My Mother & The Thinkers

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My Mother & The Thinkers.

My mother said people who create, participate in and appreciate art are better thinkers than those who do not. 

Sunny Nash Signs Her Book

Sunny Nash Signs Her Book

“Those interested in literature and art handle conversation better,” she said. “It has to do with the way their brains work and how they decide to live their lives; maybe because they read.” Over the years, I have to admit that she was right dragging me to see exhibitions, making me read biographies about artists like Rodin and listening with me to classical music.

It wasn’t enough to just own a book. My mother said, “You’re no better off, if you don’t read the book, than you would be if you didn’t even own it.”

During the era of Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and Jim Crow laws, my mother tried to give me an elevated experience, I was not as receptive to it as she would have liked. I was distracted by the Civil Rights Movement that heating up when I was still young. So, she subscribed to national black periodicals and made me read about Brown v the Board of Education, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Freedom Riders and the Woolworth Sit-ins. Some of these events happened when I was so young that I was picking out words, one at a time, and asking her what they were. I wasn’t too happy about all that reading, either, but I began to appreciate her insistence that I become educated outside of my segregated world.

“Being a thinker means you want to know something about art,” she said. My Mother & The Thinkers.

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My Mother & The Thinkers

3 Comments

When I was a little girl, Jim Crow laws did not allow African Americans in our town to use the segregated public library in the 1950s.

My mother believed people who appreciated art were better thinkers than those who do not.

In the 1950 and 1960s, there was segregation in schools and most other facilities and services in the Southern United states and many areas of the North. To maintain Jim Crow laws, our city like many others sent a bookmobile into certain neighborhoods to discourage African Americans from using the downtown library. A bookmobile was a converted bus with rows of shelves with books. The bookmobile was most active in summer and came to area parks and other public places where African Americans were allowed to gather.

Times do change.

That same library in my hometown has hosted celebrations of my career and actively collects my work. However, when I was a child, until we were allowed to use the library, my mother and I took a Greyhound Bus 100 miles away to Houston to use the Houston Public Library. It was an all day affair, but worth it, even if we didn’t qualify for library cards because we were from out of town and not because we were black. We sat among all those art books on the shelves and read until it was time for us to catch our bus back home.  At the time, we concentrated on art because there wasn’t a great deal written in books about people like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. At that time, neither neither my mother or me imagined that I would write books and take photographs chronicling African Americans that would be collected by the Houston Public Library; or maybe Littie did imagine that when I was a child.

However, the thinking part had to do with getting a college education. Without education, she said, perhaps you won’t be able to go as far as you can.”

College_graduates

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