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Segregation in Stone

(1960’s) Even though there were not many demonstrations in Stone County there was still discrimination in public facilities. Blacks could only watch the movies from the upstairs balcony of the movie theater. Other public facilities, like cafés and lounges, were also segregated. Some blacks mingled and socialized at hole in the wall juke joints and others formed bridge because there was no other facility for them to socialize. They did not have nice facilities, water parks, café and lounges. There was a popular burger stand that the local white children frequented. However, blacks had to go to the back to get their food from a small window. They were not allowed to sit at the tables and eat with other whites.

The pickle plant located in Wiggins, MS, was owned by Beatrice Foods, a black-owned company. Blacks and whites were allowed to work there together. A lot of children worked there in the summer to earn a little extra money.

During the time the Civil Rights, blacks and whites basically stayed to themselves. Stone County was so small that it had very few problems.

Sources:

Interview, Needham Jones, principal of the Locker High School.

NAACP of Stone

Stone County did have a National Advancement Association of Colored People (NAACP) chapter. The NAACP chapter was located in Wiggins, MS. With all of the crucial civil rights demonstrations going on in Mississippi and surrounding states, the Wiggins chapter was moved to have some demonstrations. At the meetings, the members discussed strategies and how they will conduct these demonstrations. Even though there were not many demonstrations, the members were prepared just in case some instances called for demonstrations and protests. The main focus of the NAACP chapter in Wiggins was making sure black children had the same opportunities as their white counterparts. NAACP was active in making sure when the school integrated the black teachers could keep their jobs. There was also not much KKK action in Stone County.

Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee came to the Wiggins NAACP hall during the Civil Rights era and talked about some types of demonstrations that the members could do, but none ever took place.

Sources:

Interview, Needham Jones, principal of the Locker High School.

Jones, Needham

Before integration, the schools were one of the many public facilities that were segregated. Needham Jones was the principal at the black school known as Locker High School. Even though this school was called a high school, it contained all grades, starting from kindergarten to 12th grade. The classes taught at Locker High were Math, Social Studies, and English.

Jones served in the Tuskegee airman platoon, graduated from Alcorn State University with his Bachelors degree, received his Masters degree from the Tuskegee University, and his E.E.D. from the University of Oklahoma.
Jones stressed to the black kids and their parents how education was important and valuable. He is a firm believer in education because in his immediate family, his wife was a school teacher that taught typing, his first daughter is a successful attorney, his first son is a teacher at South Pike and a Major in the army, and the second and third daughters are twins and they are both successful nurses.

While serving as principal, Jones mentioned how he helped the black boys stay in school. Some black parents at the time had to pull their children out of school so the child could help the family by getting a job. Jones sometimes paid some of the children to stay in school and gave them clothes. There was a cafeteria with free food so the children were fed. Many of Jones’ former students indicated how they would not have succeeded if it were not for “Prop Jones”being there to motivate them. Robert Vanderbilt, one of Jones’ former students, recalls how during those days “teachers had a passion for the students.””He motivated and pushed us,”said Vanderbilt, and “I would not be where I am today if it were not for ‘Prop Jones’.”

Needham Jones was demoted from principal to assistant principal of the newly integrated Stone High School. Jones explained that during integration his position was compromised for assistant principal, but he was more qualified than the principal. Jones filed a lawsuit. He won the lawsuit, but did not take the position as principal of Stone County High School because he retired.

Sources:

Interview with Robert Vanderbilt, a former Locker High graduate.

Interview, Needham Jones, principal of the Locker High School

School Desegregation in Stone County

Education in Stone County was purely segregated. The Stone County Board of education consisted of six white males.

The white schools in the district received more funding than the black schools. More classes were offered at the white schools, and the white students enjoyed newer textbooks. But this did not discourage the students and faculty of the black schools. They “made do”with the resources they had.

In 1971, Stone County integrated its schools.

The transition started with the church. First Baptist Church, an all white church, had a lot where they placed swings and toys for children. This church allowed the black children to play with the toys and also with the white children. They expressed how they bought the toys for the children and their race did not matter.

A majority of the teachers that were at Locker High School were able to maintain their job at the white school, and they were allowed to teach the subject they taught at Locker High School.

Locker High School was closed down after integration. Now it is the Stone County Middle School. Stone County School District is now fully integrated – both blacks and whites attend the same school. The schools in Stone County are: Perkinston Elementary School, Stone Elementary School, Stone Middle School, and Stone High school. There are also some private academies in Stone County.

Sources:

Interview with Judge Deborah Jones Gambrell, graduate of the former Locker High School.