At Harriet Tubman High School in the mid-1960s, there wasn't enough money to field a football team, the baseball players wore secondhand uniforms, and students worked with tattered textbooks. Fifteen-year-old Herman L. Charity Jr. was going to leave all that behind when he transferred to Howard High School in fall 1965, but he didn't want to go.
"At Tubman, I was a school leader. I was president of my class," Charity said. The segregated school for grades seven to 12 was an anchor for the black community. The Tubman Rockets, in the school colors of gold and blue, had a devoted following.
"We knew we had teachers and counselors and a principal that really cared about us and were really driven to getting us the best education possible," he said.
Harriet Tubman graduated its last class in June 1965 as the county moved to integrate all schools. The remaining students were crossing over from a familiar, close-knit setting to something new and uncertain.
"I wanted to participate in activities at the school," said Charity, who went on to become Howard County's first black police officer and now serves as executive assistant to County Executive James N. Robey (D). "I wanted to be accepted at the school."
The first day for Charity and fellow black students had moments of despair. "We were all standing at the bus stop, the school bus pulled up, stopped, the driver looked over, and he just left," Charity recalled. "He came back on the opposite side of the roadway. He stopped. We started walking across the roadway. Some of the students yelled, 'Don't pick them up,' and he took off."
The black students at Howard High sat at a table by themselves in the cafeteria. Toward the end of their first day, a white student went over and introduced himself to Charity. "We have three classes together," said Paul Hajek. Charity knew he had a new friend.
-- SUSAN DEFORD