Education was important to Jean Byrd’s family, especially as African Americans living in the Northeast.
You had to if you wanted to move in life and be something. Even the girls were going to school, learning a trade. Something to do. Because the men didn’t make the kind of money that the white men made, or the family. Maybe the husband made enough money that the wife didn’t have to work. And she could do community work or belong to the women’s club. Because my aunt worked for a lady like that. Her husband was the head of a bank. And she was active in the community, head of the woman’s club. So I said, “That was an angle I can go.” You watched the different ones. Up the street lived lawyers, there was a councilman and there was so much to draw on that you could easily pick what you think you would like to do.
Jean dreamed about going to Brown College after high school, but it was a men’s school at the time. Instead, she went to Patterson State College. Part of the reason was economic: the school was nearby her home, so she could carpool with a friend who lived around the corner.
This is a copy of Jean Byrd’s high school diploma. It comes from the collection of Jean Byrd Stewart.