A LIVING HISTORY

A LIVING HISTORY

I had the privilege this past week of meeting Miss Hattie Washington. Miss Washington was born right here in Abilene in 1921 and has lived here her entire life. She is the oldest known black person to be educated in Abilene that still lives here. Miss Washington attended Abilene Colored School which was segregated and the predecessor to Woodson High School. {{more}} She attended school through the eighth grade, she was about fifteen years old at the time and doesn’t recall all the details, but does remember the school being exclusively black children. And although she knew that wasn’t right, as she put it, she was thankful for being able to be on the basketball team and the track team, things that she would not have been able to enjoy had all the children been integrated. She reflected to me a time in our not so distant past where racial slurs were acceptable and frequently heard as she was just walking down the street. A time when restaurants demanded that she enter and dine in the back of the building. Miss Washington was quiet and reserved about any specifics of the time period and just wanted to keep the conversation general. She also did not want to speak on the ways in which she perceives that Abilene still has a distance to go, as far as treating all our citizens fairly and equally. Folks such as Miss Washington are such a value to our community, our city, and our world. They can escort us through times and places that are so different from what any of us have experienced firsthand. Remind us of how far we have come and at once how far we have yet to go. I feel richer for having had the honor of speaking to Miss Washington. And not only for the few personal stories that she shared with me, but more so for the perspective that I glimpsed. As we go through our day to day lives and interact with the same groups of people day after day, we don’t always realize that this same town and this same world can look and feel completely different to someone who had such a starkly different beginning. There are those, like Miss Washington, who have walked roads that don’t even exist anymore. They have lived lives that most of us can only imagine or read about. They carry with them experience, wisdom, and insight that is rare and valuable.Miss Washington is living history of our city and of our world.