Monday night, the East Baton Rouge Parish School System commemorated the official end of the longest running desegregation case in U.S. history. It loomed over our local public school system for 51 years, since 1956. As WAFB's Keitha Nelson reports, dozens of people gathered at McKinley Middle School to help mark this historical milestone.
81-year-old Reverend Mary Moody served on the citizens task force that helped to put an end to the historical 51-year running case. She was there, back in 2003, as the final settlement agreement was signed. Reverend Moody says, "Oh, that day that we stood on the steps of the federal building and Judge Brady signed that off, it was a day of rejoicing and fulfillment. A day we felt, oh, it has finally came."
She, like the many others who gathered at McKinley Middle, are relieved that the years of pain, humiliation and segregation are now officially a thing of the past. Superintendent Charlotte Placide says, "Some of the restrictions that were there before regarding student placement, student assignment, a lot of that's gone. But, we can now focus totally on education."
Judge Brady humbly admits he played a major role in putting an end to the case, but remembers stepping foot into McKinley High, which at the time, was the only school for "colored" kids in town. He says, "I don't know how anyone could have lasted a day in that facility. He says it smelled bad, and would have shut it down if it was a local prison. Old newspaper clippings reflected the trying times, and public opinion. "As long as I'm governor of this state, we gonna keep the colored people out of our public schools," said Governor Earl Long.
Times have changed. July 14th, 2007 marked the official end to the desegregation case. That end marks a new beginning for EBR schools. Reverend Moody says, "Let us continue to build on the past, live in the present and prepare for the future." Even though Judge Brady signed off on the settlement agreement back in 2003, the agreement had a four-year term and its expiration date was this past Saturday, bringing an end to a case some felt would never be over.