Unformatted text preview: led for. "Let's wait a while, give things a chance to settle." "Then have some more tea," she said, already refilling my glass. Breathing was difficult, so I reclined as much as possible in my chair and decided to act like a journalist. Miss Callie, who'd eaten far less than I, was finishing a serving of okra. According to Baggy, Sam Ruffin had been the first black student to enroll in the white schools in Clanton. It happened in 1964 when Sam was a seventh grader, age twelve, and the experience had been difficult for everyone. Especially Sam. Baggy warned me that Miss Callie might not talk about her youngest child. There was a warrant for his arrest and he had fled the area. She was reluctant at first. In 1963, the courts ruled that a white school district could not deny admission to a black student. Forced integration was still years in the future. Sam was her youngest, and when she and Esau made the decision to take him to the white school they hoped they would be joined by other black families. They were not, and for two years Sam was the only black student at Clanton Junior High School. He was tormented and beaten, but he quickly learned to handle his fists and with time was left alone. He begged his parents to take him back to the Negro school, but they held their ground, even after he moved to the senior high. Relief was coming, they kept telling themselves. The desegregation fight was raging across the South and blacks were continually promised that the mandate ofBrown versus Board of Education would be carried out. "It is hard to believe that it is now 1970, and the schools here are still segregated," she said. Federal lawsuits and appellate decisions were pummeling white resistance throughout the South, but, typically, Mississippi was fighting to the bitter end. Most white folks I knew in Clanton were convinced that their schools would never be integrated. I, a Northerner from Memphis, could see the obvious. "Do you regret sending Sam to the white school?" "Yes and no. Someone had to...
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