Gwendolyn Quezaire-Presutti

 Living History Artist

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What is Tolerance?

It is an attitude of openness for the differences that exist among people. Tolerance is respect for and the ability to learn from others, value differences, bridge cultural gaps, reject unfair stereotypes, discover common ground, and create new bonds. It is about accepting people for who they are not about accepting bad behavior. It leads to cooperation and understanding. You must work hard to learn tolerance, because you must unlearn your prejudices.


“Racial stereotypes are constructed beliefs that all members of the same race share given characteristics. These attributed characteristics are usually negative.”

The Workshop shows historical racial stereotypes of African Americans and that many of these distorted images still exist in society today.

Historical Background information:

Once the enslaved were free, the South had to find a way to live with them. The North had created a model. Jim Crow laws, separating blacks from whites in public facilities, were already on the books in the North. Massachusetts had passed the first known law in 1841, separating whites and blacks in railroad cars. Once reconstruction was complete, and the Union soldiers were gone, the South had to make a huge transition from slave to free society. Because it had been illegal for an enslaved person to read or write before the Civil War, most were illiterate.  Education was sorely needed to assimilate former slaves into mainstream society.  Congress had no plan to help African Americans make the transition from slavery to freedom, a societal vacuum existed. The South began to fill the vacuum with Jim Crow laws. By 1914, every southern state had its own version of how it chose to live with former slaves.

At the same time, the South struggled to make another equally problematic transition: from slave to free economy. Since 1619, when southern colonists first used slaves, the South had a plantation (cheap labor) economy. Now southerners needed to create a completely new market economy.

To put the difficulty in perspective, keep in mind this fact.  America's plantation system had been in effect longer (246 years) than America has been free from British control.


Jim Crow Workshop with original racist artifacts.

Despite Jim Crow, black Americans made significant contributions to this country.

 Meaningful dialogue, even when painful, is a prerequisite for addressing racial problems.

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