“Don’t worry about me, because I know who my Father is and I am going to be all right,” Psalms 23rd Scripture.
“May the Work I’ve Done Speak for Me” an iconic hymn.
Both Biblical references were the guiding themes of Olivia Driver Lindsay.
Lindsay was one of the Norfolk 17, the first Black students who desegregated the Norfolk Public Schools 60 years ago, this February.
She died July 24.
Now there are 10 remaining members of the Norfolk 17.
Lisa Lindsay Shaw, her daughter has been designated by her siblings as the official spokesperson for the family at the time of her mother ’s passing. When the GUIDE contacted her, she said she was very proud and honored to talk about her mother’s legacy.
Her mother shared her memories of that slice of history, including parts few were privileged to know.
“My mom didn’t really talk a lot about her Norfolk 17 days,” said Lindsay Shaw. “She mainly just tried to live and be an example of how we should treat others and how we should live to make this world a better place for ourselves and others.”
To avoid complying with the Brown Decision, in the fall of 1958, Norfolk closed all of its all-White schools targeted to be desegregated
In February of 1959, a federal court ordered the schools to be reopened and the Norfolk 17 made history.
Initially, there were over 200 applicants the NAACP recruited as being academically and personally able to comply with the standards the Norfolk School Board used to determine the traits they thought were viable to be admitted to the schools.
Shaw said her mother was prepared for the stringent criteria used to screen the Black students who were allowed to enter the schools.
The family was living in the Oakwood section of Norfolk. Shaw said that by the time her mother was four-years-old, she could read and write anything beyond her years.
She was teaching Sunday School at Oakwood Chapel Church at 15-years-old.
Although the city closed the all-White schools to deter the Norfolk 17 from entering them, the NAACP and other Black organizations devised a prep school in the basement of the First Baptist Church, Bute Street.
This was to assure that when the schools did reopen, the students would be ready and able to meet the academic demands they would face.
When the city finally complied and the schools reopened, Driver enrolled at Norview High School School in the 9th grade.
Not only were they prepared academically, they were also armed with the ability to endure the taunts, verbal insults, isolation and other pressures designed to break their will and force them to quit.
Shaw said her mother told her of some of the “unbearable circumstances, her mother then 16-years-old and the other Black students encountered and overcame so that children who would come after…would have a better quality education and school experience and life.”
Shaw said that her mother performed well academically, despite not having the normal social life in school traditionally experienced by a
But she did not graduate from Norview.
Lindsay Driver always walked with another member of the Norfolk 17 arriving and leaving Norview High school.
But one day, in her senior year, her mother chose to walk the four blocks home from Norview.
“Suddenly she encountered a group of White students who began to chase after her,” said Shaw. “They chased her and she landed in a ditch to escape them. She was covered in mud and grass. She managed to escape and make it home. That traumatized her so she chose not to return to Norview.”
Shaw said that few people knew of that incident.
After she graduated from Booker T. Washington High School, the high school which served the Black community, Lindsay Drver graduated from
college with a degree in early childhood education.
“She wanted to be a doctor,” said Shaw. “But that experience, where she was chased inspired her to teach. She wanted to teach children to treat their fellow man respectfully and with love.”
She married a Navy man an after his tours of duty, the couple returned to Hampton Roads, living in
She joined her husband’s church, Ebenezer Baptist Church, the oldest, Black church in that city.
She became a Deaconess at Ebenezer and wrote a book on the Church’s history. She was a leader in the Women’s Fellowship and served on the Pastor’s Aide ministry.
“She was the most generous person I knew,” said Shaw. “She took care of her family. And she also took care of other children in need.
“When school time arrived she would buy clothes and supplies for the children of other families who were unable to provide. When people asked ‘what do I owe you’ she said ‘you owe me nothing. Just make sure you bless someone else when the times comes.’”
Each year she bought school supplies and donated them to organizations such as WTKR or Chic Filet which were collecting them for needy children in this community. She volunteered when she could for various organizations.”
When she was undergoing dialysis, according to Shaw, she brought gifts for the doctors and aides at the center and included a piece of scripture in each of them.
She also wrote a newsletter for the other dialysis patients on how to stay healthy and happy.
“She loved her family, especially her grandchildren,” said Shaw.
“Also, she remained close to the Norfolk 17 who lived in the area. Pat Turner was my auntie and Andrew Heidelberg was my uncle. Like family,, she had a brother-sister relationship with all of them.
“She was a wonderful and caring daughter, granddaughter, sister, friend, wife, neighbor, mother, teacher, giver, encourager, author, tutor, volunteer, and servant for the Lord! Many have been blessed by her unselfishness to give.”
This article was compiled with the help of Lisa Lindsay Shaw.
By Leonard E. Colvin
New Journal and Guide