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Oak Crest Resident Recalls Civil Rights History

April 9, 2019

Parkville, Maryland--The turbulent events of November 1960 at McDonogh 19, a public elementary school in New Orleans, marked a defining moment in the life of Betty Bunce, a young teacher at the time.  

As the school had just desegregated, a "group of (white) parents had removed their children and gathered in an angry mob outside the building to jeer the three African-American girls who were the only remaining students," according to a report from CBS News published in 2004.

"I was heartbroken for those three girls.  They were just in first grade," recalled Ms. Bunce.  "My duty at that moment was to stay at the school.  I firmly believed—and still do—in the right of all children to a public education."

A teacher throughout her life, Ms. Bunce was asked to share her story on August 3, 2004 at the Mall in Washington, D.C.  The event was part of the nationwide campaign at the time, the Voices of Civil Rights tour, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

A resident of Oak Crest since 1996, Ms. Bunce noted that she was picked up at the Erickson Living retirement community along with her husband and other family members who came to support her.  

"It was a typically hot, humid day, but I was proud as can be to speak to those who had assembled at the Mall.  I was really surprised at the magnitude of the event, but it showed how important the commemoration was," described Ms. Bunce. 

Now in 2019, Ms. Bunce shared her lifelong perspective.  "I think the United States has come a long way, but there are still some who cling to viewpoints from the past.  I just read a new biography of Frederick Douglass, and it reminded me why education continues to be so valuable.  I certainly have hope for future generations."

About Oak Crest: Oak Crest, situated on a scenic 87-acre campus in Parkville, Maryland, is one of 20 continuing care retirement communities developed and managed by Erickson Living®.  The community is home to 2,100 residents who are supported by a team of more than 1,250 employees.  Additional information about Oak Crest can be found at