Out of dark history into a bright future

Reported by Layron Livingston llivingston@kltv.com

For many, the election of President-elect Barack Obama was a milestone.

KLTV spoke with a very special group of people who remember, first-hand, the darker times in East Texas' own history those who are now proud to say the light is beginning to shine.

After midday bible study, it's lunchtime inside St. Louis Baptist Church, where faith and future go hand-in-hand.

"Thank the Lord! I lived to see it," said seventy-seven year-old Johnnie Seastrunk of Tyler.

Seastrunk was born and raised in Tyler.

"During those days, i thought i would never see black people in important positions," said Seastrunk.

She graduated from, then, all-black Emmett Scott High School. She remembers one day in particular she was about to get on the city bus.

"The lady in front of me was black, and she started to step up onto the bus, and of course there was a white guy in the line," Seastruck explained. "He kicked her because he thought she was trying to get in the front of the line ahead of him. That day, I prayed to the Lord and asked the Lord, 'Lord, will there ever come a time when white people will actually accept us as people?'"

"[There's] still a lot of prejudice out there," noted seventy-one year-old Johnnie Mae Henderson who now lives in Tyler.

Henderson said she had to learn that at young age. She was forced to eat from the kitchen of an Athens restaurant.

"I wondered why did all this happen, and my daddy told me, it's prejudice against us," said Henderson.

"Back when I was growing up, there was always a sign, 'colored' and 'white'," said seventy-nine year-old Eva Johnson of Tyler.

East Texas schools have since been integrated, Tyler buses, desegregated, and once thought to be racial barriers, eliminated.

"We thought it couldn't happen. By being together, it happened," said Henderson.

"We have selected someone who loves this country," said Seastrunk.

"I cried. I was so elated that I cried," said Johnson.

Still living to witness history, but they say there's still much work to be done.

"We have made many steps, and I think we have many more to make," said Seastrunk. "We have selected someone who loves this country."

"I think he's going to do a wonderful job," said Eva.