An observance of the 50th anniversary of the 1964 desegregation of the Franklin County school system will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 19, at Sewanee Elementary School in Sewanee. Members of the local families who brought the desegregation lawsuit in 1963 will speak briefly, followed by a question and answer session. A historical marker commemorating the event will be unveiled at the ceremony and a reception will follow. The event is part of a series of community-wide events surrounding Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
The Sewanee Civic Association has planned the event honoring the 50th anniversary as a tribute to the Sewanee community and eight local families who played an important role in the historic school integration. During the early to mid-1960s, there were numerous desegregation lawsuits nationwide. However, the local suit was unique in that there were four black and four white families working together; for this reason the NAACP and its legal defense fund embraced the suit.
The families that bonded to make history were the African American families of Hill, Sisk, Staten and Turner and the white families of Bates, Cameron, Camp and Goodstein.
To further strengthen the case for integration, the Sewanee community banded together to provide funding for construction to enlarge the physical plant of the school, and facilitated a tutoring program to ensure that all students would thrive in the newly integrated public school.
A permanent Tennessee state historical marker will be placed on University Avenue at the Sewanee Elementary School.
The program will commence with the majority of speakers inside the elementary school and will move outside for the historical marker’s unveiling and dedication by John McCardell, vice-chancellor of the University of the South. At the conclusion, attendees are invited to enjoy a reception in Brooks Hall at Otey Parish across the street from the elementary school.