Graduates Of Segregated School Systems Reunite

Some graduates of a racially divided school system say adversity brought them together and shared memories are what continue to keep them close-knit. This weekend about 400 alumni from Biloxi Colored High School, M.F. Nichols, Our Mother of Sorrows and A.E. Perkins Elementary celebrated their class reunions together.

Charles Heddleston may be all grown up but he still laughs at the childhood memories of the years he and his classmates spent at Nichols in Biloxi, especially the clothes they wore. " I didn't think I would wear something like that but if it wasn't on pictures I would tell you that was not me."

The people gathered at the Combined Reunion have seen both fashion and society change with the times. They say although segregation gave Black school children limited opportunities, teachers continued to nourish their dreams.

"Even though we were segregated at the time, we still had some teachers that were very great mentors," said Peggy Ann Gibson."In fact my math teacher Mr. Cross, Freddy Cross who now works for NASA was the one who inspired me to go get my degree in Mathematics from Xavier University so we had some wonderful teachers."

Nichols graduate Robert Watters emerged to become chair of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College's board of trustees. Back then he says many African Americans didn't have much money but they did have each other.

"During that time a village did raise a child. We were very well disciplined in school and we were discipline when we got home," said Watters.

Joseph Lockhart agrees "We lived in a time when everybody's parents raised everybody's children. My mother was a single parent so everybody raised me."

Decades after high school ended graduates of the four schools say they have a bond that makes them more than classmates it makes them friends. Organizers of the Combined School Reunion say this weekend's festivities included a parade, a banquet and a getting acquainted session.

by Danielle Thomas