identity and that of others.”

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