A mother's motto: "No one is better than you."

The Craig Sisters circa 1900.jpg

The Craig Sisters.  From left to right – Mrs. Renfrow Smith’s two maternal aunts (Anna Katherine, Theodora) and on the right, wearing glasses, her mother, Eva Pearl.  c. 1900.  

Education was emphasized in the Renfrow household. Mrs. Renfrow Smith's parents were themselves the children of formerly enslaved persons, and her mother in particular expected that all of the Renfrow siblings would earn their college degree. As Mrs. Renfrow Smith recalls, “[My mother] always loved school. Her sisters didn’t like school and she did…. And… she always had her nose in a book.” Being too poor to attend college and earn her degree was something Mrs. Renfrow always regretted. As a result, she insisted to her children, "You must get an education. You must learn.”

In addition to stressing the importance of an education, Mrs. Renfrow believed in her children's inherent worth.  With pride and conviction in her voice, Mrs. Renfrow Smith repeats her mother's powerful affirmation:  

I don’t care who it is. There is no one born any better than you are. They may have more money, and they may be more beautiful. They may have outward things. But there’s no one any better.

These words deeply shaped Mrs. Renfrow Smith’s outlook on her life and her own efforts.  As she reflects, “So naturally if you’re taught there’s no one any better than you are, why you think you’re pretty special. And so, I think that that made a great difference.” Drawing on her mother’s words enabled Mrs. Renfrow Smith to reframe the exclusions and slights she experienced as a Black child in a white town. When she was “hurting” from being called names, not allowed to play with other children, or refused entry to the local ice cream shop, she would “just remember that… they’re not better than you.”