integration

Eric Reed as a young first lieutenant with his wife Julia at a military officers function in 1989 at an Army base in Garlsted, Germany. They went to Istrouma High School together.
Courtesy of Eric Reed

The First Bell series is a growing collection of stories from students, parents, and educators about pivotal experiences in education. To tell your story, email amy@wrkf.org with "My First Bell" in the subject line or tweet with the hashtag #MyFirstBell.

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Eric Reed was the first black quarterback at his elementary, middle, and high school when the Baton Rouge public schools were being integrated.

Epithets were used against him more than once.

Reed’s junior year at predominantly white Istrouma High School, 1974, was a turning point. The night after a race riot at the school, the football team played the last game of the regular season against all-black McKinley.

“Anytime Istrouma played McKinley, I happened to be the target of a lot of trash talk, because I’m the one who didn’t go to McKinley or Capitol, I chose to go to Istrouma, so I was -- the term they used back then -- the ‘oreo’, you know, I sold out.”

Both teams needed the win to get to the playoffs, but Reed says he didn’t have the usual fire in his belly. Istrouma lost 7 to 6.


Transcript

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Kelly McEvers.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene. Good morning.

This spring will mark 60 years since Brown versus Board of Education. That's the Supreme Court ruling that was intended to end segregation in America's public schools. But a year-long study by the investigative journalism group ProPublica finds that we've never gotten to that goal. In fact, America in recent decades has been moving backward.

Clayton Sherrod was just 19 in 1964, when he became the executive chef at an all-white club in Birmingham, Ala. Sherrod, who is African-American, had started working in the kitchen there when he was 13, after his father had a heart attack.

"My mother said, 'You can't go back to school. You're going to have to find a job.' So I went to the country club."

A federal judge in Little Rock, Ark., approved a settlement today that ends decades of litigation over school desegregation there.

The city was one of the first tests of the U.S. Supreme Court's historic Brown v. Board of Education, when President Eisenhower sent federal troops to integrate Central High School in 1957.

Just about anyone you speak to about the Little Rock desegregation case says it's time for the contentious and ongoing litigation to be over. But no one is really celebrating either.

In Little Rock, Ark., on Monday, a federal judge is considering a deal that would end one of the longest-running and most notorious school desegregation cases in the country. The state, its largest school districts and lawyers representing black students have agreed to settle a complex lawsuit over unequal education.

Little Rock has long been the symbol of the South's violent reaction to Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 Supreme Court ruling that declared school segregation unconstitutional.

Pam Folse

The parishioners of Our Lady of Peace in the small plantation town of Vacherie can’t wait to get into their church’s new bathroom building. But for some poorly placed air conditioners, they would have dedicated the building last month.

For decades, the old bathroom building behind the 113-year-old Catholic church stood like a monument to segregation. A few months back, some members of the community started talking about racism in the church and concluded that bathroom needed to come down.

Fear and What Follows: The Violent Education of a Christian Racist
University Press of Mississippi

Tim Parrish says his memoir, Fear and What Follows: The Violent Education of a Christian Racist, is not a book he wanted to write. He dreaded reckoning with the racial violence of his adolescence in Baton Rouge in the 1960s and 1970s.

An explosion rattled his kitchen windows when a city pool nearby was blown up after it was integrated. As a teenager, Parrish took part in street fights and race riots at his school – Istrouma High.

Parrish traces the roots of his own bigotry to his family and their Baptist congregation.

The nation's first black public high school, Paul Laurence Dunbar High, opened its doors in Washington, D.C., in 1870. But more than 140 years later, Dunbar — like many urban schools — has fallen on hard times. The crumbling, brutalist-style building is often described as a prison, and graduation rates hover around 60 percent.

But it wasn't always that way. Once upon a time, the yearbook read like a Who's Who of black America.