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Black Church News in Virginia

Two Women Pioneers Honored By Church

Pat Turner

Dorothy Vaughan in her twenties.

Family Light Baptist Church in Newport News recently honored two women in history for their accomplishments.

Dorothy Vaughan, whose story as a human computer during the early days of NASA was told in the book “Hidden Figures” and the block buster movie by the same name was one.

The second was Patricia Turner, one of 17 Black students in Norfolk who integrated the city’s public white high schools in 1958.

Kenneth Vaughn Jr., thanked the church for portraying his grandmother. Meanwhile, Vaughn’s granddaughter Michelle Vaughan-Webb said, “Our grandmother died early, but she raised six children on a single income.”

The grandchildren were also quick to point out a couple of inaccuracies in the movie: Their grandmother never stole a library book, and she didn’t fix cars.

“I don’t want you thinking my grandma stole anything,” Kenneth Vaughan Jr. said.

When Turner addressed the crowd and told the story of her integration experience, she encouraged the children in the audience to pay attention and realize how difficult it was for Black students to receive an education.

“They spat in my face, pushed me down the steps, jabbed me with pencils and took away my food,” she said. “But that didn’t hurt.”

Turner remembered in her neighborhood, she was shunned because she was seen as a traitor for choosing to attend a mostly white school. But she persevered and continued going to classes because she knew how important it was to challenge notions of separate but equal. She went on to graduate from Norview High School and eventually found a career in schools, continuing the effort for equality in education.

She said she was recently asked if she would endure those challenges again, she responded, “For the children of today, I’d do it again, again, again.”

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