by Terry Rogers
On Tuesday, February 18, United States Congresswoman Lisa Blunt-Rochester visited Benjamin Banneker Elementary School. The Congresswoman visited the school in order to read the book Ruth and the Green Book by Calvin Alexander Ramsey and Gwen Strauss, illustrated by Floyd Cooper, in honor of Black History Month.
“I actually represent this great state of Delaware in Washington DC,” Congresswoman Blunt-Rochester said to the children. “We hear a lot about great examples of black history, like stories about Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, but there are everyday people that make history, too. You are actually part of history. When I was elected in 2016, we made history in Delaware. The state had never sent a woman to Congress or a person of color, so when people voted for me and I was elected, I got to go to Washington, and I got to be the first.”
Ruth and the Green Book tells the story of a young African American girl who travels from Chicago to Alabama in order to visit her grandmother. The story takes place in the 1940s during the Jim Crow era. Along the way, the family encounters prejudice but also learn about Green Books, which were guides used by African Americans during the Jim Crow era that provided information on hotels, gas stations, hair salons and restaurants that served African Americans.
“In this Green Book, there are stops in Delaware,” Congressman Blunt-Rochester said, holding up one of the books she brought with her. “This book has hotels where they could stay, where they could get a haircut, get their car fixed. Is this a surprise to any of you that there was a time in our country when we were not allowed to be in a classroom like this all together? That our schools were separated, that places where we could get our hair done were separated?”
Congresswoman Blunt-Rochester took questions and comments from the children after she finished the book. One child commented that if the country was still separate, she would never have met her friend, Adrianna.
“You are going to make me cry with comments like that,” Congresswoman Blunt-Rochester said. “It makes us special as a country because of all our differences. There was a welcome sign for me when I got here that had all these different colors. It was like a box of crayons. If there were only purple crayons, what fun would that be? We would not be able to paint this beautiful picture that is America.”
One student told the Congresswoman that a baby brother had passed away after she told them that they should remember that their story is a part of history.
“When I decided to run for office, my husband passed away unexpectedly,” Congresswoman Blunt-Rochester said. “That was a very sad time for me as I am sure losing your baby brother was for your family. I was able to rise up and have hope again in order to serve you in Congress. Sometimes, even bad things are a part of history, just like the family in the book and just like your family. The tough part was that the family had to be turned down places where they wanted to visit but the good part was that there were places where they were not turned down.”
When asked what job she would have besides serving in Washington, Congresswoman Blunt-Rochester explained that she had already held several interesting jobs.
“One of my jobs is Mom,” she explained. “I have a son and a daughter, so Mom will always be my job. I was the Secretary of Labor where I helped people find jobs. I also worked in the Department of Health and Human Services for awhile because I wanted people to be healthy. But, if I could have any job other than this job, it would probably be something I’ve done most of my life, which is to be a writer. I’ve written a book before, I’ve written a couple of books. So, I would probably travel around the world, spread love and write books. Or, maybe I would be a minister, because I love God a lot.”