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19 December 2012

The Story of America Renewed: Macon's First Miracle

About seven years ago, my mother received a commendation from the Georgia House of Representatives for her history-making educational accomplishments in Macon, Georgia.

You see, with all due respect to Bibb County Schools Superintendent Romain Dallemand, the first Macon Miracle occurred more than four decades ago when my mom became the first black female to earn a degree from Mercer University.

I call it a miracle because it took nothing short of a miracle for a poor, black girl to earn a degree in math from an all-white, private Southern Baptist college. My mother always says to me, when recounting her Mercer days, that she should not have gone to Mercer.

There was no way a black girl, coming from a poor family where more than a dozen people were living in one house; where those same people were barely scraping out a living; and attending nothing but segregated, separate, unequal schools should have ever walked through the doors of Mercer University as anything but a visitor or a cook. All the odds were stacked against my mother. Still, she beat the odds. She showed that the story of America --ordinary people doing extraordinary things simply because they decided to change their reality instead of accepting it-- is renewed with each generation. But she didn't do it on her own.

My mother had good teachers who taught her well. In fact, a school in Macon now bears the name of Matilda Hartley; an educator who once taught my mother. My mother still fondly recalls all the teachers who helped her pull off the first Macon Miracle; a miracle that started in the Bibb County School System and continues to this day.

So, where's the next miracle? Where will we see the renewal of the American story in the next generation? The answers to those two questions are very fascinating to me.