In 1946, when Daisy Moore and Marietta Bryant were hired to teach African-American children in Globe and Miami, they didn’t know that they would be fired just a few years later after Arizona retracted the law requiring children from “African ancestry” to be segregated from “White” children in kindergarten through eight grade. They also didn’t know their struggle to continue teaching in integrated schools would lead to their induction into the Arizona Women’s Hall of Fame more than sixty years later. Unfortunately, as with so many important historic promoters of change, recognition of their contribution came only after their death.
Segregation of “Blacks” from “Whites” had been a law in Arizona since 1909. Globe-Miami School District had two small African American schools: Dunbar School in Globe, named after the renowned African American poet, Paul Lawrence Dunbar, and Thomas Jefferson School in Miami. In 1951 a statute was passed in the Arizona Legislature allowing desegregation of African Americans from “White” Americans giving Globe-Miami school districts an opportunity to close both schools, and save the school districts money by downsizing. There were not many African-American students in the area so integrating them into the general public schools of the community was not a problem. At the same time the African American teachers, Daisy Moore and Marietta Bryant, both qualified teachers, were fired from the school system, the school boards preferring not to integrate them into other schools.
Defending the dismissals as a circumstance of practicality and budgeting, the superintendents of Globe and Miami schools, as well as their school board, did not want African-Americans teaching White children. Moore and Bryant, supported by the teachers union (Arizona Education Association), hired a local attorney, Bob McGhee, to represent them in a lawsuit filed against the Globe-Miami school districts defending their right for employment based on their credentials and tenure rather than race. Refusing to become victims of a system that failed to recognize their worth as educators and human beings and paving the way for Martin Luther King Jr, Daisy Moore and Marietta Bryant bravely dared to stand up for their civil rights.
The Arizona Superior Court ruled in favor of the teachers but Globe Superintendent Robert Taylor and Miami Superintendent Ivan Hostetler, determined to keep Moore and Bryant out of the schools, filed an appeal. Again, the court ruled in favor of the teachers. After one year of unemployment the two teachers recovered costs for a year’s lost wages and were reinstated into the newly integrated schools. Daisy Moore taught third and fourth grade at Noftsger Hill School until she retired in 1975 and Marietta Bryant taught penmanship at the Bullion Plaza School until 1961. Despite local controversy, the two women proved themselves as excellent teachers in integrated schools and earned the respect of parents, both black and white, and fellow educators.
It’s interesting to note that segregation of Mexican Americans and Native Americans was also in practice throughout the Southwest, but not a requirement of law. Segregation of Mexican and Native American children was the decision of school administrators, influenced by the racial prejudice of that time, using the rationale of language barriers, being foreigners, and perceived levels of learning ability. Bullion Plaza School in Miami, built in 1923, was created as a vocational training school for Mexican and Native American children. Some Mexican American children were allowed to attend Inspiration Addition School, but only if they looked white, spoke English very well and their parents pressured the school board enough. The social boundaries were clear to all, if not talked about publicly. Around 1950 Arizona courts passed decisions requiring local school districts to stop this practice of segregation. Although closely related in time and social awareness to the law for segregation of African-American children, it was a separate issue.
Marietta Bryant and Daisy Moore were friends before coming to this area. They met as students studying to be teachers at what is now known as Langston University in Oklahoma. They moved to Globe and Miami with their husbands in the 1940’s.
Peggy Foerster was in Mrs. Moore’s third grade class at Nofsger Hill School in 1970. She remembers playing softball at recess with Mrs. Moore on the pitcher’s mound, and the fourth grade teacher Mrs. Beynon as catcher.
“They didn’t give us kids any break at all,” says Foerster recalling Mrs. Moore’s pitching arm. In those days teachers were involved with the students, in the classroom and then on the playground with the kids at recess. They didn’t go to the teachers lounge to relax. The children learned more than reading, writing and math, “They taught us about life,” Foerster says.
Before the annual Christmas play, performed before the school and parents, Daisy Moore stood before her thirty excited third graders. “This is your turn to shine or this is your turn to look like an imbecile,” Foerster quotes her teacher as if Mrs. Moore was in the room. The moment came for them to go on stage, Mrs. Moore quieted her flock. “Look at me,” she said. She then proceeded to look each child in the eye, and after visually connecting with each and every one, she smiled.
“There’s your shine,” she said, “You can go on stage now.” After the performance, back in the classroom, one of her students raised his hand and asked nervously, “Did we shine, Mrs. Moore?” “You most certainly did,” she said, “I have not had a prouder day.”
In the late 1950’s, Jay Phillips attended Bullion Plaza School. He remembers his penmanship teacher, Marietta Bryant, as having a quiet disposition, high standards in the classroom, and an impeccable dresser. He admits that as a boy he was known as somewhat of a trouble maker and got paddled more than once during his time at Bullion Plaza. One day after recess, acting on a dare, he gave Mrs. Bryant a swat on her backside. The soft spoken, patient, and good-natured teacher reacted much differently than he expected. “You will never do that again,” she fumed and sent him to the principal’s office where he received the paddle. A lesson in respect that he has not forgotten. He has also not forgotten the importance of good penmanship. Years later as a young man, handing in a work application, the interviewer commented on his exceptional penmanship.
“Where did you learn to write so beautifully?” In elementary school from Mrs. Bryant, of course. Phillips speaks fondly of Mrs. Bryant and is proud of his perfect penmanship. Despite his reputation as a problematic student, Jay Phillips went on to become a high school teacher.
Daisy Moore and Marietta Bryant knew that teachers change lives and they wanted to teach. They were also African-Americans in a predominantly white community. They were just two elementary school teachers who bravely refused to be denied the opportunity and privilege of teaching. Thank you Mrs. Moore, and thank you Mrs. Bryant, for the children you touched and the impact you made on the civil rights of Arizona.
After living in Israel for 35 years Libby Rooney arrived in Globe where she manages the Chrysocolla Inn, writes and performs Spoken Word Poetry and enjoys the good life of small town, Arizona. Her focus for GMT is covering the Arts and Creative culture of Globe-Miami.
Thank you for this. My mom went to Noftsger Hill in the late 50’s and has a remarkable story about segregation. I’m on a hunt for images and history of that time.
Thanks, Jim, I feel honored to have had the opportunity to write this story, which is such an important reminder of wrongs made right in our Arizona history, and a well deserved tribute to Daisy Moore and Marietta Bryant.
I’d love to hear your wife’s story,