Shirley Young was comfortable teaching at Guilford Elementary in Jessup, a school attended by only black children, when she was abruptly told one day that she was being transferred to a school that had only white students.

The move was orchestrated by school administrators who wanted to integrate the county's teaching staff even as they were finally desegregating the school system. So after five years at Guilford, the 27-year-old Young went to Waterloo Elementary School in fall 1965 to teach fourth grade.

Young was nervous about the way she would be received by her new superiors and the white teachers and students at Waterloo.

"I was brought into a new environment and a new situation," Young, now 72, recalled. "But I have always been a person to think if another person can do it, I can do it, too. I just went in with the feeling that I could do a good job."

Despite being the only black teacher at Waterloo that year, Young said she was embraced by the students, their parents and her co-workers.

The students she taught were so fond of her they often offered to go home with her after school to help her do chores -- an offer Young graciously rejected. And the parents at the school even pitched in to buy her a little gold teapot to welcome her.

"People seemed to act as if they accepted what was going on," said Young, who now is an associate minister at First Baptist Church of Guilford. "They seemed to go along with the program. I could not tell you what they were thinking, but their actions were favorable."

Young soon felt so emboldened that she began lobbying school administrators to hire more black teachers. At one point, she went to her supervisor and asked, "Where are all the black teachers? I am the only one here. Why don't we have more?"

Another black teacher was hired the next year. Young ended up teaching at Waterloo Elementary for three decades.


"People seemed to act as if they accepted what was going on," Shirley Young said of teaching at a white school in 1965.