"We Missed Knowing Each Other:" 50 Years After Desegregation, Two Classmates Remember
DescriptionOn October 29, 1969, the Supreme Court ordered schools across the country to desegregate, in the little-known but milestone case Alexander v. Holmes. It was 15 years after schools had resisted Brown v. Board of Education, and most black students in the South still attended all-black schools.
Eli Brown and Natalie Guice Adams met in third grade, when their school in Winnsboro, Louisiana first integrated. Brown is black, and Adams is white. As two of the top students, their lives were academically intertwined through elementary and high school, yet deeply separate.
Adams and Brown would go on to become co-valedictorians of the Winnsboro High School class of 1980. Today, Brown is an OBGYN in Birmingham, Alabama, and Adams is a professor at the University of Alabama. At StoryCorps, they sat down to remember life after integration for the first time.
Natalie Guice Adams
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00:00 How did you learn that? We were about to switch to an integrated School. My mother and father told me that there will be some changes. I remember vividly them saying that what you will be going to school with white children, and there may be some people who may not like you very much. And my first impression was why what have I done to him? The first day, is sort of a blur. You have to realize we left our school and came to your school. I can remember seeing the white faces, finding the cafeteria, finding the boys, restroom great. Why you? And I were the co-editors of the fourth grade newspaper. Remember that? And I did think I was the smartest person in class, but I realize that you were going to give me a run for my money to this day. I've never wanted to lose, and I was thinking about valedictorian when I was not great, but I knew who would stand in the way of me doing, that was going to. You also remember when you were
00:59 State Beta Club, vice president in high school. It was what I remember most about when I was running. We have these ribbons, both the Eli Brown something like this. Well, my dad and I went into the men's restroom, and there was one of those ribbons in the urinal.
01:21 Remember my dad getting a big roll of tissue around his hand going into that urinal and getting that out. What do you do when he says nobody pees on his name?
01:36 That was the pride. He instilled in US.
01:39 You never let your guard down ever and our lives were so intertwined in school. But so separate like I have no idea. If you have friends, we had stubborn gated and I don't know if you guys had dances on floor, but we know why. Yeah, I knew that you and I both got most likely to succeed. It wasn't until I got the yearbooks out that I realized. There was a black most likely to succeed boy and girl, and it was a white most likely to succeed boy. And girl, when I looked at that, you booked it hurt to see that everything was black and why?
02:24 I just wish some adult could have said, no, we're not doing this. I feel like we missed knowing each other after we graduated, that was it to sit here and talk to you in this way. I never thought I would ever do this. But your name. And, you know, what? We went through is never far from me.