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Mae Jemison: The First Black Woman Astronaut
It’s important to let your child know that Astronauts aren’t born — they go to school and learn about science just like everyone else! Dr. Mae Jemison’s curiosity and energy led her to learn about many things. It was the first day of school, 1961. Five-year-old Mae Carol Jemison was a confident kindergartner who could already read. When her teacher asked her, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Mae replied: “A scientist.” Her teacher looked surprised: Not many women became scientists then, and certainly few black women. But that was Mae’s first and only choice.
Amelia Earhart: The First Female pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean
She set many other records, wrote best-selling books about her flying experiences and was instrumental in the formation of The Ninety-Nines, an organization for female pilots. During an attempt to make a circumnavigational flight of the globe in 1937, Earhart disappeared over the central Pacific Ocean. Fascination with her life, career and disappearance continues to this day. Amelia was home-schooled with her sister, from her mother and a governess. She later recounted that she was “exceedingly fond of reading” and spent countless hours in the large family library. Amelia was enrolled in public school at the age of 12 years.
Rosa Parks: African-American civil rights activist
On December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, Parks refused to obey bus driver James F. Blake’s order that she give up her seat in the colored section to a white passenger, after the white section was filled and she was arrested. Parks received national recognition whom the US Congress called “the first lady of civil rights” and “the mother of the freedom movement.”Parks recalled going to elementary school, where school buses took white students to their new school and black students had to walk to theirs:
“I’d see the bus pass every day… But to me, that was a way of life; we had no choice but to accept what was the custom. The bus was among the first ways I realized there was a black world and a white world.”
Sally Ride: First American Woman to enter into low Earth orbit in 1983
Melba Pattillo: She and eight other teenagers became the first African-American students to attend Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas 50 years ago.
The year is 1954. Melba Pattillo is twelve years old, smart, and black. She has good teachers in her all-black school in Little Rock, Arkansas. But nothing else is nearly as nice as in the white children’s schools. Melba’s school is freezing in winter. Her books are old and worn. Schools for black children are supposed to be “equal” with those of white children. But they’re not.
Then, on May 17, 1954, the United States Supreme Court rules that separate public schools are illegal. The justices say that communities like Little Rock must let black children go to school with white children.
On that very day, Melba is attacked by a white man. “You’ll never go to school with my kids,” he snarls. Luckily, Melba is saved by a friend before the man can make good on his threat.
The next year, in May 1955, Melba volunteers to go to the all-white Central High School. She is not afraid, even though she has seen firsthand that some white people are ready to use violence to stop integration. Two years later, in September 1957, she’s enrolled as a student at Central High at fifteen years old.
Melba has grown up in a religious home. She has been taught to treat others with respect. She can’t believe the kind of treatment she receives each and every day at Central High School. At age sixteen, Melba becomes a fighter for the right of African-American children to get the same education as white children.
Today Melba is a writer. She has written a book about her experiences at Central High School called Warriors Don’t Cry. She also just published White is a State of Mind, a book about her life after arriving in California in 1959. Melba Pattillo Beals is also a mother. She has one grown daughter. In 1995, at age 52, she adopted two four-year-old boys.
Kristin Rude is the Owner and Center Director of FasTracKids, Del Mar. She previously taught in the Del Mar Union School District. Kristin obtained her teaching credential from the University of San Diego and has her Masters degree in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis on second language learners. When Kristin is not working, motherhood keeps her plenty busy with her 2 children, Connor, age 3 & Katherine, age 2. She looks forward to having her own children beneﬁt from the FasTracKids program. Spending time with her family, golﬁng, traveling, and continuously learning are among her favorite activities.