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English

Department of English

Monday, February 25 at 4:30 p.m. in the Sophie Kerr Room

When Huston Diehl began teaching a fourth-grade class in a �Negro� elementary school in rural Virginia, the school system�s white superintendent assured her that he didn’t expect her to teach �those children� anything. It was the waning days of the Jim Crow South, and Diehl soon discovered how low expectations impeded her students� ability to learn. With its overcrowded classrooms and poor facilities, her segregated school was vastly inferior to the county�s white elementary schools, and the message it sent her students was clear: �Dream not of other worlds.�

In her memoir Diehl reveals how her students reached out to her, a young white Northerner, and shared their fears, anxieties and personal beliefs. She reflects on what the students taught her about the hurt of bigotry and the humiliation of poverty as well as dignity, courage and resiliency.

Today, Diehl is professor of English at the University of Iowa and a widely published authority in the field of Renaissance literature. Her memoir, Dream Not of Other Worlds: Teaching in a Segregated School, 1970, chronicles an important moment in American history and the struggle to integrate schools in the South. The presentation at Washington College will be a reading from her memoir. Professor Diehl will be joined in the reading by Polly Sommerfeld, Lecturer in Drama at Washington College.

Professor Sommerfeld recently co-directed [sic] with Professor Jason Rubin in Fall 2007.

Listen to Diehl’s struggle to prove to her students that she doesn’t favor the one white child.

Listen to Diehl talk about her purple skin tone and shades of brown through a child’s eyes.

Listen to NPR’s interview with Diehl and check out an excerpt from her book.

Read Iowa Alumni Magazine’s article “We’re All Colored.”

The University of Iowa’s Faculty page for Diehl describes some of Diehl’s recent projects as well as her areas of scholarly interests and work in the English Renaissance.

Click to enlarge photos.


Huston Diehl speaks of her experience as a young teacher in one of the last segregated schools.

Polly Sommerfeld takes on the voices of Lonny, Ramona, and other students in Diehl’s class of 38.

Diehl speaks after the reading with Jeff Donovan ‘08 and Dr. Moncrief.

Huston Diehl and Dr. Moncrief

Diehl has some advice for Mary DiAngelo ‘06.

Huston Diehl introduces Polly Sommerfeld, who reads dramatically from Diehl’s book Dream Not of Other Worlds.
Diehl and Jeff Donovan ‘08 talk further about Diehl’s experiences and Jeff’s own.

Carey Walden ‘08 has a question for Diehl.

Huston Diehl and Polly Sommerfeld share a moment after the reading.

Professor Wolfe asks Professor Sommerfeld some questions about her performance.