BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - What better way to learn history, than from those who lived it. That was the case Friday morning at St. Stanislaus, which is celebrating 50 years of integration. Students who were there in 1966-and-67 came back to the campus to share their experiences.
"He called me the "N" word and he spit on me," said Curtis St. Mary, as he recalled one of the many times he was the target of racism.
That particular incident happened during a road game somewhere in North Mississippi. St. Mary recalled how he and a friend were the only black players on the team. At a restaurant after the game, the owner insisted the two black students sit in a back room to eat. The St. Stanislaus coach told the two blacks to get on the bus.
St. Mary recalls he and his friend being angry, figuring the rest of the white team was enjoying dinner, while they were ordered to the bus. But minutes later, the entire team and coach boarded the bus, too. They had decided inside that they wouldn't stand for the mistreatment of their black teammates, so they walked out.
It was a different time back then, before the students at the assembly were born, but not that long ago.
Lonnie Bradley was one of the first two African-Americans to attend St. Stanislaus.
"Not only were we scared, the students here at St. Stanislaus were scared. They didn't know what to expect of us, and we didn't know what to expect of them," said Bradley.
"So in 1966, Lonnie and I came over here in ninth grade. And like he said, yeah we were nervous, we were scared to death. If he had to go to the bathroom, I stood out the door and that kind of thing, you know," Mickey Piernas told the young students.
"I knew there was a God, because of the things that happened with us. I know there was a God. That God was looking down on us and that he was going to make things better in the long run," St. Mary told the group, "If it's not right here on this earth, I was getting some jewels in my crown, I know, for all the things that were happening."
The experiences back then depended largely on perspective. White students had different recollections.
"And so, to hear us talk, everything was fine, it went seamlessly. However, when you hear the other gentlemen talk from their perspective, in a minority, it was a totally different, nerve-wracking, very tense situation," said Mike Gemelli.
"I would say to you young men, as students here, there's an inherent level of discomfort when you're a person of minority. And you're in an experience where you're not like everyone else, and there's very few of you," Dr. Myron Labot Jr. advised the group of youngsters.
The first two African-American students enrolled at St. Stanislaus in 1966, at the invitation of the principal. The following school year, the fully integrated student body and faculty of St. Augustine Seminary, merged with Stanislaus.