N. Carolina Apologizes to Desegregation Pioneer

Nearly 50 years after she integrated a Greensboro high school, Josephine Boyd Bradley is receiving an apology from the state of North Carolina for the way she was treated.

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ED GORDON, host:

I'm Ed Gordon and this is NEWS AND NOTES. On Thursday, school officials in Greensboro, North Carolina, will apologize for something that happened almost 50 years ago. In 1957, Josephine Boyd Bradley became the first black student to break the color barrier at the whites-only high school in her town. It was a moment that traumatized the young girl, a time she wanted desperately to forget.

But since becoming a professor of history, she now understands the importance of remembering those frightening moments. Here's Josephine Boyd Bradley in her own words.

Ms. JOSEPHINE BOYD BRADLEY, (Professor of History): It was called Greensboro Senior High at that time and the first day was rather frightening because when my mother left me, I was by myself at this strange place. And the students were obviously hostile, as were the people who were standing outside, on the walkway. And I think it was the first day that the students started throwing eggs and things.

(Soundbite of crowd)

Unidentified Man: We just a report here on this in that the students are in.

Ms. BOYD-BRADLEY: I wasn't sure if it was going to be like Little Rock or not. Little Rock had intergraded--desegregated I think a week before we started. So my only idea of what the whole experience was like was based on what I had seen on television.

People really did not want me there. One person said, you don't have the right to be here. This is our school. And I think over the years that has always been one of the things that has stood out the most that I had never really understood what it felt like not to be wanted in space until that day.

It took me until I came back to get my doctorate that I even was willing to open up a discussion with anyone about it. I had found it be an overall unpleasant experience and something that I really wanted to just forget.

I don't think I really ever considered it to be something exceptional. I think I thought as something that I felt along with my parents and the principal at the black high school that needed to done.

(Soundbite of music):

Unidentified Man: (Singing) There are times when I look back and I am haunted by my youth…

Ms. BOYD-BRADLEY: I think it was worth in the sense that the barrier had to be broken. The regret is that the philosophy around educating black kids, I don't think has changed. When I was at the high school a year ago when I did an interview with the L.A. Times, the students themselves raised questions about why were there distinction between the black kids in the high school and the white kids.

And so if that's what really happening 50 years later, the question becomes did it really make a difference. If the people who are responsible for education, and that means the local state and national, are willing to acknowledge that African American history is American history and teach it as such, then I think everybody has an equal opportunity to feel secure in their learning and I think that is an important part of learning, that I have a sense of who I am. And I think that when you remove those roots, then you take away a part of who they are and that dampens the learning experience.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Group: (Singing) When you're feeling low [unintelligible] when you're young, gifted and black, you're soul's in touch.

Unidentified Man: (Singing) I want to be young, gifted and black.

GORDON: Josephine Boyd Bradley is a Professor of African American Studies at Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta Georgia.

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