Three years ago, I met a man from Sumter, South Carolina. As he initially struggled in Phoenix, I asked him, “Have you considered returning to South Carolina?” For over 30 minutes, I heard about his hometown’s school system, and he mentioned how he could not subject his daughter to Sumter’s school curriculum. We also discussed how his sisters did not truly place an emphasis on education with their children, and he was unaware of their long-term goals.
After reading “At Duke, I realized how badly many South Carolina schools are failing students like me,” I reflected upon our conversation. Ehime Ohue, a sophomore at Duke University, attended Lake Marion High School (LMHS). LMHS is one of the high schools affiliated with the “Corridor of Shame.” The Corridor of Shame is “a string of rural school districts where students receive inferior educational opportunities.” These districts are located on Interstate 95.
In short, this is an example of 21st century slavery. I cannot help but think of the phrase, from Invisible Man, “Keep th[ose] nigger-boy[s] [and girls] running.” Ms. Ohue discusses how she began noticing the disparities in her education, in kindergarten. Her teacher stated that she “couldn’t do this anymore,” and she resigned. Sumter, SC African American K12 educators were being paid $3,000-12,000 less than their White peers teaching in neighboring districts.
The legacy of Thurgood Marshall. Sigh.
Once enrolled at Lake Marion High School, Ohue noticed her teachers’ lack of training and limited supplies. A math teacher was in the classroom, but he was still “undergoing training.” The school did not have an adequate number of calculators, computers were not being properly serviced, and instructors were quitting. Yet, as Ohue notes, her high school was considered “one of the best in the region.”
During her freshman year at Duke University, the impact of the “Corridor of Shame” slapped Ohue in the face. Ehime developed an inferiority complex, and she could not be an active participant in conversations pertaining to how her Duke lectures were reviewing information that she was taught while in high school.
I am not surprised by Ms. Ohue’s experience. A substantial number of minority students, across the United States, can relate. While teaching in a Phoenix, Arizona high school, that has a large percentage of minority students, I saw many Ehime Ohues. Some of the worst teachers were sent to a particular high school. I was told that if they ended up there, and they were White, it was a form of “punishment,” and once they redeemed themselves, they could apply to be transferred. A former White department chair condemned how our Caucasian colleagues were deliberately “dumbing down” the education for minorities.
In her article, Ms. Ohue states that local businesses have to “give back” to these schools. She is absolutely correct. I would like to know which successful, African American men and women attended schools that comprise the Corridor? How are they attempting to make a difference? Sumter, SC is also home to Morris College, a historically black college (HBCU). How is Morris taking these children under its wings? Have they considered opening a preparatory school on campus?
Mr. Kelvin Lemon, is Lake Marion’s principal. I question what his reaction is to Ms. Ohue’s article, and how he is trying to implement change. Are his African American teachers trying to “make that change,” or are they “Golden Negroes?”
Note: Information pertaining to Lake Marion High School can be found on their website: