Daymaker - a person who performs acts of kindness with the intention of making the world a better place.
~ David Wagner
, author of Life as a Daymaker; how to change the world by making someone's day ~

DayMaker - any thought, word, or deed that spreads happiness, compassion, or fruitful ideas.
~ Annis Cassells ~

Friday, April 26, 2013

A Fetching of Firsts, Part 2: First Peaceful Demonstration



First Peaceful Demonstration

I decided to appear on the planet smack-dab in the middle of World War II. It was the summer of 1943 in Detroit, Michigan. The infamous Detroit race riots had happened a few weeks earlier. A round-faced seven-pounder with dark, pixie hair, I was the first child of Thomas and Ruth Cassells.

Dad and Mom had moved to town from Ohio, where they’d both grown up. My father was raised on a farm, the middle child of a family of 13 children. My mother, the only daughter and youngest of three, was a “city gal” from a tiny coal-mining boomtown in southern Ohio. Her family lived above her father’s barber shop.

A bustling city during war time, Detroit was wide open; automotive factories ran around-the-clock shifts and needed workers. Many from southern and rural areas migrated to this land of opportunity. Dad became employed by the city as a streetcar driver. Four of his siblings had previously moved north and settled there, so family lived nearby.

In 1943, at Wayne Diagnostic Hospital, segregation was in practice -- even in the maternity ward and nursery. The nurses apparently mistook us for white since my mom and I were fair-skinned. So, a staff member placed me in a bassinette in the section reserved for the white babies. Of course, Mom had no way to know this; newly-delivered mothers weren’t allowed to get out of bed.

When my tall, handsome, brown-skinned father came to see me for the first time, a nurse greeted him politely and showed him to the nursery window. He waited while another nurse went to fetch me from the “colored” section. Knowing my dad’s personality, I can imagine the panic when no one could locate the Cassells baby.


Finally, one nurse checked the babies across the room in the “white” section. And, there I was, happy and safe -- less than 24 hours old and already breaking the color barrier.
~ xoA ~


35 comments:

  1. What a great story--thanks for sharing it, Mom!

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  2. Segregated nurseries. Good grief. This is a wonderful story! I wonder what the nurses said to your dad?

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    1. I've often wondered what they said to him, too. Thanks, Kathleen. xoA

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  3. Annis, what a rich and evocative post. I love reading about peoples' place in history. I love my little place in history - I love that that Neil, Buzz and Michael were on their way to the moon and that the Beatles were recording overdubs to Octopus's Garden for my favorite album on the day I wsa born.

    And I love how your sharing of your place in time and space. I can picture Detroit in those vital, bustling days when the whole nation was at work. It's fitting that a baby who would grow up to be someone like you would be born in the midst of so much promise and possibility. And I love your line "less than 24 hours old and already breaking the color barrier." I have to chuckle at the nurses judging a tiny little book by its cover and inadvertently violating their employers' segregation policy. It's also a good reminder that the main difference between the discrimination in the North and the South was that the North's was less overt. What a great picture you've painted, the more so for including your parents' pictures.

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    1. Jerry, what a rich birthday history you have! Nice to read about it.

      Yes,you're right; the level of overtness was the only difference regarding segregation in the North and South. Feelings were sure just as strong. Even 26 years later when I tried to rent a place in Detroit for me and my young family.

      Thank you, Jerry. xoA

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  4. I love it! Your parents are beautiful. I have black and white photo's of my Great Grandfather and my Grandparents who gave me a rich heritage that I am very grateful for. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. They were beautiful people, Iola, inside as well as outside. Don't you just love those old black and white photos? The people look so stately. Thanks so much. xoA

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  5. That is a great story. I've seen a play where the father had to walk a ways to get to the "colored" nursery. (I wish I could remember what play that was...)

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    1. When you think of it, let me know, Mark. Thanks for stopping by. xoA

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  6. I love your every story and this was another wonderful one. Jxo

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  7. Annis,
    I really loved your story. Such a history-maker when only a few days old. This story just shows how color-blind a person can be. They saw you as white and put you in the white nursery.
    I wonder what happened to them after the mistake was discovered? Did they get reprimanded?
    Thanks for sharing.

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  8. What those nurses saw was the divine spark that makes you Annis. Thanks for sharing this sweet story, Annis.

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    1. Bless your heart, Dennis. Thank you. xoA

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  9. Great Post! Loved the story. Just want you to know I am from the Midwest also, (Gary, Indiana)

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    1. Glad you liked the story, Donnee. I've driven through Gary many times as I've traveled across the country by car and by motorcycle. Thanks for commenting. xoA

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  10. Incredible! What a great story and you really do have the gift! Loved it!

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    1. I appreciate your comment, Anna, and am glad you liked the story. Thank you! xoA

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  11. Favorite line: "less than 24 hours old and already breaking the color barrier." Loved it!

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  12. Thanks, Mandy. I'm glad you stopped by. xoA

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  13. What a lovely and touch post, Annis! Love the family photos. They always make a story such as yours so much more real for me. Thank you for sharing them.

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    1. My pleasure, Fran. Thanks for your time and comment. xoA

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  14. A fun and sad story all at the same time Annis. Fun in that it seems to fit your personality perfectly...a cool woman to be reconed with. Sad, because it still bothers me how shallow people were. Sadly, many still are. My hubby's family grew up in Detroit. One worked at The Ford Plant. I well remember the race riots in the 60's but didn't realize there were earlier ones too. I remember how much of the city burned, block after block. Awful. Fabulous pictures, the old black and whites have more feeling in them then do our modern day photo's. My MIL used to tell stories of sneaking bear meat in from across the border under the back seat of the car during the war years. She was a telephone operator at MaBell in those days.

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    1. Wow, Sandy. Lots of shared history here. Those WWII stories are priceless. I was living in Ypsilanti, Michigan, and had a new baby when the 1967 riots occurred, but my parents and other relatives were still in Detroit. Some of them lost power for days but they were safe.

      Thanks for commenting. xoA

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  15. We do have some shared history. Rounding today from traveling suitcase to say congrats on finishing the challenge.

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  16. What a beautiful story. Thanks so much for sharing this snippet of history and humanity.

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    1. Thanks, Cat. I appreciate you stopping by. xoA

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  17. I was going to say you amaze me but that's not true. more honest to say this is is just Annis quietly doing the right thing. I so enjoy this story (why have I not read it in the memoir?) I have learned that the amazing is just a part of your makeup. TR

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    1. Bless your heart, Terry. I'm glad you enjoyed this story. You haven't read this as part of the memoir because it didn't occur me to include it; this blog challenge and my need for a theme brought it up.
      Thanks. xoA

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  18. My beloved Annis I thought I knew so much about you, but this tells me you were amazing almost from birth! Elizabeth

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  19. Bless your heart, my dear friend. YOU have stories, too! Love you. xoA

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