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Laura Thomas, Abyssinian Baptist Church and The Vermont Interracial Project

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Abstract:

Harlem early Saturday morning on August 6, 1944, could not have been more different than August of 1943. A year earlier the community was still reeling from the melee of a race riot that had left five African Americans dead, another 185 injured and more than 500 arrested. What a difference a year can make? For on this day in 1944, more than 81 African American children (almost all members of Abyssinian Baptist Church and between 9 and 12 years) were excited and anxious as they gathered at 125th street subway to make their way to Grand Central station. They were to embark upon a new adventure in race relations. For the next two weeks, they would live in the homes and on the farms of white residents of Vermont. Project director, Laura B. Thomas recalled, "I shall never forget that day. It was during the war and there was an extreme shortage of meat. But the lunch box of each of our children was filled with thick slices of ham and generous portions of fried chicken for the nine hour train ride to Burlington, Vermont." Thomas refers to an experiment in race relations that antedates by more than a decade, events in the South often credited with having jump-started the Civil Rights Movement. Yet the history books tell us nothing of this almost twenty-year project that sought to change race relations simply by allowing blacks and whites to live among one another to break down the barriers of racism created by segregation.
Today my paper seeks to add to the new literature that encourages us to reconsider the Civil Rights Movement temporally and spatially. It explores the efforts principally of Laura Thomas but also other Abyssinian Baptist church women's efforts to prepare Harlem youth and Vermont whites, for an integrated America. The Vermont Interracial Project as it came to be called was born of Abyssinian Baptist Church's rich history of Civil Rights Protest, the racial conditions in New York City that prompted the 1943 Harlem race riot and the creative leadership of one woman: Laura Thomas.
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Association:
Name: 95th Annual Convention
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http://www.asalh.org


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URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p435768_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Roberson, Houston. "Laura Thomas, Abyssinian Baptist Church and The Vermont Interracial Project" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the 95th Annual Convention, Raleigh Convention Center, Raleigh, North Carolina, <Not Available>. 2014-11-27 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p435768_index.html>

APA Citation:

Roberson, H. "Laura Thomas, Abyssinian Baptist Church and The Vermont Interracial Project" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the 95th Annual Convention, Raleigh Convention Center, Raleigh, North Carolina <Not Available>. 2014-11-27 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p435768_index.html

Publication Type: Invited Paper
Abstract: Harlem early Saturday morning on August 6, 1944, could not have been more different than August of 1943. A year earlier the community was still reeling from the melee of a race riot that had left five African Americans dead, another 185 injured and more than 500 arrested. What a difference a year can make? For on this day in 1944, more than 81 African American children (almost all members of Abyssinian Baptist Church and between 9 and 12 years) were excited and anxious as they gathered at 125th street subway to make their way to Grand Central station. They were to embark upon a new adventure in race relations. For the next two weeks, they would live in the homes and on the farms of white residents of Vermont. Project director, Laura B. Thomas recalled, "I shall never forget that day. It was during the war and there was an extreme shortage of meat. But the lunch box of each of our children was filled with thick slices of ham and generous portions of fried chicken for the nine hour train ride to Burlington, Vermont." Thomas refers to an experiment in race relations that antedates by more than a decade, events in the South often credited with having jump-started the Civil Rights Movement. Yet the history books tell us nothing of this almost twenty-year project that sought to change race relations simply by allowing blacks and whites to live among one another to break down the barriers of racism created by segregation.
Today my paper seeks to add to the new literature that encourages us to reconsider the Civil Rights Movement temporally and spatially. It explores the efforts principally of Laura Thomas but also other Abyssinian Baptist church women's efforts to prepare Harlem youth and Vermont whites, for an integrated America. The Vermont Interracial Project as it came to be called was born of Abyssinian Baptist Church's rich history of Civil Rights Protest, the racial conditions in New York City that prompted the 1943 Harlem race riot and the creative leadership of one woman: Laura Thomas.


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