By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – As part of a national program to share African-American oral history with the next generation, four Philadelphia “history makers” will head back to school Friday.
The HistoryMakers is a Chicago-based organization that maintains the nation’s largest African-American video oral history archive. The group conducted 2,500 interviews with African-American leaders and trailblazers of various professionals, both famous and unsung.
“I was the first African-American in Philadelphia to be the (city) managing director, and the first African-American to be mayor for two terms,” says W. Wilson Goode Sr. He will speak to students at Benjamin Franklin High School on Friday about growing up in the rural south as a sharecropper, moving north at age 15, and then transcending his humble beginnings.
“When I was in the cotton field with my father, he looked over at me and said, ‘Wilson, you are not like the rest of us. You will be someone important one day,’ ” he recalls. “I tried to live up to his expectation.”
Goode says he was a studious young man who loved to read and enjoyed challenges. He says he knew his life would not be limited by where and how he started.
Goode now runs “Amachi,” a mentoring organization that helps children whose parents are incarcerated.
“You can rise above your circumstance,” says Goode. “You can become whoever you want to become. There was nothing in my background that indicated I would be a trailblazer.”
Hear Cherri’s full interview with W. Wilson Goode Sr. (runs 13:42)…
“I went to segregated public schools in Houston, Texas,” says Charisse Lillie, president of the Comcast Foundation.
Lillie is a celebrated attorney, having blazed trails as the first African-American to be city solicitor for the City of Philadelphia and the first African-American woman to chair the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
She’ll speak to about 1,000 young women at Girls High.
“I will tell them, never have any limitations on what your desires are,” says Lillie. “The world is really their oyster. It’s really on them to do the research and know what their interests are.”
Lillie practiced law for 28 years and led a practice group at the law firm Ballard Spahr. She was one of the first African-Americans in the country to take on such a high profile role.
“It is important for people like me who have had tremendous educational opportunities, tremendous mentors who have supported me in my various career choices– that I stand in front of them and say, I am a role model,” says Lillie. “They need to know I am somebody who can you can take a page from my book.”
Hear Cherri’s full interview with Charisse Lillie (runs 6:09)…
Norma Pratt, president and CEO of Rodgers Travel, will visit Benjamin Franlkin High School while Larry Gladney, a University of Pennsylvania physicist and professor, will visit Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts.
The effort to visit schools is part of the HistoryMakers’ “Back to School with The HistoryMakers” program, which will send nearly 500 trailblazers to 230 schools in 68 cities across the country.