Charles E. Tennant Sr.
Charles E. Tennant Sr. grew up in Asheville, North Carolina. He attended segregated schools.
“We never saw brand new books,” said Tennant. “We always got used books from the white schools.” He remembers one, Little Black Sambo. “It was about a little black boy who played with a tiger. They made him as black as possible with huge red lips and wooly hair.”
He also saw black movies full of stereotypes, at school, the last Friday in the month. “We were, at a young age, exposed to scary movies, like “Mighty Joe Young.”
In 1959, Tennant applied to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The university required each applicant to submit a photograph. He did reluctantly and received a rejection letter advising him to attend one of the “colored” colleges and listed them.
Tennant ended up at North Carolina A&T College when young black males were required to enroll in ROTC. He chose the Air Force, but placed into the Army ROTC program. He withdrew from A&T, and enrolled into Winston-Salem Teachers College. After graduating, he got a teaching position in Rockingham, North Carolina School District.
In 1966, the county school district integrated. Old white teachers were sent to black schools, and a few good black teachers to white schools. No black children were sent to white schools, or vice versa. Wanting no parts of that, he applied for a position in Detroit.
In route to Detroit, the plane experienced mechanical problems and laid over in Columbus, Ohio, causing Tennant to miss his interview. He took a taxi downtown, contacted Columbus City Schools then took a taxi to their office. “I believe this is where God wanted me to be,” he said.
Mr. Gearhart in Teacher Personnel, interviewed Tennant and explained the benefits. Tennant accepted. At times throughout his teaching career, Tennant held eight certificates.
In 1993, Tennant realized our students needed a school showcasing the positivity of Blacks from a worldview and sprang into action to make it a reality. “Everyone told me I was wasting my time.”