Remembering Separate And Unequal Times - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

05/16/04

Remembering Separate And Unequal Times

Little Rock Baptist Church was filled with a multitude of memories surrounding one historical moment.

"In September of 1967, I was enrolled as a junior at Gulfport High. Needless to say, I did not realize the scope of my decision until school actually started. No one wanted me there," said Martha Mais.

Mais, as well as other students and teachers, courageously stood at the forefront of integration in the local school systems.

Mais was among those honored Sunday afternoon by the Gulfport branch of the NAACP.

"There are landmark events in world history that are so powerful and so landscape changing, that to do other but commemorate and remember and recognize and honor is a disservice to those who come after us," said Gulfport NAACP president Felecia Dunn-Burkes.

University of Southern Mississippi history professor Dr. James Smith agrees.

He says the sacrifices of others to integrate schools and universities allowed his college education to be enhanced through diversity.

"One of the things that I remember about in college happen to be a religious organization which suddenly became a desegregated religious organization, where you're used to having White and Black people worship separately in the community. As a freshman in college, all of a sudden we discovered well that's one thing that there appears to be some common ground on," said Dr. Smith.

He and the others gathered for the event found there were many commonalities between the two groups.

It was just a struggle to get the chance to be able to find those out.

Although the unanimous ruling declared that segregation in education was unequal, many Southern politicians regarded the decision as a "clear abuse of judicial power".

However, even ten years after the case, only one percent of African American students in the South attended desegregated schools.

By Karla Redditte

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