During the fifth grade at the all-African American school, I was hidden during school because a group wanted to lynch me. I was 1 of 5 African American juniors in the first class at the “home of the rebels” in 1966, and the only African American student in honors classes. During the two years I was there, no European American students talked to me, but the teachers and vociferous reading helped to fill that void. I was inducted into the National Honor Society two weeks before graduation.
During the fifth grade at the all-African American school, I was hidden during school one day because a group wanted to lynch me.
I had to consciously go through a metamorphosis before teaching in a desegregated setting because of the events in my life. [I was interviewed] by the Chattanooga Times/ News Free Press in 1989. I went through a catharsis with crying during the two hour interview. As a result of the article, one of my European American classmates wrote an email to me with an apology for all the students.
My family and a white family were the only two families living down this narrow, overgrown road [in Oxford, MS]. Needlessly to say, we braved the cold and walked to school while the little yellow school bus would pass us by, with its young occupants jeering, finger pointing and throwing at us. We didn’t know why we received such treatment. Then, as an eleventh grader at Central High School, James Meredith integrated the University of Mississippi, providing a way for Black students to receive an education there. My most vivid memory of the integration is that of the National Guard scattered all over town. The sight of the military filled me with fright and trepidation.
I was in High School in the 1950’s in the state of Oklahoma. The schools were segregated then and so was everything else.
There were separate water fountains, restrooms, bus terminals, etc. Black customers had to go to a counter farther back in some stores and then only 3 flavors of ice cream were sold to us, no malt or shakes could be purchased. We were able to work in restaurants and hotels but were not able to eat in the cafeterias of the businesses.
Years later I was recruited (1966) by Omaha Public Schools to teach, I was surprised to know that in the year of 1967, when I moved to Omaha, the schools were still segregated.
I was with the first group of Black American teachers that were assigned in the early 1970’s to integrate the Oklahoma Public Schools staff
. The staff was integrated a year before the students were bused to various schools in the 1970’s.
Today, I am thankful that I have lived to see many changes in America, my home. I encourage all students to stay in school, study and work hard, set your goals high. The world needs you!
Jewel Baugus Gay
“I grew up in Canton, Ohio in schools that were integrated. My schooling was completely integrated based on neighborhood schools where the neighborhoods were completely integrated because of where they were located. People with money moved to completely white neighborhoods and their children went to completely white schools. Basically it was de facto segregation. I grew up with black schoolmates through 12 years of education. My parents were from Greece and came to the USA in 1920. My brother and I were first generation.”
Byron Leles, AL
It was 1969, and although the laws had been on the books for years, integration had not been enforced in Florida up until then. I was one of five or six white staff members hired to teach at an elementary school that was 100% black.
The building was very old and in rough shape. Our textbooks were 40 years old. The bathrooms in our building were not working when school began, so the children had to go to another building where there were three or four toilets for the entire school – over 300 students, K-5.
I had to buy most of my own supplies, including crayons and pencils. There was no air conditioning and in August, the rooms were stifling.
A few weeks into the school year we were invited to attend a teachers’ meeting in another elementary building in town. It was literally on the other side of the tracks. That building, whose students were all white, was air conditioned, in very good condition, and the library was beautiful. Their textbooks were current and it appeared that supplies were readily available.
Never before had I faced such a blatant example of “separate but equal” not being equal at all. I was incredibly angry that my students were the obvious victims of discrimination, but I was so young and inexperienced, I had no idea of what to do about it.
My education experience during the 1950s and 1960s was in the state of Connecticut and the schools in Tolland County were not segregated. My teachers always presented a view of equal education for all without the need for segregated schools. Growing up in an integrated education system, allows for greater human understanding, development and tolerance.
I attended an all Black school until 4th grade. My teachers were strict and focused. Failure was not an option. By 5th grade, schools were under mandatory integration. My memory of that time was that the transition was smooth and uneventful.
I did not come face to face with racism until 7th Grade. I had several teachers in Jr. High who used Brown vs. the Board of Education as their platform for everything that was wrong in America’s schools. In 1969, at the end my senior year in high school, my guidance counselor completed an aptitude test which was designed to determine what career field I might consider as I prepared to enter college. Although I graduated with good grades, sang in the school choir, was a member of several academic and social clubs on campus, this man advised that according to the aptitude test, college for me would be a waste of time and taxpayer money. The only career that I was eligible for was in housekeeping. I think Brown vs. Board of Education is still a work in progress.
Lois Black, SC