Glenda Stephens has lived her whole life here in Bartow County. She was attending Summer Hill High School when the county went through the process of integrating schools during the Civil Rights Era.
She brought her years of wisdom and experience to the eighth-grade career class at Cass Middle School.
“Our students have been studying integration and equal employment laws,” said Instructor Gin Thompson. “We hope they learn to resolve issues in a non-violence manner.”
Stephens told the students many stories about her life in Bartow County.
For example, you could walk downtown to Lay’s Department Store to buy candy. She told how one day she was in line and a white lady cut in front of her. When she spoke up, the lady didn’t move to the back of the line. She went home and told her mother and learned at that time, that was just the way it was.
She explained how during the first year of integrating the schools, there was a lot of tension. The principal really worked to get students to work together.
Her stories moved on to how in the 11th grade, Southern Bell came to the school looking for students to hire. She started part-time at eight hours a week.
Today, she is retired after approximately 25 years working for AT&T. She talked about the importance of labor unions back then.
She encouraged students to do everything and anything that they wanted in education and a career.
As a human resource hiring manager, she explained to students the importance of first impressions and work ethic.
“Live by the Golden Rule. Treat people equally. It goes a long way,” said Stephens.
When asked what has surprised her over the years, she mentioned that she never though she’d see an African-American president or even a black principal in Cartersville. “I hope students really stop looking a people’s skin color.”
Afterwards, students asked a variety of questions.
Student Brianna Cooke thought she was really inspirational. “It was very different then than now,” said Cooke. “I thought it was real interesting how she lived back then."
"The lady at the candy store, I wouldn’t have been able to handle it,” said student Demarco Moore.
“I’m biracial. It hurts my feelings now in today’s world. I can’t imagine what that would have been like back then,” said student Michaela Cobb.
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