A Legacy of Equality and Diversity for All Girls

Spotlight with Girl Scout Volunteer Rosalyn Carr

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

He was not the only one with that dream.

In 1950, Jim Crow laws segregated American schools and organizations. But one vocal woman, M. Malisse Lockhart, decided that wasn’t good enough for the black children in her community. She worked hard to establish the first Girl Scout troop for black students at Sumner School in Leavenworth, Kansas.

“Mom started this because it was either start their own troop or have nothing,” said Rosalyn Carr, Malisse’s daughter.

So at a meeting that took place in February of 1950 they registered 32 new Girl Scout members. Lockhart then spent the next ten years dedicated to serving her community through Girl Scouts.

malisse lockhart starts first black girl scout troop in leavenworth

Rosalyn had not yet been born when her mother began the troop but she grew up knowing how much her mother and father’s vocal disposition for injustice affected her life.

“My mother and father wanted the best for me and for the kids they were helping,” Rosalyn said. “They were always ahead of their time in that sense. They wanted just as much for people of color.”

When Rosalyn started grade school she attended a segregated school and Girl Scout troop. But when the schools integrated she became the first and only black female in the school and joined a Girl Scout troop where she was the only black troop member.

integrated girl scout troop leavenworth

“Being the only black female, it felt like eyes were always on me,” Rosalyn said of the transition. “It was a culture shock, trying to fit in. I was the only girl without long, flowing hair. My hair was different. I was just different.”

But taking a cue from her mother, she didn’t let the judgment of others stop her from having fun and memorable experiences.

“Going camping was an adventure,” Rosalyn said. “It was the first time I’d ever been away from home. But we would eat together, laugh and cry together, we were learning how to adjust on our own.”

Rosalyn said that although Girl Scouts had many positives, everything was new and about integration.

“You wanted to be liked so it was easier to assimilate,” she said about the feeling of wanting to hide her true self. “It wasn’t until college that I felt safe to show who I really am.”

Thankfully, because of her mother’s passion for Girl Scouts, Rosalyn recently came back to Girl Scouts as a leader for troop #7217 in Topeka. Although she says it is completely different now she says she is overwhelmed in a good way at all we are doing to create girl leaders.

rosalyn with girl scout troop

“We are teaching them to think for themselves and not be followers,” Rosalyn said about her Junior Girl Scout troop. “Teamwork is a necessity but we also celebrate their individuality.”

Although recalling painful memories from the years of her youth is always challenging she says she feels her mother’s spirit telling her that this is a legacy she has to carry on for girls.

“I know she’s looking down on me saying, that’s my girl.”

Malisse Lockhart wanted all girls to have the chance to be their best self. We thank you, Rosalyn, for carrying on your mother’s beautiful Girl Scout legacy.