Black History Month – A Very Personal Reflection, 1 of 2

Note: The following – celebrating Black History Month commemorating those who have influenced me most, and, here, Evelyn Hoard Roberts (1920-2007), my maternal aunt – posted initially on February 5, 2015, I share again with slight revisions.

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Evelyn, following Audia Mae Hoard Roberts, her trailblazing mother and my grandmother, during her college years, was an activist with the St. Louis branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. After graduation, her NAACP association and devotion continued. Evelyn served in multiple capacities. Chairing education and membership committees. Then, successively, as branch vice-president, treasurer, and president. Her presidency (1963-1966) was an über-busy time. The branch, among numerous initiatives, litigated against the St. Louis Board of Education for unfair practices in resource allocation, demonstrated for Missouri civil rights legislation, and filed legal injunction to protest employment discrimination practices in the building of the St. Louis Gateway Arch and in the municipal service system. Later, she served as a national board member, focusing her energies on the subcommittee on prison reform.

Dedicated to her causes, Evelyn was equally serious of academic purpose. One vignette among countless. I never can forget a Saturday visit to her home office during her doctoral study years. I found her in tears. Her research paper, A View of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Mysticism through the Lens of The House of the Seven Gables, was due the following Monday. A 200-page opus with 20 pages of single-spaced end notes. With a last-instant review of the syllabus, she was horrified to have overlooked one direction. Length of Paper: No more than 100 pages of text. In the remaining hours of that weekend, frantically she set about trimming, slashing her well-crafted prose!

Evelyn was more than an activist and academician. As our maiden aunt, she was liberal with her time and generous in her affection, lavishing her attention on my brother Wayne and me. Frequently, she took us on outings; always riding in style in her immaculate Buick Invicta ragtop. To museums. To the symphony and the opera. To the Old Courthouse in downtown St. Louis. There, she recounted to us in vivid detail the 1847 story of Dred and Harriet Scott suing for their freedom from slavery. To her church, 1st Baptist on the corner of Cardinal and Bell Avenues, for Sunday School and worship (at the time unbeknownst to me, the place where I would find my preaching voice!). And, for purest fun, to the zoo or, every summer, to a night during the week-long run when the Shrine Circus came to town.

A brilliant, outrageously funny raconteur…

A vivacious fashionista decades before the HBO series Sex and the City popularized the term and the look…

A proud black woman with a wealth of interests, a breadth of opinion, and a depth of faith in God.

Aunt Evelyn, I salute you!

© 2021 PRA

4 thoughts on “Black History Month – A Very Personal Reflection, 1 of 2

  1. This was sooooo cool!! What an amazing woman!! I would have had a heart attack if I had to trim such an important academic paper.

    Your aunt sounds so much like my Aunt Diane, except for the academic part. Diane took us on all kinds of trips too and spoiled us rotten with her affection, time and gifts. It was such an honor to care for her while she was dying. I’m thrilled you had such a amazing aunt too!! Your salute to her was fabulous!

    Much love!

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  2. Thanks, Loretta. Evelyn was so very special and remains so in blessed memory.

    As for her having to trim her paper. And back in that day, that meant that Evelyn, once editing from 200 to 100 pages, which was difficult enough, had to retype that 100 pages!

    Evelyn, as my mother, was stricken with Alzheimer’s disease. During her final years, we moved her in mom’s home. I am not sure, for the most part, either knew the other, which was and remains a most saddening thought. Nevertheless, they were together until Evelyn’s death. I find some peace in that.

    Love

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  3. Dear Paul,

    I salute your Aunt Evelyn too! She sounds like a marvelous woman, scholar, and activist, not to mention a devoted aunt. The story about the research paper made my stomach ache! What a completely unnerving discovery that must have been. But she fixed it – in a weekend!

    Thank you for sharing her full, busy life with us. I’m so glad she was in your life and served her family, her friends, her city, and her society so well and so faithfully. She is a beautiful Black History character whose story needs to be widely known.

    Love,

    Karen

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  4. Thank you, Karen. My Aunt Evelyn was and, as she abides in my cherished memories, is an extraordinary human being. I do believe my appreciation of her hath grown o’er the years. As a child I wasn’t – and couldn’t have been fully – aware of how engaged in the life of the world for good she was…

    And, ’twas only after her death when, looking through her papers (for one of her obvious characteristics was that she was, as all in the family would call her “a clutter-bug”!), did I come across a cache of newspaper clippings of stories about the civic activism of her mother, my grandmother! I always knew that my grandmother Audia was as fierce as she was lovingly doting on my brother Wayne and me. I did not know that she figuratively and literally was out-in-the-streets as a civil-and-equal rights advocate and protester! Clearly, she was. And, as clearly, Evelyn took up Mom’s (for my grandmother disdained our calling her “Grandmother” or “Grandma”; for, she said, “Only God is grand!”) banner and carried on!

    Again, thank you, Karen.

    Love

    Like

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