Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Sid Salter: Book Preserves State's Reaction to "Integrate at Once" Court Order

School desegregation in Mississippi was a tough, messy and often a very dangerous business.

None knew those truths better than the white and black Mississippi school superintendents, principals, classroom teachers, coaches and students who were charged a half-century ago with catching the judicial hot potato known as Alexander v. Holmes County Board of Education.

The failure of public schools in Mississippi to follow the mandates of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education to integrate state schools with "all deliberate speed" resulted in ongoing legal challenges. In 1969, the snail's pace of school integration at "all deliberate speed" was replaced by the dictate to integrate "at once" in its Alexander v. Holmes County Board of Education decision in 1969.

The decision was handed down by the Supreme Court on Oct. 29 of that year -- and some nine weeks later, the 30 school districts impacted by the Alexander case were integrated. But even with those dramatic actions by the federal courts, school integration remained a challenging and convoluted process.

Few Mississippi school districts produced more intrigue in ultimately achieving integration than the Yazoo City School District, led in 1969 by legendary Mississippi school administrator and coach Harold “Hardwood” Kelly.

Kelly was a World War II veteran who served as a U.S. Army muleskinner in the mountains of Italy during the Monte Cassino campaign, one of the longest and bloodiest campaigns of the war as Allied forces made three different assaults on the Gustav Line before it finally fell. The protracted Italian battle must have seemed prologue to the battle Kelly fought to implement peaceful and effective school integration in Yazoo City.

Kelly’s story was partially told by national political reporters in 2010 when then-Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour was considering a bid for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. As a coach and later as superintendent, Kelly had worked with two of Yazoo City’s most prominent alums – Barbour and writer Willie Morris.

When the time came to integrate, Morris was in town to cover the event in his hometown. Morris would pen a book on the saga called “Yazoo: Integration in a Deep Southern Town.”

But the Morris book and subsequent treatments by national political reporters largely missed Kelly’s version of the story and the context of the pressures school officials faced in that era.

Too many of the stories of Mississippi educators from that era have passed away. But through the efforts of Mississippi State University Professor James "Jim" Adams and his wife, University of Alabama Professor Natalie Adams, many of those first-person accounts of public school integration in Mississippi are being preserved – like those of “Hardwood” Kelly.

The Adamses have completed an oral history study on the desegregation of the state's public schools between 1963 and 1971 called “Just Trying to Have School”(299 pages, University Press of Mississippi.) Their book focuses on recording the first-person accounts of administrators, teachers, coaches, staff, students, parents, community activists and others who have a story from that era.

The authors sought the perspectives of both whites and African-Americans and offers a fascinating look at one of the most important events in the state's history since the Civil War.

Our state owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to educators of that era who braved the threat of violence and mayhem to make school integration work and advance public education in this state. Their history, their stories, should not be lost.

Thanks to the meticulous documentary work of Jim and Natalie Adams, that vital history was salvaged. Shortly after he granted an interview to the Adamses for their book, Kelly died at age 91 on May 21, 2015, in Yazoo City after giving 40 years of his life to public education.

Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at


Anonymous said...

That seed has born fruit. The modern society of 2019 is a testament to those brilliant social engineers of yesteryear. Feels good to be on the right side of history.

Yes I am intentionally being ambiguous. I'm not racist, you are.

Anonymous said...

We still see the blacks segregate themselves, so why was it mandated and forced upon us?

Anonymous said...

As a young whipper snapper (31 yrs old) with children to educate it always humors me to see you old folks act all happy like integration was some fabulous event.... Ok but fifty years later where am I supposed to send my kids? Oh and I can't afford $15k a year at private school. Should I thank the community activists of yesteryear? Should I thank Kingfish for continuing the celebrations while ignoring its' realities? So many questions, so few answers.

Anonymous said...

Great oral history that needs to be taught in classrooms all around the state. Salute to Mr. Kelly for 40 years of service to the children of MS. More lessons need to be learned from this history as the schools in MS become more and more segregated once again as we enter into the 21st Century. What a shame and a tragedy.

Anonymous said...

Just in time for Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

I often think to myself what the good Dr.King would think of modern society. The Boondocks did an episode which theorized Dr King was only in a coma. He awoke from his coma during the first term of the Obama Administration but was absolutely disgusted by the state of black culture because of how far it had digressed while he was unconscious.

If I remember correctly, in the end he was killed during an attempted mugging because it was assumed he was rich because he was wearing a suit. And in the end he died at the hands of a black man and it received the same amount of attention as similar frequent crimes.

Anonymous said...

Integration in Tupelo in 1970-71, was tough in the 7th grade. Black students bussed into Milam (the junior high at the time) did not want to be there. For PE, when we girls changed in the locker room, many times the black girls wanted to fight us or steal our things. One black girl took a belt and tried to strangle me with it after PE one day. The black boys would stand at the bottom of the stairs and watch the white girls go up and try to look up our dresses. We started wearing shorts under all skirts and dresses or wore pants.

It was very difficult to understand the "new" black teachers we now had. It wasn't anyone's fault, but I could barely understand my science teacher and my grades showed it. I was finally able to catch up and pass with a C after my parents talked to the school principal and I was give a chance to catch up.

Anonymous said...

Jackson was late to the game of accepting the law of the land, but when the courts inflicted harsh change causing students to be moved to other schools in the middle of the school years, January of 1970, it fueled the growth of private schools. I would have been forced from my high school that I'd been at for 1.5 years and would have been at one of those new private schools had it not been for my being in ROTC which kept me at Central for the full 3 years, where the white/black ratio was 60/40 and we were fortunate to have a great high school experience.

Anonymous said...

Provine high school in the 60's had a bevy of National Merit scholars each year. When was the last time the entire JPS produced a NM scholar?

Anonymous said...

I congratulate all historians who choose to research and document those very important years of transition in the south, especially Mississippi. While doing so, I also lament the fact that relatively little is written or discussed about those very important years between 1954 and 1969 when the state of Mississippi, it's so-called leaders, and the white leadership throughout the south kicked the can down the road and refused to set the stage for the inevitable change to come. This is when the real damage was done and court mandated integration was doomed to failure. Had these racists spent those years preparing their citizenry, white and black, for the historic changes to come, integration would not have arrived like Katrina in an unprepared New Orleans but would have been the final step in a gradual process of educational transformation. Everyone would have benefited from a conciliatory effort to provide equal education to all citizens, but the 'leaders" said "no" and everyone had to drink castor oil in 1969 and thereafter instead. That history would be very, very, instructive.

Anonymous said...

Dead on 9:22! Bravo. Sending kids to public schools in Jackson these days is simply not an option. The social and educational risks are too high.

Anonymous said...

While I'm sure that revisionist leftist drivel sounded brilliant in your head, please explain how the outcome of integration in MS is identical to the outcome in Detroit, Chicago, Baltimore, East St. Louis, Memphis, and any of another number of black Democrat strongholds outside the state of MS.

Explain that coincidence to me andbthen justify why you blame the "so-called leaders" of the past. There appears to only be one common denominator in all those cities listed. And it ain't the Citizen's Councils of Mississippi. If anything time has exonerated the CCM.

Anonymous said...

The true history that matters is the quality of the education prior to the change and now. And you are deluded or a liar if you can hold a straight face and say JPS hasn't gotten worse in the decades since.

Lowering the bar for everyone hasn't lifted demographics up. Instead what has happened is that we set the bar so low that now we have functionally illiterate high school graduates. We also have increasing numbers of graduates requiring remedial math and English when entering college.

Carrington Event said...

Mordern life is like that movie Bird Box. If you take the blindfold off and see how bad things really are, you either become suicidal or a violent racist psychopath. Better keep the blindfold on and let yourself be guided by tweets from a box.

Anonymous said...

Aren't we being very selective on what history we can keep? Integration history is ok/good, Civil War History/Culture bad........

Anonymous said...

It is funny how 10:45 accuses 10:23 of revisionist history. I do not think any side ever truly tells it like it is, because both sides want to be on the "favored" side of history. Those in charge, definitely get to write history in any manner that they see fit. It has been that way for the ages. I am pretty sure if we all pulled the veils of lies, deceit, et. al from our eyes, we would see something significantly different than what we have been taught.

10:45, the citizens of the those cities that you mentioned had the same issues that citizens of MS had, they did not want to integrate. People are the same all across the USA. IMHO, the powers that be screwed it up, when they did not want to adhere to "separate but equal".

Anonymous said...

"Integration in Tupelo in 1970-71, was tough in the 7th grade. Black students bussed into Milam (the junior high at the time) did not want to be there. For PE, when we girls changed in the locker room, many times the black girls wanted to fight us or steal our things. One black girl took a belt and tried to strangle me with it after PE one day. The black boys would stand at the bottom of the stairs and watch the white girls go up and try to look up our dresses. We started wearing shorts under all skirts and dresses or wore pants.

It was very difficult to understand the "new" black teachers we now had. It wasn't anyone's fault, but I could barely understand my science teacher and my grades showed it. I was finally able to catch up and pass with a C after my parents talked to the school principal and I was given a chance to catch up."

So after reading this woman's experience at Tupelo high during integration in the early '70s. It's safe to assume she sees all black woman as ratchet hood rats and thieves. Black males as horny savages only wanting to sleep with white women. Black teachers were intellectually inferior and could not speak the Queens English.

I bet they are a true beacon for racial reconciliation in Mississippi

Anonymous said...

Was at Callaway (7th grade) in Fall of 69 then bused after Christmas to Powell Jr. High. The kids that lived across from Powell couldn't go to their neighborhood school and we couldn't go to ours. Spring of 70 brought the JSU shooting and teachers left the school and said you were on your on and I started walking home that day. People who didn't live thru those days don't understand what busing did. And yes, the girls could not go to the bathroom without teachers because they were getting beat up.
I'm still waiting, I'm 61, for Boston, Pennsylvania, New York State, Rhode Island etc. to bus kids across town so everything is FAIR. You see now if you listen to the current politicians everything has to be Fair- your housing, pay, schools free, student loans, medical. How did our school busing work out??? How will the free stuff work out?? The same way it did in 1969.

Anonymous said...

Amazing how many responders seem to think that the current state of JPS is solely attributable to allowing black kids to attend school with white kids. If that is what you think caused JPS to falter, no wonder Mississippi continues to wallow at the bottom of most social economic and quality life indicators. Its people have not learned from (or been taught)a true, balanced history. With the onset on integration in 1969 came the rise in the segregation academies, that enrolled most of the white, well-to-do students of JPS . This flight of white students meant a flight in the resources, both human and fiscal, that served to support a thriving JPS. As time moved on, more and more families (white and black) with wealth and options continued to leave JPS. So much so that now the school system is over 99% black and 90% of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch. Both numbers are not representative of the true demographics of Jackson nor the metro area.

White and middle class flight will decimate any school system. A peculiar phenomenon that has resulted from this is that while many poor black students attend schools with the demographic make up of JPS around the state, most poor white students don't attend schools that are 99% white and 90% free or reduced lunch, mainly because YOU WON'T FIND A SCHOOL IN MISSISSIPPI WITH THOSE DEMOGRAPHICS. If a school is majority white, it will not have a free and reduced lunch rate of 90% like most schools in the state that are majority black. But where do the poor white students attend school? IN schools that are more social-economically diverse and reap the benefits of such. Benefits that most poor black students will never experience. And many of you think that all of this inequity and injustice stemmed from simply integrating the schools? Boy, we have come a long way in MS, but we have a long, long way to go, and "miles to go before I sleep".

Anonymous said...

Okay 2:28, since the white human resources left JPS, and since the white students left JPS your argument has two logical conclusions. One is that fewer students means more money allocated per student, which is true. Note that JPS spends much more money per student than do the school districts in Madison, DeSoto, etc.
Secondly, since JPS employment has greatly increased since the early 1970's (along with a decreased number of students) the outcomes should be much higher. Alas, the outcomes are much lower.

So 2:28 are you arguing that white employees were vastly superior to the black employees that replaced them? Your entire argument sounds very racist. Are you some Klan apologist?

Anonymous said...

To 2:28: no offense but you sound like one of those white people who hate Trump, love Obama, live in a gated neighborhood with security, and your grand kids go to private school. You love your mexican maid because she is so cheap. Prob one of your kids are less successful so you help pay their kids way through private school... or you are some youngster with no kids so the realities of life are yet to hit you.

You assume we are ignorant of history but don't you realize we were there? It really is simple: more "diversity" isn't a strength, that's why private schools are expensive and people make sacrifices to send their kids to them while all schools with over 90% "diversity" are shit holes that people avoid like life depends on it.

Yea it may be good for the ghetto thug to go to school with my kids because it would be good for him to see how people with self respect live and are raised. However, it isn't good for my kids to go to school with ghetto thugs because DUH. See how that works?

Anonymous said...

I went to Murrah in the 60s. After undergrad I taught. 1971. About fifty/fifty black white. Good students, trying to learn. A few fights but no more than when I went to school there. No girls escorted to the bathroom. Not that different. A good book written about all that: Lines Were Drawn. Read it. You might learn something.

Anonymous said...

The Clarion-Ledger should be blamed for the white flight. You see they published crime articles about blacks. Yeah that's right, the black crime problem didn't start after white people fled Jackson. People left because of the crime. How old is Parchmean Farm?

Anonymous said...

2:53 is proof of the warped thinking that wrecks this state. The statement "JPS spends more than other districts" indicates a huge misunderstanding of how school funding works and what is needed to support the affirmative academic development of students. White and middle class flight creates concentrated poverty in the district. That concentrated poverty creates educational challenges that very few educators, black or white, can adequately address even in small numbers, but is hardly addressed in large student populations like we see in districts like JPS. Suburban districts do not have to attend to the myriad of challenges posed in trying to educate a population of students characterized by concentrated poverty. Think of it this way, the suburban home environment provides a myriad of academic and social supports that the home in poverty does not provide. So, what the home doesn't provide, the school has to in order to be able to teach the academic skills necessary for academic success. This creates needs that far exceed what the school can and will provide.

If the money that is spent in JPS is so much more and can attend sufficiently to the challenges of the students they are charged to serve, then why are many of the buildings in need of routine maintenance, and the schools lack basic toiletries and infrastructure? Why is there a teacher shortage and a massive need to train and retrain many of the teachers? Is that just inept leadership or top heavy administration? Perhaps the challenges of concentrated poverty necessitate fiscal and human resources that are very hard to acquire, and the resources at hand are not nearly enough. None this indicates that white students, families, and educators are superior in any shape form or fashion, so please do not project your views onto my statements and stick to what was actually stated. No need to infer anything, I mean what exactly I say.

Anonymous said...

10:45 Please try to get this through your racist head: The 1954 Brown case was not about integration, it was about equal opportunity under the law. Yes, as stated in 10:23 the racist leadership of Mississippi (and throughout the country) and the South refused to provide such equal opportunity in those several years following the Brown mandate. They REFUSED to allow even voluntary neighborhood gradual integration and equal treatment of black students which would have worked. They said nothing but absolute segregation and inequality of opportunity would be allowed. They left the court no option but to force instant and harsh compliance on people, black and white, who had not been prepared for such a shock. Forced integration got the reception and the results social engineering by force will usually get. Integration was not the goal but the tool to achieve equal opportunity under the law. It's ultimate success would require patience and cooperation. Good luck with that!

If you are ordered by a Court to vacate premises they will give you time to do so. If you are wise you will use that time to find alternate shelter and
to make a smooth transition. If you are an ass you will ignore the Court and come home one day and find your furniture on the street. In 1969-70 the segregationist school systems found their stuff on the street. Been bitchin' and moanin' ever since.

Anonymous said...

@ January 16, 2019 at 2:53 PM - the person that commented right after you @ 3:31 PM - answered your question in a unique way.

@ January 16, 2019 at 3:31 PM - well if white folks would stop putting their homes up for sale when 2 or 3 black people move into the neighborhood, especially if they BOUGHT their homes, the crime wave would not occur.

@ January 16, 2019 at 3:38 PM - I agree with you, JPS spends a lot of money due to the size of the district, not the student population. Jackson does not get the necessary revenues to maintain a district of this size. We need less administrators and more money going towards teachers and facilities.

@ January 16, 2019 at 3:47 PM - well stated. Spot on.

Anonymous said...

I've actually traveled the African continet. I've got passport stamps from Botswana, Kenya, Sierra Leone, etc. I love Africa and African history fascinates me.

I think every America. Should be required to learn about Liberia, the colony created by freedman from America.

If you research the History of Liberia you will understand why they don't teach us in school.

Anonymous said...

@4:24 PM
Please articulate how people freely choosing where they live translates into an increase of crime? I'm being serious here. I hear that statement all the time, but I've never heard an explanation why a lack of whites creates crime. It is usually the opposite. Certain demographics bring the crime that whites flee.

Also please explain the crime in places whites never lived.

1962guy said...

@ 1:09

She was in Tupelo, you weren't.

That's one of the problems with all of the experts. They tell everyone how wonderful integration was, but they didn't go through it.

Anonymous said...

I was in the 8th grade when our schools integrated. The Supt of Schools lived across the street and was friends with my parents. He once told my Dad - "I got a letter from the Federal Government asking me how many students of each race we had in our schools. I wrote them back and said - You told us to treat everyone alike. We are doing that. We have no records to indicate the race of any students." Seems to me everyone should have done that and kept doing it.

Anonymous said...

3:38 and 4:24 - JPS pisses away money and is more focused on job creation (padding budgets) than education. That is why the buildings are in disrepair.

The really sad thing is that as bad as "separate but equal" was as a policy, the black schools (see "concentrated poverty") pre-1954 were far safer and better educated kids than the bloated JPS of today.

See Dick Jump.. said...

In 1976 I had no children yet. I was told by the black EEO officer of our agency: 'When you do have children, you owe it to the public education system to put them in public schools'. I never understood that. Why do some people assume any of us has some sort of obligation to sacrifice our children to social experimentation?

So, when we did have children, I could not put them in a school system that was 95% black, so we bit the private school bullet. Then when we relocated to a well-performing district that was somewhere around 65-35 white/black, we joined the public schools.

I didn't then nor now 'owe anything' to public schools. I owed everything to my own children when they came along.

History will be written by the grandchildren of men who worked for the Civil Rights Commission and Justice Department between the years of 1960 and 1990. And, sadly, social experimentation, its ills and negative fallout won't be mentioned. Only that the last vestiges of slavery were wiped out (metaphorically).

But how will the book-writers explain JPS?

Anonymous said...

10:58 , its sad to think that somehow Jim Crow segregation so as to concentrate power and wealth in the hand of whites was not social experimentation, but integration for the sake of equity and justice was somehow social experimentation. Answer a few questions for me:

-Why wouldn't you enroll your children in a school that is 95% black?
-was that 95% Black school over concentrated with poor students?
-Do black parents "sacrifice" their children's education when they enroll them in a school that is 95% white?
-How was placing your children in a public school somehow social experimentation?
-In the suburban district that was 65% white, would you consider the black parents who enrolled their student there "sacrificing their children to social experimentation"?
-Was the suburban district over concentrated with poor students?

Answering these question honestly and openly, will go far in explaining JPS today.

Answering An Angry Misguided Man said...

I'm 10:58 and will give your questions a shot, 9:02.

1) Here are the reasons I would not enroll my children, when I had them, in that school. My wife taught in that system. Black parents routinely showed up to curse or beat up white teachers. Black children in the lower grades, with regularity, used words like mother fucker, bitch and HO in the classrooms, often directing them at the teachers. Black principals dismissed that as 'simply cultural' and sent complaining teachers back down the hall. The failure rate was tremendous.

2) Poverty is no excuse for inappropriate language, disrespecting teachers, calling faculty mother fucker or showing up to beat up school personnel.

3) Black parents who enroll their children in advanced, succeeding or highly rated school do their children a favor when they enroll their children in those schools, percentage notwithstanding. Madison County and Desoto County schools are good examples for you to consider and neither are anywhere near 95% white, some are majority black. Many black students are succeeding and leading in these districts.

4) The Social Experimentation I mentioned reared its head in the fact that a black agency director suggested I somehow owed it to the school system, my children and society to put my children in that environment. I considered that a suggestion to experiment with my children. No thanks.

5) Your fallback position of wanting to blame every ill of your community on things like poverty, the myth of lack of jobs and the myth of lack of opportunity doesn't work anymore. There are plenty of students, black and white, existing in poverty who have been and are excellent students. Quit blaming your demographic ills on straw-dogs and own the problems and solve them.

If you have further questions....I'll be around.

Anonymous said...

I didn't incite the racist, I see it wasn't necessary.

Anonymous said...

Sid avoided talking this week with a good one, but next week it has to be shutdown, you will see just how stupid it is and how it's affecting everyday Mississippians.

Anonymous said...

@ January 17, 2019 at 9:33 AM

Hold on, wait a minute, let me get this straight?

You said, My wife taught in that system. Black parents routinely showed up to curse or beat up white teachers.

What school did she teach at and what year was this happening? Because I have friends that have taught and worked as administrators in JPS for well over 30 years? I've heard about kids fighting and hard heads trying teachers - but parents coming up to the school to whoop a teacher? That's a reach.

Anonymous said...

4:42 - I didn't see a claim made that this was a JPS school. Everything doesn't revolve around JPS...only your mind does. Latest count shows you've now posted six times on this thread. Give it a break! Your racist rants are making your heart race.

Anonymous said...

@ January 18, 2019 at 12:31 AM

4:42 - I didn't see a claim made that this was a JPS school. Everything doesn't revolve around JPS...only your mind does. Latest count shows you've now posted six times on this thread. Give it a break! Your racist rants are making your heart race.

Your count is off Tristan

Anonymous said...

I'm 59 and I started going to school with white kids when I was 5th grade. Our school was about 50/50. We didn't have any of the problems that are cited in these blogs. Only a handful of white kids left the school district. We got along great then and still do. We still have class reunions TOGETHER.

However, after graduation I attended Ole Miss, and there I often times would be the only black student in a class of 40 to 60 white students. I can't remember any class I had there that had over 10 black students, but, of course, that was in the late 70's. I never felt uncomfortable because most white kids are friendly when they are not under their parents' influence.

My kids graduated from JPS. When they started college, they were surprised by the number of white kids in their classes. That just goes to show that it doesn't matter how we try to separate our lives from each other, we will eventually end up in the same schools, in the same neighborhoods, and working in the same jobs because the world is just not that big.

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