OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (NewsNation Now) — Eighty-five students who integrated the first public schools in Tennessee were honored in a special ceremony Sunday.
Oak Ridge Mayor Warren Gooch and community members gathered to pay tribute to the dozens of surviving students, called the “Oak Ridge 85,” on the 65th anniversary of the desegregation of the city’s public schools.
An outdoor service was held at the site of the former Scarboro school, where Black students were forced to attend before Oak Ridge schools desegregated on September 6, 1955.
Anderson County, which includes the Oak Ridge community, was the first school district in Tennessee to be sued in federal court to end racial segregation in its schools, according to a report from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
The Oak Ridge school district said it was the first public school system in the state of Tennessee to fully desegregate all the junior and senior high school students at the all-Black Scarboro school. The Knoxville News Sentinel reported that it’s a little-known chapter in the country’s civil rights history because the area was still a federal enclave instead of a self-governed municipality.
Oak Ridge High School recognized the 85 students with a plaque, commemorating the group’s sacrifice, courage, and leadership, NewsNation affiliate WATE reported.
The school district’s 65th anniversary committee plans to continue commemoration events throughout the 2020-2021 school year.