Putting themselves in those shoes: Salisbury students recreate iconic integration-era photos

Published 12:10 am Tuesday, February 28, 2023

SALISBURY — Preserving history takes more than a glass display case.

Students at Salisbury High School took part in a unique and immersive way to learn about Black History Month through recreations of integration-era school photos at prominent locations of the city’s Civil Rights figures.

Donning ’60s fashion, students became living versions of photos preserved from the time period. Taking part in the project illuminated to several students just how recently the student life they now take for granted would have been unimaginable.

Salisbury High’s student support specialist Centerra Harris indicated the importance of imparting the content in a relatable and meaningful way.

“If you don’t learn it, history stops with you,” Harris said.

For sophomore Shamaya Cherise Evans, the project was empowering.

“I felt powerful in myself because I am African American,” Evans said. “The history behind the photograph, it was really something powerful.”

Multiple locations were selected around Salisbury for the photo project, including the hospital for Blacks on Horah Street and the former Dunbar and Price high schools that served as the Black high schools during segregation.

“We would never have had an idea that there were people who went to Dunbar,” said junior McKenna Saylor. “When you go by there now, it looks like it’s broken and that people trashed it. Being able to learn about it really touched my heart. We would have never known since we are younger, but being able to recreate it brought us together as Black people.”

Ninth grader Brooklynne Witherspoon, who was in pictures taken at Price, added, “I didn’t know a lot about Price at first. I just thought it was a regular building. I didn’t realize how much history was there.”

For many students, the layers of Black history just require being peeled back to reveal how much there is in Salisbury. For instance, it was the site of a non-violent sit-in at a Main Street lunch counter around the same time as the famous movement that took place in Greensboro.

In reference to the then-unheard-of idea of Blacks eating at the same place as white patrons, Mayzonetta “Miss Mary” Lash wrote in her diary on March 7, 1960, “Negroes ate at the drug counters. A crack in the door. It will open wide as time goes on.”

Thanks to the efforts of the staff at Salisbury High, those moments are living on through their students.

“Living in the moment was satisfying for me,” Evans said. “Black history to me is more than Black history. It’s the Black people who come together to make that history. As a generation, we are part of that history, and we are going to make changes in this world.”

Throughout the past month, the students at Salisbury High have explored numerous elements of Black history and culture, from music to food to education.

The content during Black food week celebrated Black-owned businesses and the cultural enormity of Soul Food. On Feb. 17, students dined on chicken, mac and cheese, yams and collard greens.

“We learned about why it’s called soul food because it literally touches your soul,” Witherspoon said. “That stuff is good.”

Representatives from Greek organizations and various academic institutions visited Salisbury’s campus. The event coincided with a career fair highlighting professional opportunities and the Black pioneers that paved the way to make those possibilities a reality.

“I feel like we don’t learn as much about our history as we should,” Evans said.

With the efforts at Salisbury High, perhaps not knowing about the past will become a thing of the past.