Hey BJ,

I always wanted to tell this story.

The  American Bandstand was only a few blocks from the Junior High School I attended and we used to run home to watch it on TV.  Some of us decided that since the white kids couldn't dance, we should go on there and show what real dancing was like.  Bob Horn was the host of ABS at that time.  At first they didn't want to let us in but we just kept coming back until they would let a few of us in, but wouldn't show our faces in the camera. 

We developed a method of following the camera and letting each other know where the camera was so one of us or one couple would get seen by mistake.  We became skilled at accidentally getting a shot at the camera view.  They were not nice to us at all and did everything they could to discourage us from coming to 39th and Market where the studio was located, but we just kept it up.  Kids from other schools started to come and the first ones of us just got involved with other stuff.  We never thought of it as a movement of any kind, just that we knew we could dance better and that the "bunny hop" was pretty corny. As it turns out, it was a move to integrate the long-standing American Bandstand show. 

Just a note, my mother also took me to the Howdy Doody show and insisted that her little black girl and other kids should be seen on that one too.  It just occurred to me that we were kind of pushy like that, although it wasn't referred to integrating television, we just did it.  I'll talk about the DAR award, I was just about 9 or 10  years old and my teacher said the DAR has an essay contest every year and some of her class should write an essay and she would submit them.  I think her name was Ms. Fink or Ms. Litchfield.  I wrote an essay on why it was so important for everyone to vote and I learned this word from the encyclopedia, "disenfranchisement"  I wrote something about exercising the franchise and democracy and I guess they thought the essay had been written by a little white girl, and boy were they surprised to see me. 

I was really small and my mom always had me dressed up in little dresses.  Just as an aside, I did include a couple of sentences from the encyclopedia in my essay to help state my case about the importance of voting for everyone who was 21 years old.  My view changed over the next few years but I kept my third prize flag on a pedestal for a long time before it got lost in the old stuff and I left Philly for more exciting things to do with my life.


More about Frisby later.  One of his letters is on display at the Schomberg at this very moment.





Cleo Silvers

Outreach Director

Irving J. Selikoff Center for Occupational and

Environmental Medicine

(212) 824-7006