Meet Miss Dorothy & Miss Charity, two sisters who live on the outskirts of Mars Hill, North Carolina.
I came to meet Miss Dorothy Coon & Miss Charity Ray through efforts to interview former students of the old Rosenwald School, a smaller structure that served as the education center for African-American children in Madison County, North Carolina from 1928 through 1965. Look for a story about the school from Germain Media at a later date.
I had set up the interview via telephone through Miss Dorothy. When Kelley St. Germain, his assistant Tristan Ham and myself arrived at their neat bungalow-styled home, I found Miss Dorothy & Miss Charity to be very welcoming and neighborly.
Although they are sisters, their personalities are as different as night & day. Miss Dorothy is a little more to the shy and reserved side while Miss Charity is more extroverted and outspoken. Nevertheless, both are very warm and ladylike.
Kelley and Tristan set up their recording & audio equipment for the interviews, while the ladies patiently and I sat quietly in the background in a Queen Anne style chair.
I was quietly wondering how in the world I was going to do a story about these ladies without stepping on Kelley’s toes and overlapping the subject of the old Rosenwald School.
My answer came to me as I quietly listened to the ladies each talk about their childhood.
As they talk about their childhood experiences, they talk about their little school which was built in the interest of segregation. Despite the darkness of that particular subject, there is not one ounce of bitterness from either of the ladies. They talk fondly of their childhood through their family strength, the school and their devotion to God in particular.
Says Miss Dorothy in an obvious tone of pride “Charity has been the Choir Director at our church since she was in high school.”
That would be over sixty years, folks. Count ‘em. Sixty.
Race relations have always been a hard subject to talk about and address, particularly when you consider the treatment of African-Americans throughout America’s History, in spite of the black communities contributions and sacrifices on the whole.
America’s south has always held a reputation for cruelty against Africa-Americans and others. Frankly, it is rightfully so.
Madison County itself is part of that as well, having earned nicknames such as “Bloody Madison” as well as other monikers weaved with wild tales, some being just and others not.
However, as I quietly listened to each lady talk, I was dumbfounded by their tale. It went against everything I had ever heard from the media, Hollywood and history class.
Said Miss Charity “When school was over, it was the same for everyone. All of the children played together, both black and white”.
Miss Dorothy chimes in “The boys all played ball together even as young men and into adulthood”.
Says Miss Charity, “Of course there were a few bad apples in the bunch but you just have to overlook them. God don’t like ugly”.
The ladies viewpoints in remembrance of a difficult time in American History fills me with both hope and gratitude. These ladies base their opinions of others on an individual by individual basis, something not extended by many to the African-American Community three generations ago.
Although African-Americans have been held in both the chains of slavery & segregation, these two ladies refuse to place those same chains upon white Americans out of guilt or shame.
Something that Miss Charity says strikes me. “My mother always told me that she had said that if she had three daughters she was going to name them Faith, Hope and Charity. Of course that didn’t happen but when I came along she gave me the name Charity anyway”.
I think to myself that although their late mother had not fulfilled her dream of naming three daughters “Faith, Hope & Charity”, she more importantly had instilled the value of those three words into her daughters through their upbringing.
In the course of thirty minutes, I had been taught a lesson in humility and life.
Faith. Hope. Charity.
Thank You, Ladies.
Y’all have a great week!