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