Bring back some good or bad memories

January 31, 2015

White High School Students Cursing Black Students on the First Day That Public Schools Were Integrated in Alabama, 1963

On September 10, 1963, white students began to withdraw from newly-integrated Tuskegee High School in Alabama to avoid attending school with black students. Within one week, all 275 white students had stopped attending the school.

White high school students cursing black students on the first day that public schools were integrated in Montgomery, Alabama, 1963. (Photo by Flip Schulke)

In January 1963, African American parents of students in Macon County, Alabama, sued the Macon County Board of Education to desegregate the county’s public schools. Though the United States Supreme Court had declared school segregation unconstitutional nearly nine years earlier, in Brown v. Board of Education, Macon County had taken no steps to integrate local schools. In August 1963, a federal court ordered the school board to begin integration immediately.

The school board selected thirteen African American students to integrate Tuskegee High School that fall. On September 2, scheduled to be the first day of integrated classes, Alabama Governor George Wallace ordered the school closed due to “safety concerns.” The school reopened a week later, and withdrawals began soon after.

The original 13 black students who integrated Tuskegee High School on September 2, 1963. (Photo: The Tuskegee Human & Civil Rights Multicultural Center)

Most of Tuskegee High School’s former white students enrolled at Macon Academy, a newly formed, all-white private school. In support of the community’s efforts to sidestep federal law and maintain school segregation, Governor Wallace and the school board approved the use of state funds to provide scholarships for white students abandoning the public school system to use at Macon Academy. Meanwhile, the Macon County School Board ordered Tuskegee High School closed due to low enrollment and split its remaining African American students among all-white high schools in the towns of Notasulga and Shorter. White students in those high schools boycotted for several days in protest, and many eventually transferred to Macon Academy.

In 1963, Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace prevented the integration of Tuskegee High School by encircling the building with state troopers. (Photo by Horace Cort)

Alabama state troopers turned away a bus with 13 black students who were on their way to the all-white Tuskegee High School. (Photo: Associated Press)

Now known as Macon East Academy and located near the city of Montgomery, the former Macon Academy is one of several private schools in the Alabama Black Belt with origins rooted in resistance to integration. As of the 2015-2016 school year, Macon-East Academy’s student body of 277 was 97% white and less than 3% African American.

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