In what started with the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954 stated separate schools are inherently unequal, integrated schools became a big deal in the United States.
With different opinions on both sides, schools began to integrate in the 1950s and 60s. And, while in the deep south animosity began to rise over the situation, things were different locally.
Brenda Cloud, who resides in Tazewell, Tenn., states there was no animosity when schools integrated in Tazewell. She stated everyone just attempted “to fit in.”
Though the animosity level was low, integration into a new school was still a culture shock for most black students, including Cloud.
“It was a whole new world,” stated Cloud.
Cloud attended Rosenwald School in Tazewell, which was an all black school, for the majority of her early years. The school burned after her fourth grade year. Then, the children were moved to the “old rock building” which is where a school bus garage is located today.
Cloud stated there were a few black students who moved to Soldiers Memorial Middle School — the school white children attended — prior to her, but all the students at Rosenwald integrated after the school shut down around 1964.
Cloud said she had to adjust to many new things when the schools integrated. She also stated she never interacted with a white child before the integration took place. When she first entered her classroom she stated she had never met the teacher, Ms. Eula Gray Neeley, or any of the students.
“The minute I walked into that classroom I realized that I didn’t know a pupil that was in the room,” said Cloud. “I realized I left one environment and went into an entirely different environment.”
New students weren’t the only change Cloud experienced. She recalls the students at SMMS ate their lunch different — in a cafeteria. “I had never been in a cafeteria before,” said Cloud.
Because Rosenwald School did not have a library or athletics, black students had to adjust to things as easy as checking out a book.
Cloud stated she was even confused the first time she saw a cheerleader.
“I saw all these girls with these skirts on and, in the back of my mind, I was wondering why all these little girls were dressed alike,” said Cloud.
Though things were rough at first, Cloud stated it only took a year before things began to flow smoothly at SMMS. Cloud said she made some lifelong friends because the schools integrated. Cloud graduated from Claiborne County High School in 1971.
In Middlesboro, the Lincoln School was the all black school in the area. The school remained in existence from 1891 to 1965. It was eventually deemed that the Lincoln School would be an integral part of the Middlesboro Independent School System, according to a book entitled “Lincoln School and Its Community.”
According to the book, Lincoln School was closed on May 26, 1964. The graduating class that year marched with the graduates of Middlesboro High School at Bradner Stadium and received their certificates along with the Middlesboro high graduates.
Grades one to eight remained at the Lincoln School for one year until the new buildings were completed, according to the book. In 1965, the Lincoln School was integrated into all the Middlesboro schools.
Anthony Cloud can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 606-248-1010, ext. 208.