SEED Maryland Students Meet With Trailblazing Attorney Mrs. Betty Walker

Thanks to board member John Noel, junior and senior young women at SEED Maryland enjoyed a special treat recently when they met with an extended member of the Noel family, retired attorney Betty Walker! Mrs. Walker was the first black woman from the segregated south to attend Harvard Law School and only the third black woman to attend in the history of the school. Hers is the story of the American Dream—realized through education and hard work. Her drive to succeed was instilled in her by her grandmother who prioritized education above all else and fostered a lifelong love of reading and learning.

Mrs. Walker also attended Spelman College, whose motto is “A Choice to Change the World.” During introductions, the SEED MD students were asked to share what they would change about the world. Answers were as varied as they were profound. “I would make college free.” “I would eliminate health disparities in the African American community.” “I would have every woman walk with confidence in her own skin.” “I would cure cancer.”

Mrs. Walker encouraged the girls to learn their history. She talked about James Baldwin leaving the south to seek the “warmth of other suns” and—after a quick lesson on the Great Migration—described SEED as the first of many other suns she hopes the students will enjoy during their lives.

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Perhaps the most moving moment was when Mrs. Walker read a poem from a Spelman classmate of hers, a “promising young writer” named Alice Walker, below:

They were women then
My mama’s generation
Husky of voice—stout of
With fists as well as
How they battered down
And ironed
Starched white
How they led
Headragged generals
Across mined
To discover books
A place for us
How they knew what we
Must know
Without knowing a page
Of it
— Women, Alice Walker

As Mrs. Walker read, there was a rumbling among the students; they had studied the poem in class earlier this school year. It was one of those magical moments where the importance and relevance of classwork is illustrated outside the classroom.