On Friday, June 22, 2018, the City of Oak Ridge sent a formal invitation to Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and Under Secretary of Energy Lisa Gordon-Hagerty for a reunion of the historically African American neighborhood of Scarboro in Oak Ridge at the end of this month.
Many thanks to Mayor Warren Gooch, Mayor Pro Tem Rick Chinn, City Manager Mark Watson, and the Oak Ridge city staff for taking this bold step to recognize some truly great Americans.
The city’s invitation will give the Secretary and Under Secretary an opportunity to honor a group of forgotten American patriots.
Two years ago, DOE’s Office of Science announced plans to slash the size of the American Museum of Science and Energy and all but abandon the Scarboro Story.
Prior to the 70-percent reduction of their museum, the AMSE attracted 70,000 visitors a year to the Oak Ridge economy.
The latest planned AMSE history area will be postage-stamp size and lucky to draw a small fraction of previous interest.
A visit by the Secretary and Under Secretary could provide the important national publicity needed to attract large private donors---to re-expand the museum. A re-expanded museum could easily attract 300,000 to 500,000 visitors a year to the Oak Ridge economy.
Think: “Bill Gates” or “Steve Jobs” or some other corporate giant’s name in front of “America’s International Museum of Science and African American History.”
During World War II, the Americans of Scarboro worked day-and-night — -under some of the harshest, most-humiliating federal segregation in the nation---to help win the war and bring millions of service men and women safely home.
For decades, Scarboro has steadfastly supported the department’s nuclear programs. This helped DOE create the vital American nuclear arsenal, helped Scarboro’s next-door neighbor (the important NNSA Y-12 plant) survive a major nuclear-safety shutdown in the 1990s, and helped the DOE Environmental Management program find a cost-effective solution for large amounts of nuclear waste storage (much of which will be housed right next to Scarboro.)
Thanks in part to Scarboro’s support of DOE, America’s nuclear arsenal has pushed the major super powers away from a third cataclysmic World War III---for more than seven decades. That’s a stunning achievement. World Wars I and II were only separated by 20 years.
The extended period without a World War III has opened the greatest era of scientific and medical advancement in history.
It has also launched world-changing civil rights initiatives and enabled mankind to begin the important environmental protection movement.
Back in 1955, DOE asked the parents of Scarboro for one more very-big favor: help desegregate the department’s Oak Ridge public school system.
The brave children of Scarboro became the very first to enter a previously-segregated, all-white classrooms in the south. This set the tone for America and allowed other school systems across the nation to follow suit.
A Scarboro resident recently told me that her grandfather was only 16 years old when he came to Oak Ridge during the Manhattan Project.
Imagine the courage of this young, 16-year-old black man traveling through Jim Crow conditions in the 1940s. Imagine his determination to journey to a “Secret City” in order to help the nation’s war effort. What an amazing story.
She said her parents also helped desegregate the Oak Ridge public schools in 1955.
Let’s hope the busy schedules of the Secretary and Under Secretary of Energy will permit a visit.
It would be such fun for them to shake the hands of people who have done so much to help our nation.