Interview with Ellen Jackson

OK, now, can you, um, describe, where were you on the first day of school in '74, and what happened?


I have to think for a minute where I was on the first day of school. Um, I was in many places in my head, um, but I guess that morning, um, on the first day of school, we had put carphones, we took the, we incurred a lot of personal expense, um, the group of us that made up the, um, Freedom House Coalition, as, ah, the group was called, we put carphones, we put phones in our cars, and, we, um, we leased beepers, and we had all kinds of 24 hour numbers for ourselves and for other key people in the city to get to, including the mayor, including the governor, including the police commissioner, and ah, others, the superintendent of schools at that time, and all these people. And other volunteers would say, "Call me any time of night if you need me." So the first day of school, I think I was out in the streets at five o'clock in the morning. I know I was. And we were riding around, um, in the cars just spot checking to make sure that things were going OK, and there were many people out, riding around doing the same thing, but there were many, many parents standing with their children, um, waiting for the buses to come, there were representatives of the Department of Justice there, and from that, after the buses rolled, everything seemed to go off fairly well that morning, we went back to Freedom House, to man the phones. To be there, and of course there were all kinds of media there, printed and electronic and others, um, there to hear, because they knew that the first information was going to come through our hotline. We had printed up cards which we gave and we just sent out and disseminated all over the place that said, "Form of Information, is your child in school, etc., etc. Call this number, someone will be able to assist you. Or come to Freedom House." And, so we just waited and hoped that the children were going to be admitted into the schools, registered, and sit down, and open up a book and get started, get going with what this was supposed to be all about, um, education. Um, so the first morning, after riding around into west, we did not venture that morning over to South Boston. We rode around around Hyde Park, West Roxbury, we rode over to the, ah, Columbia Point Bayside Mall to watch the buses pull off. That was a kind of, um, central point for many of the students that were going into South Boston, um, to meet, to get off one bus and get on the buses that would take them into South Boston. And we met to talk about, um, the meetings that we would have at the end of the day. The idea was that people who were assisting us would come back and debrief us as to how the day went so that we could improve on the next day. And we would talk about minor incidents that would happen, we were prepared to talk about minor incidents that might have happened and how that could be alleviated, and we would make sure there was a representative, the first few weeks, the commisioners themselves were there, members from the mayors staff were there to be debriefed as to how they could beef up their end and also what kind of information we needed, um, to have so that, ah, we could assure parents or alert parents to what they may want to do differently as they sent their child off the next morning. And if there was a problem, we hoped that it would be handled in between four o'clock that afternoon when the buses would bring the kids back in to Roxbury, ah, and the next morning when the students would, um, board the buses that were ready to go back out. And we did that every day for quite a long time.