When I returned to California in 1965 to discover that I had been cited with felony trespassing and unlawful occupation of the Academy, especially after going to great lengths to get some letter of approval from my college to the Board of Education in Camden, I was shocked. But that shock was nothing compared to learning what happened to the Threadgills and the Academy as punishment for their role in the Wilcox County Freedom Fight.
Sheryl Threadgill told me about the white school board attacking Camden Academy. “The Academy? Our home and the chapel were torn down immediately after you left in August 1965. The Board of Education definitely initiated the tear down because the white ministers [and students like you] stayed there. My Dad had come down with a chronic lung disease from which he eventually died. He was getting treatment in the hospital in Tuskegee when they served the eviction notice. So he left the hospital to come home and move us.
My mother doesn’t get mentioned enough, Mrs. Mildred Locke Threadgill. She was quiet and soft spoken. It wasn’t easy for her to be an educator— She taught Home Economics and Bible at the Academy until she passed in 1977. She had to manage the household while my father was out being a community pastor. He was a dominant figure, but she was brilliant in her own right. She traveled to India and started the World Hunger Organization. Judge Unita Blackwell’s memoir, which I read recently, tells stories that made me think of my mother and her work with the US Department of Agriculture food commodities. At first, even though they needed the food, people didn’t want to accept the commodities. My mother taught people how to improve those dry white beans, season them up into a real nice dish. She worked with Presbyterian Church youth on campus. She did all that while raising us, and maintaining the household with my father gone a lot. And she was under constant pressure for our family’s activism.” – excerpt from 1965 This Little Light of Mine, This Bright Light of Ours, © Maria Gitin, all rights reserved. Photo copyright Bob Fitch www.bobfitchphotos.com
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