Wade, Geneva

Geneva Wade was born to a family of tenant farmers in the Myrtle community, just northwest of New Albany in Union County. She recalled walking down the railroad tracks to the one-room Pine Bluff School that served African American students in Myrtle. She wondered why she could not ride in the covered wagon, or later school the bus, like white students. She wrote of an incident that occurred one morning during her walk to school:

“One morning as we were traveling to school on the highway in bunches (as we usually did) a white boy got off the bus to whip a black girl because she talked back to him. The big black boys were a short distance behind. Before they could get there to defend her, she had bloodied his face and torn off most of his clothes. That did not stop the verbal slurs but no one got off the bus to strike anyone again.”

In spite of their tormentors, Wade wrote that she and her peers maintained their spirits: “Even though we were sometimes run off the road into ditches of briars and bushes, we felt little anger; for we were proud to go to school.”

Wade was, however, keenly aware of the disparity that existed:

“The white schools had desks and rooms for different grades. All the eight grades were taught in one room at the black school. Discipline problems were few and of a minor nature. The smart older students taught the younger ones alternately, so they wouldn’t miss too much of their lessons. Books were scarce for they had to be bought and few parents could afford them.”

When she was fourteen, Wade continued her high school education at Union County Training School, the only African American high school in Union County. She recalled her excitement at seeing the many-roomed schoolhouse with its desks and books. She soon learned, however, that the books and desks in her new school were hand-me-downs from white schools in the community. Of her education, Wade wrote:

“Our history books lauded great things the white man did. This was drilled into the mind of the black student; with a few, isolated, diluted facts of what a few blacks every accomplished. I learned history like a speech, but little did I learn back then about black history because the books minimized it; and we, too, lauded the white heroes.”

Sources:

Geneva Wade, Opportunities for Black Students to Obtain an Education Under a Segregated System and its Effects on Their Lives, in CITY OF NEW ALBANY, SESQUICENTENNIAL COMMEMORATIVE BOOKLET, NEW ALBANY, MISSISSIPPI 1840-1990 20, 20 (1990).