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Ninety-Seven Years of Progress – Happy Birthday Grandma


James E. Johnson Jr. • Jul 13, 2010

Going home is always wonderful.  But going home for special occasions is great.  Today, July 13th, is my grandmother’s 97th birthday. She will not make it into any history books, but she is the history of our nation.  While her life may not be extraordinary, her lifetime is an amazing tribute to those who are unwilling to give in or give up.

For my grandmother, education was separate and nowhere close to equal.  As with many Black girls and boys of the time, my grandmother never graduated from grammar school.  Before the sixth grade she had to leave school to help provide for her family.   However, in her lifetime she was able to see her grandchildren go to integrated schools and see half of them go to college.  This is because of the people of her generation who were unwilling to give in or give up, people such as Thurgood Marshall.

My grandmother’s father served in the Army during WWII, fighting in a segregated unit (led by white officers and staff non-commissioned officers) to keep the world free. He came home to find that he was, at best, a second class citizen.  During her life my grandmother saw her son serve in an integrated unit with honors in the Korean War as a Staff Sergeant with both Black and White soldiers serving under him.  This happened because the generation she raised was unwilling to give in or give up.

While women won the right to vote nationally in 1920, my grandmother was denied her franchise because of the color of her skin.  As a result of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others of the ‘Moses generation’ who were unwilling to give in or give up, she made it over the mountaintop and saw the election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States.

As they say, Grandma, ‘you’ve come a long way baby.’  I can’t help but wonder how far they will say my generation, the ‘Joshua Generation,’ gets us.  However far that is, I want to thank you and the generations before mine for the head start you have given us.

Oh and by the way, Happy Birthday Grandma Helen.

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