"Who's this?" she asked.
"That's Hattie McDaniel," the clerk -- also black -- told her.
"What'd she do?"
The clerk's eyebrows went up slightly.
"She's the first black woman to win an Oscar."
"An Oscar? I'll be," said the customer. "What movie?"
"Gone with the Wind."
"I'll be," said the customer, who started to leave, but then turned back with one last question. "Wasn't Black History Month last month?"
It's not a black thing. Americans aren't strong on their history. It doesn't matter if you want to talk about ethnic histories, war histories, state histories or politcial histories, only a relative handful will grasp the salient points.
Last March for Texas History Month, we surveyed more than 100 Texas-educated people of all ages with 10 basic questions about the state's colorful history (which is required curriculum in public schools.) The average person got only five correct. That's won't exactly earn a gold star. In fact, it's an F in most schools.
"If you don't know where you've been, you have no identity and you can't make good decisions about your present or your future," said Mary Kelley, assistant professor of history at Lamar University.
Love the history you've got, folks. It's the only one you'll have.