October 02, 2015

Markers Honors 13 Courageous Memphis Schoolchildren

For the children who walk the halls of Bruce, Gordon, Rozelle and Springdale elementary schools, few know they follow in the footsteps of 13 of the smallest pioneers of Memphis civil rights history.

On Oct. 3, 1961, 13 African-American first-graders entered these four schools as the first students to desegregate Memphis City Schools. Today, historical markers will be placed at the four schools commemorating the steps of these children and the courage of their families to enroll them.

It is an important acknowledgment of these contributions to our community.

Unlike school desegregation in Little Rock four years earlier, the event in Memphis was orderly and did not make national headlines. Perhaps as a result, the Memphis 13 do not hold the same place in the national consciousness as do the Little Rock Nine. The Memphis 13 have not been honored at the White House or appeared with Oprah; rather, they have been recognized periodically, but have lived in relative anonymity in our community.

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