Winning Essay by Jada B., Claflin College

There is a particular African American that inspires me. This African American may not be famous in the American history books, but she is famous in my family. The African American I am speaking of, is my great-grandmother Mrs. Geneva Butler Bell. Geneva Butler Bell was born on February 21, 1917 to Mr. & Mrs. Boykin Butler in a small town outside of Ridgeway, SC. At an early age, she was taught the importance of having an education, and what she needed to do to be successful in life. She has motivated me by her willingness to never give up despite her circumstances.

At age fourteen, Geneva Butler married George Bell, Sr; and in their union twelve children were born. As a wife and mother Geneva began to instill values into her children. Every day, she would work in the cotton fields alongside her husband. She taught her children the importance of working hard and voicing their opinions in a respectful way. She serves as the mother of the church, attends Sunday school and worship services. She has made a difference in her family lives, by encouraging us to put God first in everything we do.

In the 1960s The Civil Rights Act was passed which gave African-Americans equal rights. Although, in the year of 1965 African American women could vote so she began to exercise that right. She remembers Martin Luther King Jr. being a huge advocate for colored people and how his purpose was to end discrimination and segregation.

Her niece Lottie Bell Scott wrote a book titled: Deep South, Deep North a Family’s Journey. In this book Mrs. Scott gives vivid images of how her life was in Longtown, S.C. At age 102, she motivates me to have a voice and to express my feelings even if others may dislike me. She encourages me to push through the pain even when I don’t want to. Being away from my family has been a challenge in the last three years, but she has always encouraged me to get an education so that someday I can make a difference in the lives of others.

In 2017 when she turned 100 years old the former President Obama sent her a birthday letter and a gift. She was amazed that the President acknowledged her 100th birthday. My great-grandmother has seen a lot in 102 years; her greatest successes are her children and their families. Some elderly people complain, but my great grandmother doesn’t she gives God praises everyday no matter what state she is in. She is such a joy and inspiration to me and my family. The times spent with her as a little girl from shopping in the mall, to sitting at her feet hearing the many stories will forever be in my heart. She has meant a lot to many people, for me and my family she is our “heart and soul.”


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