Sarah Stringer Heart and Soul of Tuskegee
Sarah Stringer, oh how my heart aches for you.
As far as I know, we have never met. I arrived on the campus of Tuskegee Institute, August 20, 1970. You were beginning your second year of employment. A year later I would meet your cousin Jackie Stringer. Jackie was a roommate of a young lady from Fairfield, Alabama that I would visit from time to time. I met your brother, a year or two ago. We sat next to each other at the funeral services for Jim Flournoy, who bled crimson and gold like you and I bleed it today.
When I received word that you had been removed from your employment at Tuskegee, it moved me to tears. I quickly counted the years. Your untiring service to the university came to 47 years.
Each of those years, you were a rock to many students. They looked to you for guidance, counsel, and a sense of motherly love. I have seen your work. You gave all of that to them.I know that you did because I have encountered many alumni over the past 40 years. They talked about how you navigated them into careers. These careers were the gateway to productive lives. I am told that your placement rate is 77 percent.
I have met many men and women who have raised their families on the strength of the head start you gave them in gaining meaningful employment. Your work at Tuskegee is the true test of Lewis Adams’ vision. Adams believed that a school for the colored children of Tuskegee could equip them with knowledge that would enable them to provide a service or product to the world.
In the beginning, Booker T. Washington served as the principal and placement officer. Then Robert Moton dispatched the sons and daughters of Tuskegee to jobs across the country. For the first 88 years of Tuskegee’s existence, men like Washington, Moton, Frederick Patterson and Luther Foster placed the Institute’s students. Most of the last 47 years, you filled those giant shoes. I salute you for a job well done. You have done what you came to Tuskegee to do. No one could have possibly done it better. We owe you our gratitude and our love.
It is not so much that you were terminated. It is how you were notified that your services would no longer be needed that is disquieting, disturbing, in short, down right perturbing.
I am a strong man, Ms. Sarah Stringer, but I wept. I wept because I was hurt when I learned, my beloved Tuskegee, had treated you in this fashion.
No one deserves to be mistreated like this, and certainly not Sarah Stringer. You were shown the door at 4:30 pm central daylight savings time and told not to come back the next day. The cold, heartless man who devised this method of firing a loyal employee would get an “A” from Donald Trump.
Now the university is asking alumni to dig deep into their pockets and give a donation to save the university from closing its doors. Every job I have had I got it without any assistance from Tuskegee. In fact if you were to look into my academic files you will see a note, written by an Institute official, which says, “He lacks any further academic potential.”
Perhaps, they were right. I’m just a dumb-fool who should keep his nose out of Tuskegee’s business. But if I was one of the alumni that you helped to get a job, I would not give one copper penny to the university until the Board of Trustees comes to their senses and fire the one person who, unlike Sarah Stringer, needs to be fired. How could I take money that you helped me to earn and give it to an institution that lacks the common decency to honor and respect the lady who made it possible for its students to have good paying jobs.
Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist, the author of Paper puzzle and Justice in the Round; and the host of Beyond the Law with Harold Michael Harvey. He can be contacted at haroldmichaelharvey.com.