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McKENZIE (February 27) — McKenzie Middle School hosted a Black History Month program Thursday to honor the contributions of African-Americans to the civil rights movement and to society at …
McKENZIE (February 27) — McKenzie Middle School hosted a Black History Month program Thursday to honor the contributions of African-Americans to the civil rights movement and to society at large. Special recognition was given to a pair of local nonagenarian icons, retired teacher Geneva Bledsoe and World War II veteran Odell Pate.
Principal Dorethea Royle spoke about Bledsoe. The 96-year-old was born in Haywood County, where she began her teaching career in a one-room school. She came to McKenzie in the early 1960s to teach Special Education at Webb School, where she remained until its closing in 1966 as Carroll County schools were desegregated. She then taught fourth grade at McKenzie Elementary for 36 years until her retirement in 1992. Among her hundreds of students were at least nine who are now MMS staff members, incuding Royle. Bledsoe was presented with a bouquet of roses by MMS in appreciation of her service.
MMS Special Education assistant Breshaun Oglesby spoke about Pate. The 94-year-old Webb High School graduate served in the Army in World War II and reached the rank of first sergeant. He is the oldest WWII veteran in the area and the oldest living black man in McKenzie. Pate was presented a plaque by MMS in appreciation for his service.
Several students made brief presentations about notable African-Americans, including abolitionist Harriet Tubman, inventor Garrett Morgan, athletes Jackie Robinson and Muhammad Ali, poet Maya Angelou and civil rights leaders Claudette Colvin, Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Special Education assistant Pat Allen also gave a more in-depth profile of Tubman, and special guest Raven Cunningham recited Angelou’s iconic poem, “Still I Rise.”
Special guest Kentrell Diggs spoke directly to the young people at the school. He said that “we as people have to learn how to treat one another” and noted that “we all fall short.” He challenged the students to make somebody smile each and every day.
Students Shamiya Curry-Long and Carlton Townes sang “Amazing Grace.”