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Shoes are shoes
Hi. My name is Linda Boggs. My mother was Corinne "Lindy" Claiborne Boggs, a hero to the integration process. She died a few years ago, but it wasn't until recently, when I found her diary and it told me how a pair of shoes changed lives forever. This is her story.
My father was a typical 1950 southerner. Racist, proud of his family, and very protective. My mother, on the other hand, was nurturing and warm. As my father was the head of the household, he controlled our beliefs. This meant my mother was also raising my brother and I to be racist.
It’s August again, which means school will be starting up. I usually go into town shopping with my mother and brother for a few back to school items. My mother allows us one pair of shoes for the school year. This year, I was finally old enough and I got to pick out my very first pair of shoes.
We went downtown to the nearest Tom McCann store. My brother picked a typical dress shoe that practically every young man owns. I fell in love with a pair of canvas shoes. Brown, with pink hearts printed among the shoe. It had a large pink heart pendant on top. I couldn’t wait to buy these. It was going to be my shoe. I could just picture myself being the social highlight at school.
My mother was a tad disappointed that I did not choose a classier shoe for a young girl, but she decided to let me keep my mistake. She kept saying how the shoe would never match anything and people would get the wrong idea, but I just ignored her. I knew I liked them, and that’s all that matters.
That September, I wore my shoes and marched into tenth grade, prouder than ever. It might not be as noticeable as I thought it was at the time, but I don’t mind. I wore those shoes every single day until that strange walk home in April.
My mother and I were walking home from church, where we passed a black neighborhood. It didn’t have the nicest looking houses or people. She has always told me to walk fast and to not look anybody in the eye. There I was, looking down at the side walk, when I spotted a familiar pair of shoes. Now, I was in my Sunday shoes, so they weren’t mine. I looked up to find a homely looking black girl wearing my shoes.
Then it hit me. They weren’t my exact shoes. She most likely bought them at a different store. I shouldn’t judge her for being so much like me. I am not even sure what came across me. The girl wasn’t exactly sure why I was staring at her, but she was assuming it wasn’t good. My mother noticed my slow place and reminding me to not look anybody in the eye. She soon saw exactly what I was looking at. Her expression was indescribable. She looked so mad at me and didn’t even waste time to scold me right then and there. She hurried me along the sidewalk, practically sprinting home. I have never seen my mother act so strange.
My mother later explained to me that I could no longer wear those shoes. I should not be seen as someone as low class as a Negro. She then took my shoes and threw them to be hidden away. I did not understand why it mattered to her if another girl wore the same shoes. She told me I needed to move on and I had to wear my Sunday shoes to school from now on. My mother did not want to discuss this with my father, fearing the consequence. She said we both need to keep our mouth shut and forget about the “ugly canvas shoes that ruined the lives of many.”
Later that night, I was about to fall asleep and I had an epiphany about segregation. That girl and I both owned the same shoes. If the shoes can be equal, why can’t we? The one pair of shoes symbolizes unison. The two races, black and white, should come together, not stay apart. If two shoes are the exact same besides a minor color difference, they would be treated the same. Shoes are shoes and people are people. That girl could be exactly like me and I judged her as a bad person. I shouldn’t be raised like this. I knew that racism isn’t my belief. It isn’t my mother’s either. My father pushes us. It is just his escape to blame all the negatives of life on. It is a confusing and bad habit, and I don’t understand why people do it, but I know it needs to stop. I realized we shouldn’t be treated separately due to a color difference, which is what is expected of shoes. If shoes can be equal, people can.
I made sure everyone was asleep so I could get my shoes back. I wasn’t going to let my father keep me from something I love. I noticed the moonlight hitting the wooden floor, and I tip-toed down the hallway into the storage room. Every time the floor creaked, I would jump a mile. I jumped in anticipation for the punishment that would await me. If my father caught me, I would have to confront him about his idiotic beliefs, and I do not think he would take it very well.
I looked around the packed room and I could not find my beloved shoes. I couldn’t risk staying in there much longer. I wouldn’t know what to do or say if my family caught me. I had to give up my search and make my way back to my room. I soon passed the laundry basket, where I noticed something sticking out. MY SHOES. I snatched them up and hurried back to my room so no one can catch me.
I plan to stand up for my beliefs. I will spread to my class mates, friends, and teachers the truth of racism. I will wear those shoes, proud to be who I really am. My father shouldn’t be able to keep my spirits down. On the other hand, if I do not stand up for myself, I could not wear the shoes. My mother and father would be disappointed in me and would not understand my newly well-thought out beliefs. Maybe… It’s not such a good idea to say something now…
My mother was such an inspiring person. She did end up standing up for herself, but not until her senior year, when people would actually listen. She later traveled to New York and attended Colombia University, on a full scholarship and graduated with honors in 1958. She then became the first female lawyer of her small town.
Lindy knew what she wanted to do from the beginning. She couldn’t let those shoes out of her head. She wanted to help people. The people that were unfairly judged. She knew she needed to do something.
In 1964, my mother was elected to congress. She could not believe her luck. She was finally given a chance to help people. In congress, she could help pass laws, support laws, and even get a chance to propose laws. By that time, congress was working on passing some integration laws. President Lyndon B. Johnson proposed that voting, education, and the use of public facilities should be equal for all. My mother was completely for it, and worked hard days and nights to get more politicians to vote in agreement. It took time, but eventually all three laws were passed. Many African American citizens thanked my mother and soon our family had many close friends and ties of the Negro community.
In 1969, my mother helped Shirley Anita Chisholm get elected to congress. She became the first African American woman serving in congress. My mother quickly became close friends with this woman and shared her shoe story. Chisholm served as a national figure. With her race, gender, and indescribable personality, there is no reason she would not be a house-hold topic. After a few years, my mother discovered something so shocking and surprising. Shirley had told my mother that she was the girl who wore the same shoes. She didn’t want to say anything to Lindy before, but Shirley knew it was time to face up to it. My mother was so thankful to that woman and pleased that Shirley remembered the story as well as she had. The two women traveled the country, sharing their story and letting young ones know anything is possible.
After integration was clearly visible now, my mother wanted to help other women. She loved to support laws and try to change the opinions of many politicians. In 1969, the women’s suffrage law was passed. Now, women could vote and serve in juries. The United States of America was finally turning into a place of opportunity for many people.
My father was Hale Boggs, a man who worked side by side with my mother. He loved her strive to be the best and became a Senator, to get Lindy’s ideas into the senate. My mother loved to be heard and loved the fact that she now had a man in her life that supported her 100%. The team became well known in the political world and had many supporters following their every proposed idea.
Lindy died in 1998, due to a struggling battle of breast cancer. I was so inspired by her work and her positive attitude to be the best, so I started to work with the Susan G. Koman breast cancer foundation. I traveled the country, raising money in support for the cure. I spread my mother’s story, in hopes that someone else would be enlightened by her. The foundation was so happy to receive my family’s support and added the shoe story to the traveling legends.
My grandmother once told my mother to “forget the ugly canvas shoes that ruined the lives of many.” She was completely wrong. Sure, they may have not been the nicest looking shoes, but they didn’t ruin lives. They helped lives. That single pair of shoes changed life as we knew it. They helped contribute to the integration process, and changed the opinion of my mother. Who knows if I would be alive today if it weren’t for those shoes.
Before my mother died, she told me to never forget the shoes. She told me exactly where she had put them and wanted me to keep them safe. Lindy knew her entire life was due to a single pair of canvas shoes and she wasn’t going to let herself forget it. I don’t even know what our life would be like if it wasn’t for that one day in April. I don’t exactly know how to say it, but,
Thank you shoes.