Monday, January 16, 2012


In the spring of 1968 my second semester Freshman English composition teacher was a Black man. I can not remember his name some 44 years later but I do remember he wasn’t the least bit impressed with anything I wrote. Consequently my potential grade for the class looked pretty dismal. I was accustom to making As with an occasional B and considered a grade of a C equivalent to near failure.
This bad luck all changed after April 9th 1968. Out of a student body of 18,000 plus, myself, along with a mere 400 other students and staff attended the Oklahoma State University memorial march for Martin Luther King, Jr. who was assassinated 5 days earlier. In a simple twist of fate my English Comp Instructor was there and witnessed my participation.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial March April 9th, 1968, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma. Second in line on the right is my Freshman English Instructor in sunglasses.

In the few remaining weeks of the semester my grade rose from its lowly beginnings to an acceptable grade of a B. Nothing to be proud of, but a far cry from the shame of my grade prior to the march. I will always wonder if in some way my attendance at the event that day and being observed there by my Black instructor helped improve my grade and I might add thanks to Martin Luther King.

On the other hand I was dating a cowboy from my hometown and had met several of his cowboy colleagues studying animal science and agriculture. They also saw me at the march and for some reason after that many of them weren’t near as friendly. The good thing was school almost out for summer. By the time they returned in the fall, they forgot most of what little they learned the year before as well as me at the march and of course I would have a new boyfriend with new friends to put to tests.

On the back page of the O’Collegian newspaper photo of the April 1968 march is the following editorial, “From An Ivory Tower“:

In the past 40 some years since this editorial was written things have definitely improved for American Negros, now popularly known as African Americans. We even have a president who is part Black, the least of his worries. One thing I definitely like about the president and his race card is, at least he is married to another Black. Being “old school” I still think a Black person looks better with a Black person. (One reason I can not stand Justice Clarence Thomas.) I know to many that is not politically correct, but it is the way I am. Why do those that consider theirselves Liberals any more right that those that have their alternative opinion?  That being said, if it was all to be done over again and my Black instructor knew this conviction, I am sure I would flunk Freshman Composition. Nevertheless, I would still be for equal rights, just not pro intermarriage.

Mary Alta Buckingham - Jan 16th, 2012/updated 1/21/2013 - Martin Luther King Day

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