For Black History Month – A Penultimate Personal Reflection

In my recognition Black History Month, I honor those who shaped me.

Evelyn Hoard Roberts. My maternal aunt.

Following Mom, her trailblazing mother and my grandmother, Evelyn, during her college years, was active in the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People. After graduation, her NAACP affiliation…devotion continued. Evelyn served in multiple committee and executive capacities. During her presidency (1963-1966), the NAACP 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. Later, as a national board member, Evelyn focused her energies on prison reform.

Dedicated to her causes, Evelyn was equally serious of academic purpose. One vignette among countless. Once, 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. Having completed her almost 200-page opus with nearly 30 pages of single-spaced end notes, reviewing the syllabus, she was horrified to have missed one direction: Length of paper – 150 pages. Over 24 restive hours, she trimmed…slashed her well-crafted prose! Most especially, concerned with the nearly all-levels educational field’s exclusion of attention to Black authors, her doctoral dissertation became the teacher’s manual, American Literature and the Arts, including Black Expression.[1]

More than an activist and academician, Evelyn was 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 the symphony, museums, and the opera. On one most memorable excursion to the downtown St. Louis Old Courthouse, she recounted in detail the 1847-story of Dred and Harriet Scott suing for their freedom from slavery.

Evelyn. A brilliant raconteur. A vivacious fashionista decades before the term and the look became popular. A proud black woman with a wealth of interests, a breadth of opinion, and a depth of faith in God.

© 2023 PRA

Photograph (c. 1950): Evelyn Hoard Roberts (1920-2007)

[1] Heath Cote Publishing Company, New York, New York (1977)

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