African-American history has played an integral role in the shaping of politics, economics, and culture in the United States. Growing up, how did you learn about the accomplishments and struggles of African Americans? Were you in a classroom? Reading a book? Talking with relatives or friends? How has your understanding or knowledge of African-American history changed and/or developed over time? What do you think is the most effective way to pass along this rich and growing history to future generations?

Martha Hardy-Sanders

I was always asking questions when I was a little girl because I wanted to know or I thought I did. My grandfather was born around 1906 and my grandmother was born around 1908. When my grandfather told me he didn’t know his uncles because they had been sold I was completely in a state of shock and denial. As a little colored girl in Sanford, Fla, I wasn’t really ready to accept slavery as a fact of life in my own family just 2 short generations past. Then my grandmother showed me the scars on the front of her legs that she got as they crawled through the fields of North Florida running away from the Boss Man. I remember the filthy water fountains and bathrooms in Sanford with Colored signs over them. There are still some restaurants in town I haven’t tried. My great-grandfather taught all of us to count money because he said the foreign folks who have come to this country would cheat us. He said they can’t even speak English but they count better and faster than you do so I’m going to teach you how to count your money and he did! I was blessed with such a large extended family that most of the homes in my Georgetown neighborhood were headed by my uncles, aunts, great-uncles and great aunts. I had family on almost every street in Georgetown.
Though my grandmother was very fearful of whites at first she was open minded enough to open her heart to new people. I have always known in my child like heart that we are all the same no matter the color of our skin. My life was pretty sheltered in Sanford. My neighborhood was all Black, my church and my elementary school. I wasn’t bothered much by racism until 7th grade when my Mother decided that we would be better educated going to the newly intergrated school of her choice, Sanford Junior High instead of Crooms, where my older sister went for 2 years and most of my friends were going. I was called nigger there a few times and it hurt a little but the damage wasn’t permanent. I met more good people than bad and I tried to be nice. I have always wanted to be a Registered Nurse so I started doing what was required to accomplish that feat since day one. So when my first grade teacher asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, that is what I said and she said I could and I believed her. My parents said that I taught them more about people than they ever knew or cared to know. My Dad worried about me the most, he said I was too trusting but my Mom knew I would be alright and by the grace of God she was right. It has been a great ride for me. From the dirt roads of home in Sanford, Fla, to college and nursing school in Atlanta, Ga, nursing in Florida, Alabama, traveling to Co, Id, Mi, Mt, My, NC, NJ, NY, Pa, SC, Ut, Va, Wy, Heidelberg, Germany, Paris, France, The Grand Duchey of Luxenbourg I am home, again. I am retired now after 40 years in nursing and I would take nothing for this wonderfully diverse journey. Now I’m acting and it’s more fun than I’ve ever had!!!