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The Making of African American Identity: Volume III, 1917-1968
Theme: SegregationTheme: MigrationsTheme: ProtestTheme: CommunityTheme: Overcome?
Theme: Overcome

6.
Tracy Price-Thompson, ca. 1968
Tracy Price-Thompson
Dubious Victory
- Tracy Price-Thompson, "Bensonhurst: Black Then Blue," memoir in Laurel Holliday, ed., Children of the Dream: Our Own Stories of Growing Up Black in America, Pocket Books, 1999 (PDF)


The monumental efforts of the NAACP, decades of court battles, and the work and sacrifice of thousands of people finally won African Americans the right to the same educational opportunities as those enjoyed by white Americans. Six-year-old Tracy Price Thompson and her parents were among the winners. On a morning in 1968 they showed up to integrate a first-grade class in the Bensonhurst section of New York City. Their experience made them wonder if they had won anything at all. Bensonhurst was "an all-white, mostly Italian community where blacks . . . were on the same level as six-day-old trash." Tracy's memory of chanting crowds greeting her as she entered the first grade gave way to the realization that those crowds were protesting integration. Racist insults became stones, rocks and bottles, and a motivated first-grader became an angry, even paranoid, elementary-school graduate. This poignant memoir illustrates the condition in which African Americans found themselves in the late sixties: the civil rights movement had won formidable legal and legislative victories, but blacks could still not live at ease in their own country. (5 pages.)


Discussion questions
  1. Compare Thompson's description of school desegregation with Norman Rockwell's painting The Problem We All Live With (see Theme I: SEGREGATION).
  2. From evidence in the memoir, what can be surmised about the economic status of Thompson's family?
  3. Compare this memoir's description of school desegregation with the views of integration expressed by Stokely Carmichael and James Farmer (see Theme I: SEGREGATION).
  4. How did the integration experience affect Thompson?
  5. From what perspective is Thompson remembering the incidents of 1968?
  6. Does Thompson's experience represent the success or failure of the civil rights movement?

Framing Questions
  •  By the end of the 1960s, what had African Americans overcome?
  •  How had the civil rights movement affected the lives of African Americans?
  •  What remained to be overcome?

Printing
Price-Thompson: 5 pages
Supplemental Site
Tracy Price-Thompson, biography


*PDF file - You will need software on your computer that allows you to read and print Portable Document Format (PDF) files, such as Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you do not have this software, you may download it FREE from Adobe's Web site.




Image: Tracy Price-Thompson, approx. age six, b&w photograph, ca. 1968, in Laurel Holliday, ed., Children of the Dream: Our Own Stories of Growing Up Black in America (New York: Pocket Books, 1999), 170. Permission pending.




OVERCOME
1. New Hope?   2. "People Get Ready"   3. From Negro to Black
4. Attacking Stereotypes   5. Soul   6. Dubious Victory
  7. Making It








TOOLBOX: The Making of African American Identity: Volume III, 1917-1968
Segregation | Migrations | Protest | Community | Overcome?


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