Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Parents’ Assistance with Education

BOND: That despite the fact that you came from a circumstance not as well prepared as theirs, you could equal them or surpass them?

HRABOWSKI: Well, the reason was that my mother and father had done a lot of supplemental work at home. I was reading Dostoevsky in middle school. It made a difference. I was embarrassed that I was forced to do it. I mean, when my mother would punish me using Raskolnikov, the character, you know, and others would say, “What is she talking about?” I’d act like didn’t know what she was talking about I’d be so embarrassed, but she was trying to get me. She knew the importance of reading. She figured that if she could get me to read great books, I mean, just wonderful literature from Russian authors to Thackeray to the Harlem Renaissance, she did the whole range, and so what she was doing -- she was using me as a guinea pig. What she’d do in her classroom she’d have me do at home and it was great, so I was better prepared than the typical colored child coming in because I’d had that home background. That helped.

Now, I still was not at the level of some of those children to start with, but it was great to have the bar set higher because what I had was not about brain power. I don’t mind working as hard as necessary. I’ll kill myself to get there. That was what the teachers had given me so I knew if I could just keep working hard I could get there and that made the difference.