On November 10, 1969 the children’s series “Sesame Street” premiered on the Public Broadcasting System (PBS). One of Sesame Street’s original characters, Susan Robinson, was played by Paw Paw, Michigan-born educator Loretta Long.
It came at a time when Black and Brown civic and political leadership and grassroots parents were fighting for more equity and inclusion in cities like Detroit, Flint and Lansing. Yet, there were rays of light. Michigan State University’s board of trustees had just voted to have its first African American president.
Long had studied at Western Michigan University during the late 1950s and taught briefly at Detroit’s Sherrard Junior High School in 1961. She decided to move to New York City in an effort to earn more money, according to a 1975 Detroit Free Press report. While working as a substitute teacher in the South Bronx, she learned about the PBS broadcast audition for the broadcast.
“It was the children who really hired me,” Long recalled.
She later earned a doctorate in Urban Education from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Source : Ken Coleman, “On this day in 1969: ‘Sesame Street’ debuts with Paw Paw native in the cast“, Michigan Advance, November 10, 2021.