I am so looking forward to this session. This is very cool.
Seriously. How cool is it to listen to stories from people like this?
The daughter of Fred Korematsu, Karen Korematsu; Anthony Chavez, the grandson of Cesar Chávez; and Kenneth B. Morris, Jr., the great great great grandson of Frederick Douglass and great great grandson of Booker T. Washington are sharing stories personal anecdotes about their famous relatives and talking about how their work reflects the legacies of these great Americans. How do descendants of human and civil rights heroes continue the work of their famous ancestors?
Some amazing stories but a few quick quotes. And at the bottom of the post, links to amazing resources and lesson plans.
I didn’t know how deeply his convictions ran until I learned more about his case later on as I got older.
Both of my ancestors were born into slavery but both men recognized early on that knowledge is power and that would be what would free them. Douglas once heard a slave owner tell someone else that “you can’t teach a slave to read and write because they would then realize that they need to be free.”
My grandfather had a voracious appetite for reading. He read everything. He had to quit school in 8th grade because of the brutal economic burden that his family was in. We knew him as fun loving and goofy. Also very tender. We never realized that this grandfather of ours was this huge civil rights icon. Because he was always making time for us. He always said that the end of all education should be the service of others.
When my father was in the first grade, the teacher couldn’t pronounce his first name. She asked “do you want to be called Fred?” There is a real need to respect the background of your students.
I was a junior in high school and my teachers was assigning books to kids to read. A friend was given a book called Concentration Camps USA. She got up to give her book report and talks about the Japanese internment. And I said to myself, theat’s interesting. SHe then shared about this landmark Supreme Court case and it was called Korematsu vs. The United States.
Oh! That’s my name. There were only six Japanese kids in a school of 2500 students. And everyone looked at me like I had horns on my head. I asked my friend later and she “Well, this is about your dad.”
I asked my dad later that night about the case. I could see the hurt in his face. He said “I did what I thought was right and the government thought that I was wrong.” We didn’t really talk about it. No other Japanese American families did either. They just wanted to put that part of their life behind them.
Later he started talking more about. He begin stressing the importance of education. Education will ensure that something like the incarceration of Japanese Americans can’t happen again – especially after 9/11 and attempts at racial profiling.
I spent my summers in Fredrick Douglas’s house. There was a tower in that house that he would sit, look across the bay, and was able to view the area where had been a slave.
I was five years old, was walking up the stairs, and there was a scary portrait of Frederick. That picture spoke to me. It said “You will do great things, young man.”
As I grew up, I began to see Fredrick and Booker on money, on statues, on stamps, on all sorts of things. And I ran away from that responsibility. I didn’t talk about it. But in school, one assignment was to do a family tree. My mom gave me a cane to take as a show and tell. The cane was given to Fredrick by Mary Todd Lincoln after Lincoln’s death. Ken’s mom got a call later in the day from the principal telling her that Ken is having trouble telling the truth.
A friend later asked me, “Who better to talk about 21st human trafficking than you?” At the time, I had two young daughters. I begin to realize that I had a platform built by sacrifice that could be used in powerful ways. There was a reason for my lineage.
My story is a bit different. This was forced on me. We would often be put in a car and driven to a demonstration or event. I just thought everyone’s family did these sorts of things.
In third grade, my grandfather passed away. The next day we were in the town where the first protest took place and it doubled overnight. Over time, we began to see more and more coverage of what my goofy grandfather had done. And as I grew up, I began to do more and more speeches and events.
All three have created organizations that focus on education, civil rights, and immigration. All three of the groups provide free resources and lessons that need to be in your classrooms. You need to check these sites out. I’m not kidding. You need to get over there.
- Frederick Douglas Family Initiatives
“It’s easier to build strong children than repair broken adults.”
- Fred Korematsu Institute
Much later in life, my father told me “I can’t do this anymore. It’s up to you now to share this story.”
- Cesar Chavez Foundation
“We don’t need a perfect political system. We need perfect participation.”