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Dr. Henrietta M. Smith Participates in HistoryMakers Back to School Week

In celebration of HistoryMakers Back to School Week, Dr. Henrietta M. Smith addressed students at the Park Vista High School, Lake Worth, Florida. HistoryMakers (http://www.thehistorymakers.com/) is a program founded in 1999. There goal is to interview and preserve the life story of those who have “made significant accomplishments in life of both ‘well-born and unsung African American History Makers. – going beyond the Civil Rights movement, music, sports and entertainment’.”

(Pictured from L-R) Principal Reginald B. Myers, Author Glennette Turner, Dr. Henrietta M. Smith, Instructor Audrey Spicer, and Asst. Principal LuAnne Daucanski

For the HistoryMakers go back to school week, those whose interviews were on record, were invited to address students in a school in their home area.  Henrietta M. Smith was invited to speak to students at Park Vista High School in Lake Worth, Florida.  Addressing an audience of over 250 ninth graders, she spoke of her childhood with a mother who believed that proper speech was essential to “get anywhere” in life and so sent her to elocution school.  There Smith attests, she learned the beauty of poetry from the Bible to the works of writers of the Harlem Renaissance period. She shared with listeners the distinction between dialect and standard English, quoting from the works of Paul Laurence Dunbar.  She shared with the students some ideas about how to live with dignity with your fellows, using excerpts from Countee Cullens The Lost Zoo. Cullens, a school teacher in Harlem taught his class of recalcitrant boys the futility of fighting, of name calling and being too vain among other subjects, all in humorous poetry with serious messages from “The Squilililigee” to “The Snake That Walked Upon His Tail”.

In speaking of career moves, Smith related that upon moving to Florida, with a background in Public Library work and a degree from Columbia University, she could not be hired at the Public Library in her community because of the color of her skin, unless she wanted to work as a page and shelve books. The necessary career change found Smith in the position of school librarian and with further study – a position at the University level. She reminded the students that without perseverance, changes can be made that enrich one’s life forever.  Her presentation was closed with sharing a laugh arousing short story from African American folk lore,  with the underlying theme that what is inside your head is more important than the color of your skin.  It was a great time with teachers who had planned well and students whose courtesy  and demeanor made the morning so worthwhile.

-HMS

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