February 7, 2024 | Civil rights lecturer Clarence Bozeman didn't intend to be a part of history when he showed up as a young Alabama State University student at the home of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
He intended to get a job working for a church and driving around a young preacher.
Still, the longtime educator who retired as principal of Shaw High School in East Cleveland said showing up for a job allowed him to serve Dr. King while witnessing the magnetic influence of the slain civil rights leader.
Working for the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Mr. Bozeman served as the personal driver for the King family from 1958 to 1960. He drove Dr. King and his wife, Coretta, to speaking engagements throughout Alabama. On those occasions, Mr. Bozeman said he had the opportunity to speak privately with Dr. and Mrs. King. These conversations ranged from aspirations and barriers in the black community, the Montgomery bus boycott, student sit-ins, and other civil rights challenges.
The Lorain City Schools administration team was delighted to host Mr. Bozeman on Wednesday as he served as the guest speaker during a Black History Month luncheon. Allowing those in attendance to step back into the past, Mr. Bozeman elegantly told stories of black historians and leaders who were helped and honored to help others throughout their lives.
In speaking directly to the district's "We Believe" strategic plan, designed for high-quality, culturally responsive, and equitable education for all Lorain students, Mr. Bozeman told district leaders kindness and love should also be guiding principles to the work done each day for students and families. Those two words – kindness and love – resonate with district staff because kindness is the foundation of the Lorain Schools' culture, and staff aims to lead with love daily.
To drive home the point, Mr. Bozeman told the story of the Rev. Howard Thurman, an author and civil rights leader who sent letters to Dr. King during the Montgomery bus boycott and is credited with inspiring Dr. King to adopt Mahatma Gandhi's philosophy of nonviolence in the Civil Rights Movement.
Mr. Bozeman recounted the inspiring story of how Rev. Thurman, despite challenges, pursued education with determination. Thurman's journey, supported by a stranger's act of kindness, highlights the transformative power of compassion. Through Thurman's example, Mr. Bozeman urged Lorain leaders to recognize the profound impact of simple acts of kindness, underscoring their potential to change lives.
"An unsolicited act of kindness, Lorain, can change the course of an individual that you know or don't know," Mr. Bozeman shared.
Mr. Bozeman's electrifying speech, peppered with stories of rousing Dr. King with an elbow nudge as he slept in the front seat on one of their drives and asking Mrs. King to recount the emotions she felt when the King home was firebombed, left many speechless.
In thanking Mr. Bozeman, Superintendent Dr. Jeff Graham said his captivating words brought chills to those in the room, him included.
"We are here to honor a man who chose to honor a man, and I can't thank you enough for who you are and what you have done," Dr. Graham shared.
Mr. Bozeman has been invited back to speak to students.