Go on now, fly!
Charles Houston — Scene 14

Now Let Me Fly Excerpt:
Barbara Johns Monologue

Scene 7

[Farmville, Virginia. BARBARA JOHNS, a 16-year-old high school student addresses a school assembly.]


Every morning I get on a bus thrown away by the white high school on the hill. I sit on a torn seat and look out a broken window. And when my bus passes the shiny new bus that the white high schoolers have, I hide my face 'cause I'm embarrassed in my raggedy bus. And when we get to R. R. Moton High, the bus driver gets off with us, 'cause he's also our history teacher. He comes in the classroom and fires up the stove and I sit in my winter coat waiting for the room to get warm. You know the rooms, the ones in the "addition" as they call it. We call them "the tar paper shacks" because that's what they are, am I right? I'm embarrassed that I go to school in tar paper shacks and when it rains I have to open an umbrella so the leaks from the roof won't make the ink run on my paper. And later in the day I have a hygiene class out in that broken-down bus and a biology class in a corner of the auditorium with one microscope for the whole school. I'm embarrassed that our water fountains are broken and our wash basins are broken and it seems our whole school is broken and crowded and poor. And I'm embarrassed. [beat] But my embarrassment is nothing compared to my hunger. I'm not talking about my hunger for food, though it would be right nice to have a cafeteria with lunch instead of just sticky buns like we get. No, I'm hungry for those shiny books they have up at Farmville High. I want the page of the Constitution that is torn out of my social studies book. I want a chance at that "Romeo and Juliet" I've heard about but they tell me I'm not fit to read. [beat] Our teachers say we can fly just as high as anyone else. That's what I want to do. Fly just as high. I said, fly. You know, I've been sitting in my embarrassment and my hunger for so long that I forgot about standing up. So, today, I'm going to ask you to stand with me. Before we fly, before we fly just as high as anyone else, we gotta walk just as proud as anyone else. And that's what we're going to do! We're gonna walk out of this school and over to the court house. Do you hear me? We're gonna walk with our heads high and go talk to the school board. Are you with me? We're gonna walk and talk. We're gonna walk out of this school and walk out ON this school. We're gonna walk out in a strike, yes, I said strike, and we won't come back until we get a real school with a gymnasium and library and whole books. And we will get them. And it'll be grand. Are you with me? Are we gonna walk? Are we gonna fly?