Magic Cottage teacher shares memories of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks
LOWER MAKEFIELD - It takes a special person to grab the attention of a group of 3- and 4-year-olds and hold it. Cathrine Williams, then, is special.
Williams, 6T, is a teacher at Magic Cottage in Lower 0DkHfiHOd, Dnd WKDW DORnH wRuOd PDkH KHr sSHFLDO. On FrLday she captivated a room full of students with stories of meeting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, arguably the two names most associated with the civil rights movement a halfcentury ago.
Born in Birmingham, Ala., and raised in Montgomery, Ala., Williams saw Dnd IHOW firsWKDnd WKH wKLWHRn-EODFk KDWrHd WKDW dHfinHd life in the South during her childhood. As she told the kids, she did not let those experiences shape who she would become.
“It made me a better person,” said the mother of six, grandmother of 18 and great-grandmother of one. “It made me love all races. I didn’t have any personal dealings with white people growing up, so when I moved up here I learned to love people of all colors.”
Williams moved to Levittown, where she still resides, in 1960. Prior to moving, she had a front-row seat for the civil rights movement, getting to meet King and Parks several times. The children laughed when she recalled being patted on the head by King and smiled at being told about the afternoon Williams met Parks, thanked her and gave her a hug. They gasped when she recounted several memories of segregation.
“Black and white kids didn’t go to school together,” Williams told her young, racially diverse audience. “We couldn’t drink from the same water fountains. Segregation was all I knew.”
For the most part, the children sat cross-legged, speaking only when offered the opportunity by Williams or Magic Cottage Director Debbie Haverson.
“Everyone should sit where they want to sit,” 3-yearold Tyler Rodriguez said in reaction to the story of Parks refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white person. The pre-kindergartener was like the rest of his classmates in looking at life rather simply, and not in terms of black and white. The attitude did not surprise Williams.
“They absolutely get the message,” Williams said. “They understand. I gave this talk two years ago and I just saw a boy from that class and he told me, ‘I remember you telling me that story.’”
Williams was quick to point out that the children weren’t WKH RnOy RnHs WR EHnHfiW IrRP KHr sWRryWHOOLnJ.
“It brings back old memories,” Williams said. “I’m glad I shared my experiences with them. A lot of people my age [in this area] don’t have the experiences I have.”
ABOVE: Magic Cottage student Molly Holm, 3, asks a question of Cathrine Williams after Williamsí talk Friday morning.
LEFT: Cathrine Williams speaks to a group of Magic Cottage students Friday morning.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.