Lesson 6 Historical Challenge: Historical Scene Investigation – School Desegregation


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First Days of School Desegregation Becoming a Detective


In the 1954 decision Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court ruled segregation unconstitutional, thus desegregating public schools nationwide. This decision reversed the Supreme Court’s 1896 ruling supporting the traditional concept of “separate but equal” facilities.

In 1956, in Sturgis, Kentucky, ten black students attempted to attend the all white high school. Turned back by a jeering mob, they appealed to Governor A.B. Chandler who called out the National Guard. The Guard held back the crowd the next morning as nine black students entered the school foreshadowing what was to come in Little Rock just a year later. Other schools in Kentucky desegregated around this time as well and experienced varying levels of resistance.

As a result, desegregation in Kentucky’s schools took many years.In this investigation, you will listen to various oral history recordings of what it was like for many Kentuckians on the first day that their school was integrated. Based on the documents, you are to answer, how would you describe the first days of school desegregation in Kentucky? In other words, how did people in Kentucky experience school desegregation?


PART 1: Investigating the Evidence

Analyze of the following:

  • VIEW Photos – National Guard, African-American student, and protesters in Sturgis, KY 1956.
  • George Logan
    • Oral History George Logan. Mr. Logan describes his first days as a graduate student integrating the University of Kentucky in 1951.
  • Alice Wilson
    • READ OR LISTEN starting at the 21:00 minute mark through the 29:00 minute mark:
    • Oral History recording of Alice Wilson. Alice Wilson recalls her first days at Mayfield High School in Mayfield, Kentucky. She, along with a few African American high school students, were the first to integrate the school in the late 1950s.
  • Blaine Hudson
    • READ OR LISTEN starting at the 14:00 minute mark through the 24:00 minute mark:
    • Oral History Account, recorded August, 23, 2000. Blaine Hudson, who is a professor of history at the University of Louisville, tells of his family background and his experiences of going from an all Black elementary school to a primarily White high school in Louisville.
  • Rev. David Pettie
    • READ   OR LISTEN starting at the 18:00 minute mark through the 24:00 minute mark:
    • Oral History recorded August 16, 2001, Rev. David Pettie describes what went on in Sturgis, Kentucky the day one of his daughters was one of the first African American students to attend Sturgis High School.
  • James Howard
    • WATCH:
    • Oral History recorded, of James Howard, born in November 1942, in Sturgis, Ky. In 1956, at age thirteen, James, along with other students, attempted to integrate the all-white Sturgis high school, which was only blocks from his home.
  • Lloyd Arnold
    • READ OR LISTEN starting at 30:00 minute mark through 35:00 minute mark:
    • Oral History recording of Lloyd Arnold. Arnold talks about having to walk five miles to his high school and eventually quitting due to the harassment he experienced from the white community walking to school.
  • Anne Butler
    • READ OR LISTEN starting at the 19:00 minute mark through the 25:00 minute mark:
    • Oral History recording of Anne Butler. Butler talks about what it was like going to the newly integrated school system in Stanford, as well as what happened to the previously segregated black high school.


Part 2 – Cracking the Case:

Based on your analysis of the seven documents and citing evidence to support your answer, please (you can write more) Use the answer sheet provided and then submit.

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