Sherman Museum was the site of a recent oral story telling event last weekend when Njoki McElroy visited the former Carnegie Library building to present information about growing in Sherman as presented in her book, “1012 Natchez … A Memoir of Grace, Hardship and Love.”
McElroy told of her time growing up in the Jim Crow South dealing with challenges with grace, finding love, enjoying family, and earning post-graduate degrees in performance studies from Northwestern University.
McElroy then worked as a college professor, both at Northwestern University and at Southern Methodist University, where she still serves as an adjunct professor.
“This master storyteller had plenty of stories to tell,” a news release about the event said. “She lived through extreme segregation, nearly lost her children in a house fire, went from the relatively middle class standing of her parents’ Oak Cliff home to living practically a pauper’s life in Chicago. Born in 1925 as Hilda Nadine Hampton, McElroy attended segregated Dallas public schools and, at 16, went to New Orleans’ Xavier University. Education was big in her family’s household, and so were those who provided it. From her mother, McElroy picked up the ability to tell great stories.”
McElroy’s grandparents lived in Sherman in the 1930s, and she shared memories of the events surrounding the lynching of George Hughes, the Sherman Riot of 1930 and the burning of the Grayson County Courthouse and Black business district which will soon be memorialized in the form of a historical marker to be placed on the grounds of the current Grayson County Courthouse.
“McElroy writes at the conclusion of the chilling chapter,” the news release said. “‘No matter how much rain fell, the tree where they hanged George Hughes seemed as if it would smolder forever.'”
McElroy, who is a folklorist, storyteller, author and playwright, has performed and told stories throughout the US, Africa, Europe, and the Caribbean. Her plays explore the historical and sociological experience of African Americans as entertainers.
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