When Eleanor Roosevelt found out that African-American singer Marian Anderson was denied access to sing at the Daughters of the American Revolution auditorium, she wrote a letter resigning from the organization and organized 75,000 black and white citizens to hear Anderson sing at the Lincoln Memorial.
That is just one of the stories professional storyteller Sylvia Greene seeks to keep alive.
In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the upcoming Black History Month, the Brainerd resident shared this and other stories related to King's "dream" with Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts students last week. After 30 years as an educator in Hamilton County Schools, she still educates young minds through storytelling.
"Dr. Martin Luther King was a very brave and courageous man that had a vision for a better America," said Greene prior to her storytelling segment at CSLA in East Brainerd. "It was his passion and desire to stamp out racial injustice and discrimination. Dr. Martin Luther King had [white] friends of the dream ... Eleanor Roosevelt and Bob Zellner. Many times when we discuss the Civil Rights movement, we forget to mention the contributions of white supporters who marched with Dr. King or, in Eleanor Roosevelt's case, blazed the trail for him to step into the dream. Eleanor Roosevelt was expected to raise her children, go to parties and keep quiet, but she could not see injustice and keep her mouth shut. She stepped up and wrote letters that made a difference."
When Roosevelt heard about the Tuskegee Airmen, a company of African-American pilots who fought in World War II, being denied the chance to fly, she went down to fly with them and told everyone that if they were good enough to fly with her, they were good enough to fly with the military, Greene said.
"Eleanor lit the candle that sparked the dream," she said. "Bob Zellner of Alabama was committed to helping Dr. King stamp out racial discrimination. Bob was arrested 18 times in seven different states but continued to walk hand in hand with Dr. King."
After Greene completed her storytelling experience at CSLA, she spent Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Washington, D.C., watching the inauguration of President Barack Obama for his second term as president.
She said she continues to marvel at how far "the dream" has come.
Email Katie Ward Hamilton at firstname.lastname@example.org