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High Hopes For Addy is part of the Short Stories collection, focusing on Addy Walker.

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Story Summary

It's a Sunday afternoon in the spring, and the Walkers are in their room in the boarding house. Addy is cutting paper for a kite for the upcoming kite festival at school; Momma is cutting scraps from clothing for the tail, and Poppa paring down wood for the frame. Addy states that all the parts of a kite--paper, wood, glue, string, cloth, and a spool Sam bought for her--aren't able to fly separately, but together they make a kite and soar. Sam replies that this is like a riddle--one by one they fail, but together they sail--and Poppa says he likes that riddle and lots of things in life are like that. Addy says that her kite will fly the highest, and Poppa says it'll do fine, but it won't do anything without a frame and asks if she's ready for the frame.

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Addy tries to work on her kite with Esther underfoot.

Addy says she's ready and Esther repeats after her, climbing over Sam to sit next to Addy. Addy says Esther can't help and tries to move her away, and Esther screams she wants to help. Momma tells Addy to be nice to Esther. Addy says she is being nice, but Esther has already gotten in the way twice, knotting up string and gluing her own fingers together. Sam offers to draw with Esther with some paper from Addy.

Poppa hands Addy the frame and she must slide the paper under the table to make room. Momma says she can't wait until they move at the end of the month to their new place. They have found an apartment a few blocks from the boarding house that has two full rooms, a stove to let Momma cook meals for them herself, and four large windows. The rent is three dollars more a month than the costs of the boarding house but with Poppa, Momma, and Sam all working, they can afford it--but will not have extra money. Addy says she will miss her friends at the boarding house; Momma says it's only a few blocks away so Addy can come visit at any time, but Addy says it won't be the same. She starts to bind the cross section of her frame, but Poppa states it's not square and helps her correct it.

As Addy starts to glue the paper to the frame, Esther gets up and trips over the frame, bending it and tearing the paper. Addy, upset, yells that Esther has ruined it and--even though Esther apologizes--says that she messes up everything. Momma scolds Addy and makes her put the kite away and come here. She tells Addy that she doesn't like her talking to Esther like that, and Esther didn't mean to step on the kite. Addy says Esther doesn't mean to do stuff, but she does--she goes through Addy's school sack and has broken her slate pencils and last week tore a page from her speller. Momma says Esther does these things because she wants to be like Addy and go to school and be a big girl. Esther says she is a big girl and Addy retorts that Esther is a baby. Momma agrees that Esther is a baby--which is why Addy needs to be patient with her as she doesn't know better and put her things away. Addy says that'll be something good about moving--more room to keep things from Esther. Momma says there will also be a room to do her lessons in, and Sam says that if she keeps making such high marks, she'll end up as a teacher like she wants to be. Addy says she hopes so, hugs Esther, and says the kite festival is on Wednesday so she can get the kite done by then if Esther doesn't mess with it.

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Miss Dunn recommends Harriet and Addy to attend I.C.Y.

At the end of the school day on Monday--as the students are packing up to leave--Miss Dunn mentions the festival and say to hope for a windy day. Harriet whispers to Addy that her kite will be the best; her father had it made for her using expensive white paper and it will float like a butterfly. Addy whispers back that it won't be the best just because it's the most expensive and that her poppa helped her instead of paying someone to do it for her. The two are startled when Miss Dunn claps her hands and says that she needs to see Addy after school. Addy is upset because she's in trouble for talking but Harriet started it, and Harriet smirks about it until Miss Dunn says she will need to stay too. Harriet protests but Miss Dunn says that's enough and dismisses the class. Addy smirks to herself that Harriet got caught too.

As Harriet and Addy go to Miss Dunn's desk, she has a stern look. She tells both of them she didn't keep them after school for talking--though she could have. Then she smiles and says they've both had a wonderful year of studies and she has recommended both of them to attend the Institute for Colored Youth in the fall because of it. Addy asks if she's serious, and Miss Dunn says yes, giving each girl a letter to take home to their parents that explains all about the school. Addy is overjoyed--since the first time she heard of I.C.Y. she's dreamt of going as the school trains black students to be teachers and she will now be a teacher just like Miss Dunn.

Addy grabs her things and races out of the school, excited to tell everyone the news. Harriet shouts for Addy to wait for her and Addy stops, puts the letter in her bag in one of her books, and waits. Harriet says it's great they'll be going to I.C.Y. in the fall and she always knew she'd get in because she's the best student in class. Addy says Harriet is one of the smartest. Harriet confesses that she's glad Addy is going too, as she'll have to work her hardest to stay ahead of her. Addy takes it as a compliment, coming from Harriet.

Harriet suggests they walk by the I.C.Y. building and as they stand outside the small brick building, Harriet says that her family knows the principal, Mr. Bassett and that when he was at their place for dinner he said education is the only way for colored people to get ahead and thus the the cost of attendance is worth it. Addy says that Miss Dunn said nothing about cost. Harriet says that there is a ten dollar annual fee for attendance (prior to this, fees were covered by Quakers and principals such as Mr. Bassett). She asks Addy to walk home with her but Addy declines. Harriet skips off, and Addy waits until she is alone before opening the letter. She reads quickly and when she sees the cost, she becomes upset as her family will not be able to afford it with the cost of the new apartment and is mad Harriet was right. She crumples the letter, stuffs it in the bottom of her school bag, and heads home.

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Addy worries about the quality of her kite among other things.

Wednesday at school, it's raining (with thunder and lightning) so the students can't have their festival and will have to have it tomorrow. (When one boy asks if they can fly the kites anyways like Benjamin Franklin, Miss Dunn emphatically they will not.) Addy looks at the lined-up kites at the front of the room; Harriet's is clean and white with a long white tail, and Addy thinks it could sail to the moon. Addy's kite next to Harriet's has a slightly lopsided shale--not perfectly square--and the tail is made from scraps from the family's clothing. Addy feels like her kite doesn't stand a chance against Harriet's clean and neat kite.

At recess Harriet asks Addy when they are going to tour the I.C.Y.; Addy lies and says Saturday after her parents get off work, and Harriet says that she'll and Mrs. Dunn will be there too so they can both be introduced to all the teachers--though she's sure that's not necessary for her, as Mr. Bassett has likely told them all about her. Addy steps away to take a drink of water and watches Harriet walk off to talk to her friends, thinking that even though Harriet works hard, things are easy for her in a lot of ways such as having lots of friends and money--and that while she's a braggart, she's not a bad person and will make a good teacher. Addy, however, thinks she will never be one; she decides she'll have to destroy the letter that she received and will have to think up an excuse for not being at the I.C.Y, on Monday. Since her parents can't afford to send her, they would be upset at not being able to do so and she would be ashamed if everyone knew she was too poor to go to the Institute. She looks through her school sack for the letter, but it is missing.

At dinner Addy hardly eats despite the good food. During dessert, Poppa gets up and taps his glass to make an announcement, much to Addy's surprise. He says that while the Walkers had planned to move at the end of the month, things have changed and they will be staying there for at least another year--because Addy will be going to the I.C.Y. to become a teacher! Everyone claps and Addy is stunned, looking over at Momma who is smiling and crying. Addy doesn't get a chance to ask what is going on as the other boarders hug her and congratulate her, and wonders how Poppa found out about her recommendation.

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The boarders and her family congratulate Addy for getting into ICY.

After dinner, Momma pulls out the crumpled letter and, when Addy asks where she got it, says that Esther handed her to that morning after Addy left for school. She asks why Addy hid the letter and Addy says it was because she was ashamed to admit to Miss Dunn and Harriet that the family was poor and that she thought they couldn't afford the fees. Sam says that yes, they are poor but there's not shame in the fact they work hard for what they earn, like she works heard for her lessons. Poppa says that they will do what it takes to get her to go to the I.C.Y.; Momma states they be all right staying longer in the border house, because being together as a family matters most. Addy tells Esther to come to her and Esther, who is on the floor scribbling on Addy's slate, springs to her feet and says she writes like Addy. Addy hugs her and thanks Esther for wanting to be like her.

The next day at school, the weather is perfect for kite flying with strong and steady wind, and they can hold the kite festival. One kite is flying the highest, despite its lopsidedness, with a multicolored tail--Addy's. Harriet, however, has not gotten her kite more than a few feet off the ground all day. Addy offers to help her; Harriet at first refuses and says she doesn't need help, but then admits she needs it. Addy says the tail is too long and should be trimmed, and Harriet agrees as Addy must know something about kites. Addy cuts off half of Harriet's kite tail and then gets her kite into the air for her. Harriet says Addy has the best kite of anyone and asks how she got her kite so high. Addy says her family sails together. Harriet asks what that means and Addy only says "everything" and that she'll see Harriet at the I.C.Y Saturday.

Meet The Author

Connie Porter discusses how when she was growing up her family was poor, but she was not ashamed like Addy was as she was taught that who she was more important that what she had; she says the same thing to children today.

Looking Back: Teaching in 1864

Discusses the history of the Institute for Colored Youth, now known as Cheyney University of Pennsylvania. Facts touched on:

  • The background of the school, being the first high school for African Americans with a goal of training Black people to become teachers with other Black teachers
  • Its founding in 1837 by the Society of Friends/Quakers (though not stating specifically it involved a donation from Richard Humphreys, a Quaker philanthropist who bequeathed $10,000 (one-tenth of his estate) to design and establish a school to educate people of African descent).
  • How Quakers were some of the first people to denounce slavery and become abolitionists
  • The importance of the school to Philadelphia's community, including loaning books and sponsoring speakers such as Fredrick Douglass
  • The admittance criteria for students and the excellent educational studies
  • Information about Fanny Jackson Coppin, a teacher and principal at the school from 1869 until 1902.
  • improvements to the school and expansion of its curriculum, including teaching trades as well as training teachers

Activity: Make a Mini Kite

Instructions on making a mini kite.

Items Associated with High Hopes for Addy

Trivia

  • It is mentioned that the kite has scraps of red fabric from dresses Addy and Esther both had by Momma; this would likely be from Addy's Patriotic Dress.
  • The Looking Back section incorrectly states that Fanny Jackson was the first Black principal ever. She was one the first black female principals; however, since the founding the school only had black principals.

References

  1. Pg. 1.
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