CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: • Valerie Kennedy in a Middle School drama production • Nancy Brown taught kindergarten at Calvert and DA • Tim Dahlgren taught Valerie his first year at DA • Betty Vaughan was a legend in the Lower School
physicians, or business owners. We carpooled together in the mornings and most of us had known each other since attending preschool at NC Central. There were other students in the higher grades, too — Anita Merritt, an outstanding student-athlete who should be in our Hall of Fame, Mark’s sister Claire Sanders, Tracy Bowens, another DA lifer, whose dad Dr. Curtis Bowens followed my mom on the board, Aaron Thompson (whose father owned the local body shop everyone in our community went to), Wayne Perry, an attorney, Donald Moore, Jr., a media executive, Melanie Dawson, Brian Holeman, now a D.C. Superior Court judge,
Barry Stanback, an attorney, Winnie Watts, an attorney (her father was a distinguished physician in Durham), Jody Clement, whose mom was esteemed Durham City Board of Education and Durham County Commission member Josephine Clement, and her sister Kathy Clement, who was a rock star by any standard. In the 1970 yearbook, it was noted that Kathy, who was DA’s varsity head cheerleader, was proof that “Black is Beautiful.” I wanted to share this story of these remarkable African-American alums of Durham Academy because their enrollment during this precipitous time of racial upheaval and uncertainty against the backdrop of Brown v.
Board of Education is meaningful to the history of DA. In the classrooms of Durham Academy, an incredible racial experiment was taking place under the bold leadership of Headmaster Robert Johnston and a cadre of committed women faculty members of the “old school” like Margaret Woods (later head of the Lower School), Nancy Brown, the venerable Annie B. Mann (the first grade teacher whose name I can still barely say without tearing up because I loved her so much), Betty Vaughan, and Margaret Allen. These genteel, Southern ladies with the horn-rimmed glasses and upright manner of true teachers back then, navigated the new world order with steeliness and a fierce love for ALL children. These Lower School faculty members and Bob Johnston, along with our drama teacher Mrs. Marian Rosensweig, are among the key reasons that I became a DA lifer. They played a critical role in making certain that the hopes of my parents for my brother and I to receive an exceptional education were realized in an inclusive environment of tolerance and acceptance. For the upper grades, teachers like Bobbie Hardaker, Joan Boyd, Ed and Althea Shuster, and Dick Forringer were influential as the hippest and coolest teachers at DA. They encouraged independence and selfrealization among the older contingent of 8th and 9th graders. They, along with the older guard, helped to create a very specific culture at DA that was unlike other private schools in Durham — it was intellectual, dynamic, creative, vibrant. This is not to say that all was perfect. I was called more than my fair share of racial epithets and these incidents were met with swift punishment by the Headmaster’s Office — automatic suspension. There was a zerotolerance policy at DA for that kind of namecalling. Period. But I thrived as did my African-American classmates because so much opportunity was provided for us to explore our gifts and to be accepted as individuals. Some days, it was daunting, but for the most part, in spite of whatever attitudes about race may have been expressed at home, our white classmates were our friends and colleagues. Yet, there was without question an invisible social line that CONTINUED
DURHAM ACADEMY RECORD | SUMMER 2014 | WWW.DA.ORG