By Art McDonald
Celebrating women’s history month I am reminded of a recent piece of Black folk wisdom concerning the Civil Rights’ Movement: “If Rosa Parks had not sat down, Martin King would not have stood up.”
In 1978 I was just ordained and doing a year of extra study at Union Theological Seminary in NY City. In a class I was taking with a brilliant feminist theologian, Beverly Harrison, throughout the term I sat next to the only African-American in a class of about 15. She was also female. There were not a lot of minority students at Union in those days. Katie was very down to earth, warm and friendly, more than a little timid. She was easy to talk with and I liked her a lot. One of the reasons I sat next to her was that I felt a wee bit intimidated, myself, in this rather high-powered, elite Divinity School. Katie offered me security. Despite our divergent backgrounds, she a black female from the rural South, I a white male from the urban Northeast, we had the following in common: we were outsiders at this elite, mostly male and Protestant school. There were not many more Catholics than Blacks at Union. Furthermore, neither Katie nor I had gone to elite colleges like the majority of students at Union many of whom were from Harvard, Yale and Princeton. Both Katie and I had attended small, parochial schools, reflective of our cultural, religious and class backgrounds. Neither of us felt smart enough to be at Union, so we hardly ever said anything in class, except to one another. Katie went to an all-Black college in NC, Barber-Scotia College. When I was asked where I went to college, this first generation college graduate would explain by saying oh Providence College, a small Catholic school cross town from Brown; at least it was within a few miles of the halls of ivy!