Wil Lou Gray
186 pages
English

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186 pages
English

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In Wil Lou Gray: The Making of a Southern Progressive from New South to New Deal, Mary Macdonald Ogden examines the first fifty years of the life and work of South Carolina's Wil Lou Gray (1883-1984), an uncompromising advocate of public and private programs to improve education, health, citizen participation, and culture in the Palmetto State. Motivated by the southern educational reform crusade, her own excellent education, and the high levels of illiteracy she observed in South Carolina, Gray capitalized on the emergent field of adult education before and after World War I to battle the racism, illiteracy, sexism, and political lethargy commonplace in her native state.

As state superintendent of adult schools from 1919 to 1946, one of only two such superintendents in the nation, and through opportunity schools, adult night schools, pilgrimages, and media campaigns—all of which she pioneered—Gray transformed South Carolina's anti-illiteracy campaign from a plan of eradication to a comprehensive program of adult education. Ogden's biography reveals how Gray successfully secured small but meaningful advances for both black and white adults in the face of harsh economic conditions, pervasive white supremacy attitudes, and racial violence. Gray's socially progressive politics brought change in the first decades of the twentieth century.

Gray was a refined, sophisticated upper-class South Carolinian who played Canasta, loved tomato aspic, and served meals at the South Carolina Opportunity School on china with cloth napkins. She was also a lifelong Democrat, a passionate supporter of equality of opportunity, a masterful politician, a workaholic, and in her last years a vociferous supporter of government programs such as Medicare and nonprofits such as Planned Parenthood.

She had a remarkable grasp of the issues that plagued her state and, with deep faith in the power of government to foster social justice, developed innovative ways to address those problems despite real financial, political, and social barriers to progress. Her life is an example of how one person with bravery, tenacity, and faith in humanity can grasp the power of government to improve society.


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Informations

Publié par
Date de parution 30 décembre 2015
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781611175691
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 1 Mo

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,1850€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.

Extrait

Wil Lou Gray
Wil Lou Gray and Wil Lou Gray II, 1958. Author s collection.
Wil Lou Gray
T HE M AKING OF A
S OUTHERN P ROGRESSIVE
FROM N EW SOUTH TO N EW DEAL

M ARY M ACDONALD O GDEN
2016 University of South Carolina
Published by the University of South Carolina Press
Columbia, South Carolina 29208
www.sc.edu/uscpress
25 24 23 22 21 20 19 18 17 16
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
can be found at http://catalog.loc.gov/
ISBN: 978-1-61117-568-4 (cloth)
ISBN: 978-1-61117-569-1 (ebook)
Front cover photographs: Gray (center) with President Hoover, White House reception, South Carolina Night School Pilgrimage, Washington, D.C., 1930, courtesy of author; (inset) Gray in graduation gown, courtesy of South Carolina Department of Archives and History
To my daughters, Anabell and Mary Laci Motley My parents, William and Lou Ogden My great-great aunt, Dr. Wil Lou Gray
We live in the past by a knowledge of its history, and in the future by hope and anticipation. By ascending to an association with our ancestors; by contemplating their example, and studying their character; by partaking their sentiments, and imbibing their spirit; by accompanying them in their toils; by sympathizing in their sufferings, and rejoicing in their successes and their triumphs, we mingle our own existence with theirs and seem to belong to their age. We become their contemporaries, live the lives which they lived, endure what they endured, and partake in the rewards which they enjoyed.
Daniel Webster, First Settlement of New England, 1820
C ONTENTS

Foreword
Preface
Acknowledgments
Introduction: The Politics of Progress
C HAPTER 1
Ancestry and Heritage
C HAPTER 2
Awakening
C HAPTER 3
The Making of a Professional
C HAPTER 4
Commodifying Literacy
C HAPTER 5
Democracy in Black and White
Conclusion
Notes
Bibliography
Index
F OREWORD

I am Wil Lou Gray Ogden, and I am the oldest child of Kea Council and Albert Dial Gray Jr. and the great-niece and namesake of Wil Lou Gray. Daddy was determined that his first daughter be named for his beloved Aunt Wil Lou, so my arrival was simultaneous with my naming-Wil Lou Gray II. This unusual name was derived from both of Aunt Wil Lou s parents, Wil for William and Lou for Louise. For me it was a difficult name. My mother admitted that for the first few months of my life she called me Baby . In new situations I was always asked to repeat my name. What is your name? WillieLou? Walou? Willalou? Although my difficulty with the name was never uttered in earshot of Daddy, I thought, Why couldn t my name be one with an easy ring, like Anna, Genie, Mary, or just Lou? I was finishing high school before I fully realized the dignity and respect associated with my name. I was president of the Future Teachers of America Club, and my faculty adviser was a contemporary of Aunt Wil Lou. When Aunt Wil Lou accepted an invitation to speak at our FTA Banquet, the excitement that accompanied rivaled a star, and I began to grasp the importance of my name.
How fortunate to have grown up in a time when we not only had expectations but in a time when expectations were met. During my childhood, in the 40s and 50s, our great expectation arrived in early June. School was out, and we were on our way to my grandmother Mama Lyl s house for six joyous weeks. Mother packed a trunk with our clothes, and Daddy readied the station wagon, often pulling a trailer filled with our bicycles and skates and even a wagon. We were ecstatic to begin the five- to six-hour journey down two-lane highways with no air conditioning from our home in Whiteville, North Carolina, to Laurens, South Carolina. My family totaled nine and filled the seats of the station wagon, but this did not quell the excitement. About an hour and a half into the trip, we expected to stop at the drugstore in Florence, South Carolina, where Daddy treated everyone to ice cream, leaving us sufficiently sticky! Then the questions: Have we got to stop in Columbia? Situated exactly halfway between Whiteville and Laurens was Columbia, the home of Aunt Wil Lou and Uncle Coke, the loved and respected siblings of my Granddaddy Gray. Daddy never responded to our pleading, as the answer was always yes. We knew Uncle Coke (married to Aunt Virginia) as the cheerful, elderly uncle who always gave each of us a dollar. We knew Aunt Wil Lou as the short, fat, unmarried aunt whose conversation was always about her work and the progress being made in South Carolina. By the time we were children, she owned the old army barracks in West Columbia and was well into running the Opportunity School for adult education. During much of her career, she lived in an apartment at the Opportunity School, rather than on Devine Street, and visiting her at the school meant a later arrival in Laurens. We were adults before we understood her honored place in the family, but we understood fully that we were expected to behave during the Columbia stops. Through the years those repeated stops in Columbia familiarized us with Aunt Wil Lou in such a way that we understood her expectations for the family. We learned early that she expected her family to participate in her work either with time or money. Several of my cousins did summer internships at the Opportunity School. When money was not readily available, Granddaddy contributed a sack of flour for her to sell. My aunts typed letters, and her dear first cousin, Marguerite Tolbert, accompanied and assisted with speaking engagements. Aunt Wil Lou never presented a job as optional, so rarely did anyone refuse. At seventy-six years old, I am ashamed to say when I was a student at Columbia College, when a call came from Aunt Wil Lou, I wanted to run and hide. I knew that the call meant she had a job for me!
Her family was her closest circle. The Grays and the Dials settled in Laurens County in the 1700s and were respected, influential citizens with whom Aunt Wil Lou was very secure. Her father, William, and his brother Robert married Dial sisters, Sarah Louise and Emma. She lost her mother at the age of nine. She, Granddaddy, and Uncle Coke were sent to Gray Court to live with relatives, and there were surrounded by double first cousins (mostly boys). Traditionally the large family gathered for Sunday lunch at Aunt Emma s. Uncle Coke s wife, Aunt Virginia, told the story that while the women cleared the table and cleaned the kitchen, the men sat on the large porch discussing politics, the church, farming, and economics. When the women finally joined them after the long cleanup, the men ceased the conversation and asked, What s for supper? This lively family interaction with expectations for all was normal for Aunt Wil Lou. It is understandable that she continued to expect help from Daddy s generation as well as from my generation, and she expected her expanding family to share her passion for progress in South Carolina.
Aunt Wil Lou grew up in Laurens and was a childhood friend of my grandmother Lillian Caine, affectionately known as Mama Lyl. Mama Lyl used to tell the story that Wil Lou as a child expected that life should be better for the less privileged. They always played outside, and when Wil Lou would swing on the garden gate, she showed more interest in the poor person walking across the street than in their dolls. She often asked, Why do we have so much more than they? Although as a child Mama Lyl paid no attention to her concern, she recognized in time that Wil Lou expected to make things better for the person across the street.
I was forty-three years old and married to my college sweetheart, Billy, when Aunt Wil Lou died. Looking back, I remember that when my domestic interests overrode my interest in her work, she turned her attention to my academic spouse. He was a doctor and held strong Republican ideals. While Aunt Wil Lou failed to convince him that in the Democratic way government was the vehicle for progress, their debates created a bond that lasted until her death. It was obvious that she expected more from me. When I was awaiting the arrival of our twins, children numbers six and seven for us, I received a package in the mail from Aunt Wil Lou. It contained a letter stating that she was on the president s committee for Planned Parenthood. It contained pamphlets on how to care for a family, and it contained a personal note that Billy and I had enough children and that it was time to stop!
Aunt Wil Lou was completely selfless, as she never lavished on herself. Even now my memory is of her in a black, navy, or light blue dress. Her apartment was unchanging. The blue sofa was never reupholstered, and the furniture never rearranged. One Christmas, thinking that her apartment needed a punch, I made her some colorful sofa pillows as a gift. Her thank-you note, while gracious, ended with her request: Now, Wil Lou, the pillows are lovely, but you should take the $5.00 you spent on fabric and contribute it to the scholarships at Columbia College, Wofford, or the Opportunity School. With age I realized that the decorative aspects of Aunt Wil Lou s home were not as important as the people who passed through. During our stops in Columbia, we often met people whom Aunt Wil Lou had helped who stopped by to thank her. The impact of her work became more personal to me when a friend from Gaffney told me, I want you to know how grateful my family is to Miss Wil Lou. She taught my grandmother to read. Let me add that while her apartment lacked the touch of a decorator, Aunt Wil Lou s lifestyle always reflected the refinement of her heritage. When our Columbia stops coincided with lunch, the meal, whether it be at her home on Devine Stree

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