Integration of Matoaka High School

Princeton Observer
September 6, 1956

Integration Makes History In Mercer County Schools

Matoaka Pupils Start Boycott - Crosses Burn in Princeton - Colored Students in 14 Schools

Integration made history in the schools of Mercer county as 89 colored pupils attended 14 schools in the county when school began on Tuesday. The students of Matoaka schools are remaining away from classes in large numbers as the Observer goes to press. The county school board has taken no action as yet. Integration was forced on the county through Federal Court proceedings.

Chief source of trouble was in Matoaka where 28 Negroes, mostly from Giatto, enrolled. A crowd gathered and there was egg throwing. Rev. Don Spurlock, Methodist minister, talked to the crowd - and pacified them somewhat.

The parents met in the church that evening and under the leadership of H. V. Slemp, businessman of Matoaka, decided to boycott the school.

On Thuursday [sic] morning, 131 students attended, of an enrollment of 602; fourteen of the 131 were Negroes. Parents wee [sic] again meeting at the church.

Crosses Are Burned

There was friction at Princeton High. At 10:30 on Monday night, a cross was burned on the high school grounds and another at 6:30 Tuesday morning. Boys are supposed to have set these crosses, but they were of good materials and expensively made, and it is suspected that adults were behind the stunt. A picket line was formed at the high school on Tuesday morning, but broken up after a talk by Coach Buster Brown.

There were several anonymous telephone calls to the Princeton police asking that they come to the high school, but these calls were unauthorized and police not needed. Mayor Beam instructed the police that calls must be made by Principal McClain.

There was no trouble elsewhere in the county. Princeton Junior High school opened and proceeded without incident or friction, and likewise in the 12 other schools in the county.

There are 17,000 pupils in the county - 2,000 of them Negroes. Most of the integration has been in the schools where transportation has prevailed before. The Matoaka Negroes were transported to Bramwell, 15 miles away. The Princeton High school and Junior High school to Bluefield, ten miles away.

Only 89 colored students are enrolled in schools hitherto regarded as white.

Colored Registration

The Negro student registration in the schools was as follows: Princeton High 25; Matoaka High 20; Beaver High 2; Bramwell High 1; Princeton Junior 25; Wade Junior 2; Springton Junior 2; Preston Elementary 11; Ramsey Elementary 8; Bramwell Elementary 2; Pinnacle Elementary 2; and Springton Elementary 1.

There were 475 students at Knob school, three bus loads of children formerly enrolled at Mercer were transported to Knob and no classes will be held in the basement as formerly.

Opening of the Athens schools was postponed a week on account of the new building not completed.


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