Waldorf Graduate Fought Social Injustice

Waldorf alumnae Marion Helland has been an activist most of her life and has encountered several incidents of social injustice.

Perhaps the most scary and memorable moment occurred in 1965 while she was working in Alabama. She tells it best in this partial account fro27406008385159.s6K1yd1LJ3SPM1SsLso8_height640m the Veteran of the Civil Rights Movement site:

In 1965 I clipped an ad titled: “Teachers WANTED To Teach FREEDOM” in an American Federation of Teachers newsletter. I filled out the application to be a Freedom School teacher for the summer. I carried it around for about a week and finally mailed it. So began a lifelong journey working for social justice.

I attended the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) training sessions in Atlanta. Trainers included Hosea Williams, Andrew Young and Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth. My assignment was to join the group of Civil Rights workers in Gadsden, Alabama to set up a Freedom School and help with voter registration.

The following summer I volunteered again. This time the AFT and SNCC sent me to Jackson, Mississippi for orientation under the leadership of Carolyn and Arthur Reese, two educators from Detroit. My teacher colleagues in the Robbinsdale, Minnesota Schools had collected money for a car to use and to leave with the Movement workers at the end of the summer. My assignment was Columbia, Mississippi about 125 miles southwest of Jackson. Activities included integrating the local playground, tennis court, library, Laundromat, theater and organizing petition drives, boycotts, picket lines.

We worked out of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party Headquarters which was bombed in 1965 and later repaired. In constant use, seven bullet holes reminded one constantly of violence. In this old three-room shanty, Lynn Porteous, a teacher from San Francisco, and I with the help of students organized a library of over 500 books donated by teachers around the nation. Ira Grupper, a Civil Rights veteran had laid the ground work for community work in Columbia.

A cross burning was attempted in front of the house in which Lynn Porteous and I stayed that summer. I say “attempted” because Lynn fired over their heads with a shotgun and they dropped the cross and ran for their car. (SNCC had recommended self-defense for the Civil Rights workers that summer). We put the kerosene soaked cross on the hood of my Freedom Fairlane and drove to the Headquarters across town and did not return to that house. A family on a farm took us in for the rest of the summer…

–Marion Helland
Copyright © Marion Helland 2005

Before all of this, Helland received a two-year certificate in elementary education from Waldorf College in 1946 and went on to pursue a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota. She taught her first class in Bode, Iowa in 1946. After two years, she moved to Davenport and taught fifth-graders.

After three years, she joined the Robbinsdale School District in Minnesota, where she served for 39 years, before retiring in 1992.

Today, she resides in Minnesota.
Source: Waldorf magazine, Vol. 107, Fall 2011

 

Author: Claire Stewart

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