Edgar Lee Blackman

Kansas integrated the school system when I was in the 5th grade. 

Most of the black students continued going to their same school as before.  Only a few transferred to Ingalls, the formerly white school.

One of those was Edgar Lee Blackman.

Edgar wasn’t in my class, and I only knew what I had heard.  He was known to be very funny and friendly.

After the 6th grade, we went to Matheson, a middle school, for 7 through 9th.

I only went the first two years because my family moved to a better location.

It was more than a mile from my house to Matheson.  I would ride my bicycle to and from school.  Soon I saw that Edgar was walking to school.  He lived even farther than I did.  I began giving him a ride on my bike both ways.

When we returned home, my mother would always feed us a snack.  It was her mission in life to feed the world.  She just happened to be an excellent cook.

In total, less than a dozen black students were going to Matheson.  One was also named Duane, and comparing the spelling of our names was the only conversation I had with him.

I had two cousins who went to Matheson, but they were older and now going to a high school.  They warned me that a group of bullies would pick one student to harass all day.  I was told that there was nothing I could do about it.  I would be punched in the arm, slammed against the walls, and tripped.

One morning it was my turn.

Three or four boys began talking trash to me for 5 or 10 minutes.  All at once, they stopped for no apparent reason.  I could see that they were looking at something behind me.  I turned to see a group of black students standing behind me.  Edgar wasn’t one of them.

Eventually, I found out that they knew that I was a friend of Edgar, and that made me OK in their book.

The bullies were afraid of the black students, and that is what saved me.  The bullies avoided me every time that they saw me.

Those black boys were all honor roll students and not likely to be interested in fighting.

That was my first experience with racism.

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