by Carol Withington
While visiting Marysville during the Emancipation Celebration on January 1, 1873, Jennie Carter of Nevada City accompanied Sophia Duplex to view the improvements made in the basement school at Mt. Olivet Baptist Church located at Sixth and High streets. Although only thirteen children attended, Carter found the schoolroom "furnished with modern furniture, maps, and a faithful teacher". It was a far cry from what she had witnessed during a previous visit in 1869.
During that year, Carter observed confusion, noise and a lack of discipline among the 22 children in attendance. The school furniture included "broken down desks and benches" with some children sitting on seats without any backs to them. The whole experience was a "disgrace to Marysville--to the Board of Education a burning shame".
In contrast, the Nevada City African-American students met in a previous schoolhouse furnished with "patent desks just the same as the white school". According to Delilah Beasley in her book "The Negro Trail Blazers", the building was purchased on Pine Street and was opened on the first of January, 1860. George A. Cantine, a former Marysville resident, was the teacher with an attendance of between 14-18 students.
Carter always maintained that parents should visit the schools often and show interest in what their children were learning. "They would become accustomed to strange faces", she noted. "They could recite without so much embarrassment". She also believed that "parents give the teacher their cooperation and see that their children obey". "I can assure them they will lift great burdens from the teacher's shoulders and reap a harvest of joy in the conduct of their children".
It was also important to Carter that parents should see that their children attended school every day. Once again, she encouraged parents to visit the school often in order to see for themselves the progress their children were making.
On February 26, 1874, a decision was rendered by Chief Justice Wallace whereas the "rights of colored children to attend schools with white children unless such separate schools be actually maintained for the education of colored children, then the latter have a legal right to resort to schools where children are instructed, and cannot be legally excluded therefrom by reason of race or color".
As soon as news of this Supreme Court decision reached the Marysville community, a group assembled and the Rev. Thomas Randolph spoke about those involved in this major effort. Among those from Nevada County were Elijah Booth, Dennis Carter, husband of Jennie Carter; and Isaac Sanks. Those representing Yuba County were Robert Saline, the Rev. J.B. Handy and the Rev. Randolph. Edward Duplex was appointed to serve on the Executive Committee. "They worked with a oneness of purpose and a unity of action until the object was accomplished", according to the Rev. Randolph.
By 1875, all California schools were integrated. That year the Duplex family moved to Wheatland. Children Edward Parker Duplex Jr. and his sister Louisa often were listed on the honor rolls in the Wheatland Graphic newspaper. Old photos also reveal African American students attending the Sutter County Meridian school during the 1880s as well as pictured in the 1884 graduating class from the Garfield School in Grass Valley.
The last feature of this series--A Voice is Silenced-- will include the passing of Jennie Carter and will be in a November issue.