10 year old third-grader Sarah Haycox was on the way to a soccer game at Shoreline Park when she noticed a small memorial between the field and the bathrooms.
Sarah and her role model.
The man honored on the plaque is Edwin Pratt.
“Wow, that’s a really short life,” said Sarah. “39. That’s not typical”.
She decided to research the man, who soon became her role model.
A man who, with his family, was on the front lines in the civil rights movement of the 50’s and 60’s.
In 1960, Pratt became the Executive Director of the Seattle Urban League. Pratt oversaw the rapid growth of the Seattle Urban League in the 1960s. The League staff multiplied from four to twenty-seven individuals during his tenure.As director Pratt soon became a key participant in the then evolving local civil rights campaigns against housing discrimination, school segregation, employment bias, and police brutality. In fact Pratt and his family integrated the previously all-white Seattle suburb of Shoreline in 1959, partly to bring attention to residential segregation in the metropolitan area. When the Congress passed the 1964 Equal Opportunity Act which initiated the “War on Poverty,” the Seattle Urban League was one of the first agencies in the nation to be awarded Office of Economic Opportunity funds to administer the Central Area Motivation Program (CAMP).
Pratt was a founding member of the Central Area Civil Rights Committee (CACRC) which was formed by the leaders of the NAACP, CORE and other groups to provide strategic coordination of Seattle’s civil rights movement during the 1960s.
“Pratt urged Seattle’s people of color to rail against inequities in hiring, education and housing, including redlining, a banking practice that constricted approval of new home mortgages in ethnic neighborhoods,” says journalist Rick Anderson.
And he moved his family from Seattle to integrate the segregated town ten miles away.
“He was the executive director of the Seattle Urban League, and he stood up for school desegregation and fair housing. That’s why I think he moved to Shoreline, to set an example of how we can all be neighbors.”
In 1969, nine months of the assassination of MLK, “Snowballs were hitting their house and their windows and so he went outside on his doorstep to see what was making the noise, and he got shot and killed,” Sarah said.
Leaders and activists around the nation flew in for the funeral….and even President Nixon sent a representative for the service, referring to Edwin as the MLK of the north.
Asked Sarah, “Why haven’t we heard of him? Why isn’t he a celebrated part? He did so much for our community.
It was just the lack of recognition that really, I think, maybe stunned me. It just felt like he’s gotta have something more than just a plaque outside of a bathroom.”
She then found out that right across the street from the park, being built, was a 35 million dollar community Early Learning Center.
And it didn’t have a name yet.
“Because of his bravery, perseverance, kindness and compassion, Pratt set an example for adults and children alike,” Sarah said.
“I think he is definitely deserving of recognition,” said Sarah. “He was just way ahead of his time and he was very smart. I think that idea of ‘we can all be friends and we can all be friendly’ is a really important idea.”
Seeing that her mission was still not complete, Sarah started a GoFundMe page, to raise money to bring the relatives of Edwin Pratt from across the country to be at the opening of The Edwin T. Pratt Early Learning Center…and to have an artist create a fitting memorial for the man.
It is set to open in January…the 50th anniversary of his killing.
Edwin’s former employer, the Seattle Urban League, has honored her at their annual banquet…to say thank you.
“We have to keep working. The work has been done but not all of it. It’s still not finished and we have to really just keep treating each other as equals. We just have to really cement that in our brain that we’re all humans.”
Both working to better their community, Edwin passed his torch into very capable hands.