TEXARKANA — Those who have lived history are one of the best repositories of these events
Texarkana Museums System hosted a group of former students from Washington and Dunbar Schools. In a discussion moderated by Velvet Hall Cool, chairman of the board of directors of TMS, the three shared their memories of attending the school during the era of racial integration in the late 1960s.
Dunbar was on the Texas side of town, Dunbar on the Arkansas side.
Students recalled that the idea of change made them nervous. Accustomed to things as they were, aware of the animosity of those who did not like change and also having a high regard for the level of education in their own schools, they did not immediately adopt the idea. change.
“Our teachers were knowledgeable and knew our families,” said Carolyn Moore, a former Dunbar student and future graduate of Texas High School. “The teachers at Dunbar worked with our families, hand in hand. The education we received at Dunbar was just as good as the education the students received at Texas High. We who attended Dunbar knew we were going to be someone one day.”
Although reluctant to leave, Moore was aware of the efforts and sacrifices made on her behalf that enabled the change to come.
“I knew I would be betraying my family if I didn’t apply myself in both environments,” she said.
Dunbar vs. Washington: The Big Game
I. Don Nelson, who graduated from Dunbar and later taught at Texas High, described initial conditions at Texas High for black teachers as far from an idea.
“They put black teachers in a portable building,” he said. “The power was initially insufficient to cool and light the building. Usually the vote was put to the students and they usually chose to make sure the place was cool, as opposed to well-lit.”
Initially, he noted that white students had low expectations after onboarding, but that wouldn’t slow smart students down.
“Sharp kids were going to be sharp,” he said. “Good students are going to be good. And a lot of misfits, with good encouragement, could get their work done with a little pressure.”
“Teachers were key,” Moore said. “When they let students know they cared and engaged them, the learning came.”
Moore was among the last class to leave Washington for Arkansas High. She noted that Washington taught many skills, what would later be called home economics. Initially, Arkansas High did little of this.
“It was mainly due to limited funding at the time,” said Rickey Yates. “School districts in Texas had oil money. School districts in Arkansas had much more limited resources for a time.”
Yates notes that he loved Washington and would have been happy to stay there.
“I was a good student, but I missed my school,” he said. “But those who walked, put their lives, their everything on the line, gave us the right. We couldn’t do less.”
“I was angry and wanted to stay at Dunbar,” Moore said. “I didn’t want to bow and line up. It was a tough time. The white students didn’t want us there and we didn’t want to be there. But again a lot had been done for us bring it. And in three years, I graduated.”