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Teacher, Student Recall a Segregated Classroom

Then and Now: Matilda "Tillie" Beauford, as a student (left) in Huston Diehl's class in 1970, and today (right).
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Then and Now: Matilda "Tillie" Beauford, as a student (left) in Huston Diehl's class in 1970, and today (right).

The first class that Huston Diehl taught was a group of fourth-graders at Morton Elementary School in Louisa County, Va.

It was 1970, in the waning days of officially sanctioned segregation — of separate and, as Diehl would learn, decidedly unequal schooling.

Diehl, now a professor of English at the University of Iowa, describes her experiences teaching in the rural South in a new book, Dream Not of Other Worlds: Teaching in a Segregated Elementary School, 1970.

It was here, in a school that the county neglected to provide with textbooks, that Diehl learned firsthand the damaging effects that institutional racism and Jim Crow politics would have on her young charges.

She soon discovered that she was learning more from her students than they had the chance to learn from her.

Diehl and Matilda Beauford, one of her former students, speak with Scott Simon about their days in Louisa County, and the legacy of segregation.

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