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I WAS JUST THINKING…: A tear for lost history and fading memories

By Norma Adams-Wade

Maurine F. Bailey
The late Lincoln H. S. choir director Maurine F. Bailey. / Photo Credit: the African American Museum in Dallas

“Memories light the corners of my mind.” From the song “The Way We Were.”
Written by Marvin Hamlisch and Alan and Marilyn Bergman.

Can you recall your earliest memory? How soon we forget.

At some point in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955, a number of people must have known that 15-year-old Claudette Colvin refused to give up her bus seat so a White woman could sit down. But instead of Colvin being remembered, the world forgot her, and Rosa Parks earned a place in history for that feat

Eventually, decades later, Claudette Colvin’s name resurfaced. The world learned that she kept her seat before Mrs. Parks but did not gain notoriety for her boldness.

The point is that we forget. We move on. We do not carry history in our back pockets.

I was just thinking…I know of other situations where we have forgotten too soon.

I forgot that the Rev. Zan Wesley Holmes Jr. was a member of the board of Regents at the University of Texas at Austin, my alma mater back in the day. He was the first African-American board member and has so many accolades that I forgot that one.

I had forgotten stories I grew up hearing about Black Dallas night life in the historic Freedmen’s Town of Deep Ellum and the State-Thomas area. Then, I read something about the popular Gypsy Tea Room and Harlem Theatre that jogged my memory.

Those sites were staples in the early Black Dallas community and worth remembering.

The world lost the history of so many African-Americans who invented things that became permanent in our lives – the ironing board (Sarah Boone), automatic elevator doors (Alexander Miles), the potato chip (George Crum).

And here is one that hits close to home, especially in Black Dallas. Spending four years at Lincoln High School in South Dallas, I thought I knew all the stories of the community and high school. But you never get too old to learn more.

When I returned home from college, I later began writing for the local daily newspaper. One column was about my high school choir director, Maurine F. Bailey, who became a legend at the school and in the community. Some time before she retired, the choir was renamed in her honor. When she finally retired, a street in the community and near the school was named Maurine F. Bailey Way. Further, the Maurine F. Bailey Cultural Foundation that provides student scholarships also bears her name.

In the column, I quoted Muriel Reed Bowman, a former Lincoln valedictorian during the 1940s. Bowman cleared up some longstanding misinformation. She said she wanted to clarify in order to honor another individual while not taking away any well-deserved esteem from Mrs. Bailey.

Students and the public long had stated that Mrs. Bailey created and named the choir after noted Black composer Harry T. Burleigh when she became choir director in the mid-1940s. In fact, said Ms. Bowman, Mrs. Bailey’s predecessor – Alexander Stevens Jackson II – organized and named the choir when the school opened in 1939. Jackson was named after his father who was pastor of the prominent New Hope Baptist church in Dallas. His brother, Maynard Jackson Sr., succeeded his father as New Hope pastor. Maynard Sr.’s son, Maynard Jackson Jr., became mayor of Atlanta, GA.

So many things happened in history that we will never know about and sometimes get wrong. Someone should shed a tear for the history we never learned. It happened. It was phenomenal. No one recorded it. Everyone forgot it. I mourn.

Norma Adams-Wade, is a proud Dallas native, University of Texas at Austin journalism graduate and retired Dallas Morning News senior staff writer. She is a founder of the National Association of Black Journalists and was its first southwest regional director. She became The News’ first Black full-time reporter in 1974.

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