On This Day: Clinton 12 Desegregates Public Schools in South

On this day, August 27th in 1956 the Clinton 12 integrated Tennessee public schools. Clinton High School in Tennessee became the very first public school in the south to desegregate. This shocked the region.

The twelve African-American students who successfully integrated Clinton High School in 1956 were Jo Ann Allen, Bobby Cain, Theresser Caswell, Minnie Ann Dickey, Gail Ann Epps, Ronald Hayden, William Latham, Alvah J. McSwain, Maurice Soles, Robert Thacker, Regina Turner, and Alfred Williams.

Tennessee had failed for nearly eighty years at establishing “equal” facilities, and the decision stunned the South.

Federal court case McSwain v. County Board of Education of Anderson County, TN, ruled in January 1956 that “all-white Clinton High must admit black students in their upcoming school year.

Our ancestors have seen slavery, lived slavery, and we’re done with that. Unlike those 12 sons of Israel, we twelve sons and daughters of Clinton will not have descendants in slavery. That’s over. That’s not me being optimistic. That’s the gospel truth

Jo Allen Boyce, Clinton 12

Alfred Williams, member of the Clinton 12, laid to rest by loved ones

Angela Dennis is Editor for Black With No Chaser, Co-Host of the Black in Appalachia Podcast. Her work has been published in numerous national and regional publications.

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