December 10, 2018
Professor Rachel Devlin, author of the nonfiction book A Girl Stands at the Door, and Marion Greenup, vice president of administration at the Simons Foundation in New York, spoke together at The Pennington School on Monday, December 10, as guest lecturers of the School’s Stephen Crane Lecture Series.
A Girl Stands at the Door is a new history of school desegregation in America, revealing how girls led the fight for interracial education. It considers the disproportionate number of girls who filed lawsuits prior to Brown v. Board of Education (1954), and who were desegregation "firsts" at historically white schools in the early 1960s.
Joining Devlin for this presentation was one of the women whose firsthand stories are told in the book. Marion Greenup was one of fourteen children who desegregated Baton Rouge High School in 1963. She spoke eloquently about what it was like to spend her senior year of high school in such an unwelcoming and isolating environment, when she was only fifteen years old.
The struggle to desegregate America’s schools was a grassroots movement, and young women were its vanguard. In her book, Devlin tells the stories of these desegregation pioneers. She also explains why black girls were seen, and saw themselves, as responsible for the difficult work of reaching across the color line in public schools. Highlighting the extraordinary bravery of young black women, this bold revisionist account illuminates today’s ongoing struggles for equality.
Devlin is associate professor of history at Rutgers University and has a Ph.D. from Yale University. She specializes in modern U.S. history and women’s and gender history. Greenup is a vice president of administration at the Simons Foundation in New York. Greenup earned an undergraduate degree in psychology from H. Sophie Newcomb College, an M.Ed. in early childhood development from Tulane University, and an M.P.A. from Columbia University School of Public Health. She has worked in health and university administration for over twenty years.
The Stephen Crane Lecture Series has a long tradition at The Pennington School. It commemorates the author of The Red Badge of Courage, who was a student at Pennington in the 1880s and whose father was headmaster of the School from 1849 to 1858. The series invites prominent authors, artists, or public figures to speak or perform on the campus.