StoryCorps: 50 Years Later, Former Classmates Remember Integration Eli Brown, who's black, and Natalie Guice Adams, who's white, were classmates when their Louisiana school integrated 50 years ago. "Our lives were so intertwined, but so separate," Adams said.

Their School Integrated But Racial Divisions Remained: 'We Missed Knowing Each Other'

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(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And it's time for StoryCorps now. Next week marks 50 years since the Supreme Court ordered schools in the South to desegregate. The case was Alexander vs. Holmes County Board of Education. It came 15 years after Brown vs. Board of Education. And it's when third-graders Natalie Guice Adams and Eli Brown met at Winnsboro Elementary School in Louisiana.

ELI BROWN: My mother and father told me that there will be some changes. I remembered vividly them saying that, well, 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 them? The first day, it's sort of a blur. You have to realize we left our school and came to your school. I can remember seeing new white faces, finding the cafeteria, finding the boys' restroom.

NATALIE GUICE ADAMS: Yeah. I vividly remember you in fourth grade.

BROWN: Why?

ADAMS: You and I were the co-editors of the fourth-grade newspaper.

BROWN: I remember that.

ADAMS: And I did think I was the smartest person in class. But I realized that you were going to give me a run for my money.

BROWN: To this day, I've never wanted to lose. You know, I was thinking about valedictorian when I was ninth grade, but I knew who would stand in the way of me doing that was going to be you.

ADAMS: I also remember when you were elected state Beta Club vice president in high school.

BROWN: It was our National Honor society.

ADAMS: Right.

BROWN: What I remember most about when I was running, we had these ribbons - vote for Eli Brown or something like this. Well, my dad and I went into the men's restroom, and there was one of those ribbons in the urinal. I remember my dad getting a big roll of tissue around his hand, going into that urinal and getting that out. And I said, Dad, what are you doing? He says, nobody pees on this name. That was the pride he instilled in us.

ADAMS: You never let your guard down ever. And our lives were so intertwined in school but so separate. Like, we had segregated - I don't even know if you guys had dances.

BROWN: No, we really didn't have that. We were told that they didn't want shoes on the gym floor.

ADAMS: Right.

BROWN: But we knew why.

ADAMS: 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 there was a white most likely to succeed boy and girl.

BROWN: When I looked at that yearbook, it hurt to see that everything was black and white. I just wish some adult could have said, no, we're not doing this. I feel like we missed knowing each other.

ADAMS: After we graduated, that was it.

BROWN: 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.

GREENE: Eli Brown and Natalie Guice Adams - they graduated high school as co-valedictorians. Their interview will be archived at the Library of Congress.

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