BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — The Livingston Parish community is celebrating the anniversary of school integration, a major shift that began almost 51 years ago.
In Denham Springs, the former West Livingston High School, one of the few all-black schools in Livingston Parish, shut its doors in 1970.
West Livingston High School brought communities from all over the place together for one common goal which was an education.
West Livingston Graduate/ Educator & Walker High educator Fred Banks, said, “We loved our kids, but we wanted them to learn.”
Fond memories flooded the minds of former West Livingston students and educators as they reminisce about the past.
West Livingston Graduate Daniel Landry said, “It was just a time of great education and comradery. We had athletics, we had an opportunity to show our talents in the arts. ”
West Livingston Graduate/ Educator & Denham Springs Elementary Educator Sarah Scott said, “The teachers here always got the best out of you. They were concerned about you, they taught you. I had a desire to learn.”
Though the institution was highly valued and loved, many say that throughout the years, the law of separate but equal proved to be not equal at all.”
West Livingston/Denham Springs High graduate Kenneth Mitchell said, “We got new textbooks every time Denham Springs High School got new textbooks the difference was our new textbooks had 10 names in them, most them had no covers.”
The civil rights movement sparked many into action across the country, including West Livingston High School.
West Livingston/ Denham Springs High graduate Patricia Muse explained, “There was a desegregation order that was filed by Cornelius Dunn and Mrs. Ethelton in honor of their children. The reason was to let our schools have as much as the white schools.”
Although victory was won, the next battle began. Three students including Patricia Muse volunteered to lead this battle and be the first to integrate.
“Well, Brown v. the Board of Education clarified that segregation was unconstitutional, and in order to implement this and make it true in society, someone had to go to school, someone had to go to these schools that were supposedly open to everyone.”
Then a cross over of faculty and administration into the integrated schools took place.
West Livingston Graduate Daniel Landry said, “When you were integrated into the school, they were going to find a position equal to your position.
Many educators quickly found footing at the newly integrated schools.
Scott said, “Every child, I tried to make him feel like he was the best and most important part of that school, and if you get a child to like school, really really like school. you won’t have any problems.”
“I thought I would be completely out of teaching when I was assigned to Walker High School, but one of the best things to happen to me was being assigned to Walker High School, said Banks.
These trailblazers hope that progress does not cease and that those who come after remember their fight.
“I’m saying students, please take your education series. Do everything that is required and more,” said Mitchell.
“If all kids can remember that the community is not better than the people in it, then it won’t go down,” said Banks.
West and East Livingston Parish High School have become an important and pivotal part of Livingston Parish History.
The Livingston Parish Community plans to host a COVID- safe Black History Program at West Livingston this weekend.