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Desegregation in schools: Not separate, but not equal

January 28, 2013 in 1960s-1970s

In an oral history interview with Jennie Wilson, she depicts life in Mayfield, Kentucky during the early 20th century as a community where segregated was prevalent, causing many African-Americans were forced to live in fear.

Jennie was born in 1900, the child of former slaves. Although she was free, Jennie still carried many of the same burdens as her parents. As a girl she worked in tobacco fields along side the men, while also cooking and cleaning in white households for a meager wage. She calls the events that took place in Mayfield “scary times,” with one especially horrific event occurring on the third Monday of every month, when white men would get drunk, harass, and sometimes kill members of the black community.

Although Jennie’s daughter Alice was born over 40 years later, she also dealt with prejudice and violence in her daily life. In 1965, Alice and nine other black students decided to integrate with white students and attend Mayfield High School. The reason Alice and her peers wanted to attend the school was not so they could study with white students, but because they would have access to better educational resources. In all black schools, students were given old books and other school supplies that had come hand-me-down from the white schools. Once Alice started attending Maysville High School, she was threatened and harassed by members of the school and community. Alice also felt like she was ignored by her teachers and mistreated by her classmates. Unfortunately, situations like this were not uncommon after the Brown v. Board of Education court ruling, such as in the case of Ruby Bridges, a six year old girl exposed to violence after integrating into an all white school.

Despite the struggles Alice faced in school, she continued to get an education and is now a music teacher. Her three other siblings also attended college. Though integration during this time period was a struggle for African-American students, it helped pave the road to a future where segregation is not an issue, where children are able to attend school no matter their ethnicity, and where learning is a priority in the classroom – not skin color.

***Sources***

“Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky.” Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky. Web. 27 Jan. 2013.

“KET | Living the Story | Jennie Hopkins Wilson.” Living the Story: The Rest of the Story. Web. 27 January 2013.

“Ruby Bridges.” Wikipedia. N.p., 24 Jan. 2013. Web. 28 Jan. 2013.

3 responses to Desegregation in schools: Not separate, but not equal

  1. It’s interesting how both women faced prejudice, but in different ways. I think each generation–ending with this one–improved gradually. The fact that Alice became a music teacher shows that her struggle through a segregated educational system paid off. She overcame the injustices she faced in her childhood and is now seen as an example to other African-Americans who wish to go far in life.

  2. Reading about the struggles faced by African Americans after the civil war and laws passed by Congress astounds me. African Americans faced prejudices long after the time it was considered legal. Thankfully, I like to think most of the prejudices are gone and all races are put on an even playing field, particularly in education.

  3. I think it’s interesting to observe the changing nature of the struggle faced by different generations – from slavery to segregation to the repercussions of integration. Each generation faced prejudices, but manifested in different ways.

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