Saturday, April 24, 2021

My Family Legacy of Civil Rights And I Never Knew by Pat Simmons

As a child, growing up in St. Louis, I watched on television as dozens of Blacks silently marched in front of the Jefferson Bank, a building still there today. It was organized by an African American man who put together a program called Action with the purpose of getting Blacks into meaningful employment. As a result of that program and other protests across the country, State Bank of Wellston hired my mother two years later in 1965.                     

Out of eight children,  three of my mother's siblings were teachers. Uncle Thomas in Kosciusko, Mississippi, and the oldest and youngest respectively in Waukegan, Illinois: Aunt Edith Smith and Aunt Eva Ledet.

I asked mom why there were so many teachers in the family and she replied, "That's what Black folks did back then, either become a teacher or a nurse." My mother did neither, opting for general business administration positions instead. She couldn't stand the sight of blood. As a matter of fact, my 86-year-old mother still works for H&R Block every tax season. Her mind is sharp.

But back to the trailblazer in the family. A Chicago Tribune headline reads Waukegan schools renamed for civil rights icons John Lewis and Edith M. Smith, replacing historical figures with slavery ties.  My eighty-something aunt passed away five years ago, but in the 1960s, she led a legal battle to desegregate a Waukegan school where she taught. The renaming will take place this summer. The city is about an hour's drive from Chicago. This summer, the city is renaming a street in her honor near the church she attended for decades.

In every state across the country, the United States of America, Blacks pushed the system despite retaliation to make this country better for the next generation.

With the renaming of the school in Waukegan, I'm choked with emotions that my aunt's fearlessness and determination will never be forgotten. There are so many unsung heroes back then and now. I'm honored and grateful that our family hero has a name—Edith M. Smith.


Pat Simmons is a multi-published Christian romance author with more than thirty-five titles. She is a self-proclaimed genealogy sleuth who is passionate about researching her ancestors, then casting them in starring roles in her novels. She is a three-time recipient of the Romance Slam Jam Emma Rodgers Award for Best Inspirational Romance. Pat’s first inspirational women’s fiction, Lean On Me, with Sourcebooks, was the February/March Together We Read Digital Book Club pick for the national library system. Here for You and Stand by Me is also part of the Family is Forever series. Her holiday indie release, Christmas Dinner, and traditionally published, Here for You, were featured in Woman’s World, a national magazine. Here for You was also listed in the “7 Great Reads That Help to Keep the Faith” by Sisters From AARP. She contributed an article, “I’m Listening” in the Chicken Soup for the Soul: I’m Speaking Now (2021).

Pat describes the evidence of the gift of the Holy Ghost as a life-altering experience. She has been a featured speaker and workshop presenter at various venues across the country. Pat has converted her sofa-strapped sports fanatical husband into an amateur travel agent, untrained bodyguard, GPS-guided chauffeur, and administrative assistant who is constantly on probation. They have a son and a daughter. Pat holds a B.S. in mass communications from Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts and worked in various positions in radio, television, and print media for more than twenty years. She oversaw the media publicity for the annual RT Booklovers Conventions for fourteen years. Visit her at to learn more about her newest releases.

1 comment:

  1. That's so cool that your aunt is being recognized. It would have been nice if she'd lived long enough to see it, but her relatives can celebrate and honor her.