An inspiring story of equality

I've been corresponding with Melinda Terry, a teacher in Seattle who is asking Canadians to help her create a lesson plan on Canada for her 6th grade class. I came across this story, and decided to share it with her. I find it really inspiring. Not only does it show the hospitality and generosity of a place that I love, but it reminds us all that one person really can make a difference.

I was reading Alan Doyle (of the band Great Big Sea)'s road journal tonight, and read that there are talks of making a movie about a black sailor who survived the shipwreck of the U.S.S. Truxton off the coast of Newfoundland in 1942.

This story is about the people of Newfoundland affecting the U.S. civil rights movement.

I'm almost embarassed to say that I didn't know the sailor's story; I feel that I should know the history of this disaster better. My Dad & Grandmother are from the small town of St. Lawrence, which helped to rescue drowning sailers from the stormy waters.

I've heard about the incident in general. Two U.S. Navy ships (the U.S.S. Truxton and U.S.S. Pollux) ran aground on Newfoundland cliffs during World War II, on February 18th, 1942. 203 sailors died; 185 were saved.

Well, it turns out that there was only one African American survivor of the U.S.S. Truxton, named Lanier Philips, and he says that it was the hospitality he received from the people of Newfoundland after the disaster which led him to become a civil rights leader for equality for all races in the U.S. military.

I wanted to know more, so I did an Internet search and found a National Public Radio program about Lanier Philips. Listen to it - his story is pretty amazing!

There's a second, shorter story from Carleton University here, which has some additional information, but listen to the NPR one first, it has more background information, and is more like a story than a news report.

If you'd like to know more, the St. Lawrence town website has more information about the tragedy.

FYI, I first read about the Seattle teacher's request on Abandoned Stuff by Saskboy (forgot to post the credit/link back in this post earlier - oops!)

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  1. I really like this story. What I find interesting about it is not only Mr. Philips' story and his revelation all those years ago that he was equal, as a black man, with white people and all other races, but also what the story says about Newfoundlanders.

    Sometimes it's hard to tell what the attitudes of Newfoundlanders are about things like this. I remember a few years ago two black students from the Caribbean did an exchange to a high school in Carbonear and when their exchange was over and they left Newfoundland someone had painted racist graffiti somewhere in the town saying they should "go back where they came from."

    I think it's important for Newfoundlanders to know that unlike the jerks that left this graffiti, Newfoundland is an inclusive society where openness and toleration really exist.

    Thanks for the NPR link, and nice blog.