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History 'comes to life' at SCC Elementary

Actress Zainab Musa holds up the three gold medal props she used in her portrayal of civil rights era Olympic gold medalist Wilma Rudolph at St. Croix Central Elementary School on Feb. 7.1 / 2
"Wilma Rudolph" (actress Zainab Musa) explains to an audience of St. Croix Central Elementary School students and teachers how difficult it was to deal with wearing a brace on her leg. Rudolph wore the brace after polio crippled her left leg when she was a small child.2 / 2

Eight students in Ann Leque's fourth grade class said they had heard of Wilma Rudolph before Thursday, Feb. 7, when a special presentation brought Rudolph , portrayed by actress Zainab Musa, to St. Croix Central Elementary School.

Musa brought a "History Comes to Life" performance to SCC, portraying the life of Rudolph, from a girl recovering from polio to "the fastest woman on earth."

Leque said the performance is an annual event at St. Croix Central, which has previously featured such historical figures as Amelia Earhart, Abraham Lincoln and Harriet Tubman.

Musa's performance emphasized the importance of perseverance, especially in the face of hardship. The strongest example of this was Musa's portrayal of Rudolph's struggles with rehabilitation after polio crippled her left leg when she was very young.

It took Rudolph years of wearing a brace and physical therapy but by age 12, she was able to walk normally without a brace.

Rudolph didn't stop at walking; she joined her high school girl's track team. When she was only 16, she competed in the Olympics and received a bronze medal in the women's 100 meter relay. Four years later, she won three gold medals for track, two on her own and the third as a part of the United States 100 meter relay team.

The performance also touched on civil rights issues, segregation and discrimination. "Rudolph" showed the audience her confusion with her first exposure to segregation as a child. Her victory celebration, after winning the three Olympic gold medals was, at her team's insistence, the first fully-integrated event in her hometown's history.

SCCES second- through fourth-graders watched this year's performance. When the show was finished, the majority of Leque's class, Leque included, said they had learned something from the presentation.

"I learned don't be mean to people that have those crutches," Nicolas Pederson said, "because it's not really their fault."

Several students said they had learned about discrimination. Madelynn Carlson was one of several students who said they had learned about perseverance.

"We should believe and never give up," Carlson said.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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