Susan Gracy Banyas, The Hillsboro Story
Susan Grace Banyas joins us to talk about her book The Hillsboro Story: A Kaleidoscope History of an Integration Battle in My Hometown, a multi-voiced tale that brings to light the courageous people who fought for integration and equal protection in the early days of the Civil Rights Movement, at a time when Cold War tensions were at their peak. Two months after the U.S. Supreme Court rendered its momentous Brown v. Board of Education decision, an eight-year-old girl named Susan Grace Banyas, living in the small town of Hillsboro, Ohio, bore witness to a courageous community protest staged to support and hasten the integration of her town's public schools, after the "colored school" was mysteriously set on fire.
Five decades later, Banyas, now a notable storyteller and artist, returned to her hometown to re-engage the childhood memory and gather the memories of the people who participated in or witnessed what was a timely and courageous civil rights action. This is an important story, as we continue to reckon with our country's long legacy of racial injustice. The work evolved over a long time, from the memory itself, which took root in 1955, to finding her Quaker great-great-grandmother’s Civil War diary in 1982, to discovering a piece of the memory/story in 1990 at her 25th high school reunion, to 2003 when she began the investigation. Congressman John R. Lewis, one of the country's finest civil rights leaders, always recommends to those attending his speeches and protests, that they "Be stirred by the spirit of history." Susan Grace Banyas has taken his advice dearly to heart.
Banyas is a multi-media artist and choreographer. She has taught for the past forty years in schools, universities, and studios and has directed and created numerous full-length original dance/theatre works, including The Hillsboro Story and No Strangers Here Today, multi-voiced investigations that illuminate the role her hometown played in American Civil Rights history and the journey to encounter that history directly. Both pieces toured nationally and became the basis for the book The Hillsboro Story. Banyas was raised in Southern Ohio and lives in Astoria.