In 1957, Bobby Cain was the first black graduate of a court-ordered desegregated public school in the South.
There were 700 white students registered at Clinton High School in Tennessee when Cain started his then-senior year. Cain was one of twelve black students.“When people start talking about things that have happened in civil rights, they talk about Little Rock and other areas and for some unknown reason they have not spoken about Clinton,” he says.
“We were greeted with a throng of people there saying certain things; things we probably didn’t wish to hear,” he remembers.
By 1983, when Steve Jones graduated from Clinton High School, the past was past. Jones remembers his uncle wouldn’t talk about his time as principal during Clinton High’s desegregation … but neither did anyone else.
“I had white and black friends and they were just my friends,” he says.
“You know I never really thought about it, but I guess it’s just how we were raised in the community and how the – teachers taught us when we went to school and maybe that was a result of they didn’t want to re-enact what happened in the 50’s.”
But the ratio of black to white students never really changed in Clinton. And fifty-six years after desegregation, there are still only 24 black students to more than a thousand white students. Bobby’s brother James says that’s not surprising.
“Clinton has always been, there’s always been a small number of blacks living in Clinton when you compare it to other cities,” says James. “And that still remains true today.”
And Margery Turner with the Urban Institute says the fact that some of the nation’s schools remain predominantly white or black doesn’t necessarily mean schools stopped working towards diversity. Sometimes it just comes down to where people live.
“Whites and blacks are still more segregated from each other than they are from Latinos or Asians,” says Turner.
City councilman and former Clinton High student Jerry Shattuck says...
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