Area historic black high schools planning reunion

Published: Thursday, June 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, May 31, 2006 at 11:28 a.m.
An alumni coalition of historic black high schools plans to host a reunion in Starke on July 22, more than 35 years after their schools were closed in the wake of integration.
The United Historic High School Alliance reunion at the Bradford County Fairgrounds will be the first event to join alumni from separate local schools: Lincoln High School in Gainesville, A.L. Mebane High School in Alachua and Robinson Jenkins Ellerson High School in Starke.
The "round-out" celebrations will honor the shared fate of the different schools, said Mary McGregor, a member of the R.J.E. Alumni Association.
The participating schools may have been opponents on the sports field, she said, but the schools are now united by a common bond: they were all closed in 1969 or 1970.
Despite the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that racial segregation in public education was unconstitutional, unofficial segregation lingered for more than a decade among local schools, which allowed students to attend wherever they felt most comfortable.
However, under increasing pressure from the Supreme Court, Florida school boards shut down traditionally black schools and assigned their students to other schools.
R.J.E. High School graduated its final class of seniors in 1969.
Lincoln and Mebane were abruptly closed in January 1970, during the middle of the school year, and senior classes were forced to graduate from other high schools. For McGregor, who graduated from R.J.E. High School in 1959, the school closures signaled the end of an era. She remembers a sense of community and respect in her high school that seems absent from current public education.
"It was really a sad thing," she said. "When we were in school, it was altogether different."
She thinks that feeling of community will revive at the reunion, where school memorabilia will be displayed and former classmates can be reacquainted. f-z Individual alumni organizations have hosted class reunions before, McGregor said, but this will be the first time different area schools have banded together.
Many alumni have moved away from the area, but McGregor hopes this celebration will be big enough to lure them back for a visit.
Organizers are planning for about 100 people, she said, and they hope alumni from other closed schools in the area will get involved.
For more information, contact Mary McGregor at (352) 377-0781.

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