Civil Rights Stories Come to Life at Cornell Elementary

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By Mentor Artist Hannah Gavagan
unnamedHappy July 4th!
There is nothing like a good story. Some stories are life-changing and some stories are told over and over again but still somehow sound new. That is the magic of theater and story telling.
The third grade classes at Cornell Elementary were studying the civil rights movement and were exposed to all kinds of stories. The story of Martin Luther King Jr. The story of Ruby Bridges. Of Rosa Parks. But there was one story they learned that I didn’t know. And that was the story of Fannie Lou Hamer.
Fannie Lou Hamer worked tirelessly to be registered to vote. Then she gave back and helped so many people of color register. Then she ran for office. She lost every time she ran.
At first the students weren’t happy with the ending of the story. “But…She never won?!”

So often we overlook the most important part of the stories of these leaders – the struggle. Fannie Lou Hamer never won an election but she educated countless people on voting rights. She paved the way for others after her to run for office. I realized that was wanted I wanted to teach the students through her story. Sometimes we don’t get the outcome we wanted. But hard work and perseverance ALWAYS pays off, even if it pays the generation after you.
The students collaborated beautifully and told sides of the stories that are forgotten. I hope the walked away with knowing that persevering is worth it. That grit is good. That progress trumps perfection.

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