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Sweeping Away Mistakes

Jana Rogers

Kicking off Black History Month at the Children’s School, visiting professor Evelyn C. White and women’s studies program assistant Lynne Jerome talked to the 2nd/3rd and 4th/5th grade classes about fixing mistakes, and “sweeping away” the confusion, along with some history on school desegregation.

After 10 years working together on White’s biography, Alice Walker: A Life, Jerome was mistakenly identified as Lynne Norman in the 30,000 hardbacks first printed. Though the mistake will be corrected before the paperback comes out next January, White said she was horrified when she realized the mistake as she went to sign a copy for Jerome.

They decided to have a “sweeping ritual” and invited Jerome’s daughters, Emily and Lucie, both of whom attend the Children’s School, to perform the sweep.

Eleven times, Taylor asked her fellow classmates, “What’s her name?” Eleven times, the children answered, “Lynne Jerome.” Ten times for the 10 years they’d known each other, and once more for luck.

White believes the error was tied to her daily sight of Norman Rockwell’s 1966 painting “The Problem We All Live With” near her computer, which depicts Ruby Bridges being escorted to school by police during desegregation. She saw it as the perfect opportunity to talk to the children about Black History, because Bridges was the first black child to enter a white school, and spent the year alone at a New Orleans elementary school, when other parents removed their children in protest.