Monroe

Monroe County Data Dashboard

W3.CSS

School Desegregation in Monroe County

(1966-67) The Amory public schools began to integrate in the 1966-67 school year. At that time, not only were the first black students registered in the formerly all-white East Amory Elementary School on Concord Avenue, but the first black teacher arrived as well. Mrs. Earnestine Wall joined the faculty of East Amory as the librarian and brought her own daughter to begin her third grade year at the school. Though there appeared to be few, if any, issues associated with the integration of Amory schools, an article in the Amory Advertiser alluded to the fact that the county schools were growing quickly because of the number of students that had been pulled from city schools. There was no private school in Amory at the time. To this day, you can see effects of this flight. Both Smithville and Hatley schools, which are the closest county schools to Amory, have extremely small black populations. For at least the past ten to fifteen years, each graduating year at these county schools has had from three to ten black students per year out of classes of around fifty.

In Aberdeen, a black public school was created in 1871 and lasted until 1910 in its original building. At that point, the new high school for black children, Shivers High School, was built. This school remained open until several years after Aberdeen High School had begun to integrate. In 1966, Sammie Jewell Carr was the first black student to receive her diploma from Aberdeen High School, but there were still two separate school systems at this time.

At the time the schools began to integrate, there was a push from the White Citizens’ Council to start a private school in Aberdeen in order for their white children to not have to be in school with black children. This, too, was rejected as a move that would only cause friction. The Aberdeen schools were thought to be very good, and the rest of the public believed that by removing students and having funding cut, the school would gradually decline.

Sources:

Interview with Teresa Burdine Snow, native of Amory and resident of Smithville.

“150 Years – My Aberdeen, 1837-1987”, Aberdeen Examiner Sesquicentennial Edition, May 14, 1987 in the article “History of the Black Community”by Sam W. Crawford.

Aberdeen Examiner, June 2, 1966.

Aberdeen Examiner, August 25, 1966

The Aberdeen Examiner

The Aberdeen Examiner often took unusual stances, seemingly at the sides of the black citizens. One article, in a response to an editorial, stated that private schools were not the answer to the problem of integration because Aberdeen already had good schools. The editor compared the White Citizens’ Council, of which the editorial writer was a member, to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He said that both groups were “troublemakers”and that when the White Citizens’ Council did something, all white people were blamed for it. However, in response to the race riots that took place in Birmingham, Alabama, the paper seemed to take the stance that the corrupt Supreme Court was destroying southern tradition. Even in this, though, the editor strongly encouraged all fighting and conflict to take place in the courtroom and not in the streets.

Sources:

“Troublemakers”, Aberdeen Examiner, April 18, 1963

“In Time of Crisis”, Aberdeen Examiner, May 16, 1963

Freedman’s Town of Aberdeen

Aberdeen was established prior to the Civil War in 1837. During slavery, there were several free blacks that lived in the community. Laws were then passed in Mississippi that would discourage free blacks from living in town before the Civil War. This caused many blacks to leave the town out of fear. However, for those who could not leave until after the war or those who did not want to leave, there developed a settlement below Burnett Street. This community was first called “Freedman’s Town,”then later “Out South”.

Federal Housing Grant Controversy

In 1963, the town of Aberdeen was given a grant to build public housing with proper electricity, water and sewage capabilities. This was to be used in Aberdeen’s poorest section of town, which happened to be in a black neighborhood. In early February, a mayoral candidate for Aberdeen, Ray Tolar, blasted the housing project saying that these people shouldn’t be given these utility services unless they pay taxes. The local paper defended the project, stating that it was an opportunity for the city to relieve some of its poorest citizens.

Sources:

“Public Housing”, Aberdeen Examiner, February 14, 1963

Integration of Evans Library

(1966-67) One of the most significant occurrences of the Civil Rights Movement in Aberdeen pertained to the public libraries in the town. In 1939, Dr. W. A. Evans donated the money to establish a library in Aberdeen. At first, the library resided in the second floor of City Hall. However, a building was later built on Long Street, and after Dr. Evans passed away in 1948, the library was renamed Evans Memorial Library. At the time of Dr. Evans donation, he not only created a library for white citizens of Amory, but he also established a separate library in the black community called the Newburger Library. As late as 1966, the libraries were still segregated facilities, even though both were public. However, in late 1966 or early 1967, a group of black library patrons filed a racial discrimination suit against the Evans Memorial Library for refusing to allow the black citizens of Aberdeen to have access to the larger library. This suit never made it into the courtroom. The leadership of the library decided to correct the problem that initiated the suit by integrating Evans Memorial Library and closing Newburger Library.

Sources:

Interview with Mrs. Barbara Blair