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Rachel Louise Martin, A Most Tolerant Little Town: The Explosive Beginning of School Desegregation
August 12 @ 10:30 am - 12:00 pm CDT
In graduate school, Rachel Martin volunteered with a Southern oral history project. One day, she was sent to a small town in Tennessee, in the foothills of the Appalachians, where locals wanted to build a museum to commemorate the events of September 1956, when Clinton High School became the first school in the former Confederacy to undergo court-mandated desegregation. But not everyone wanted to talk. As one founder of the Tennessee White Youth told her, “Honey, there was a lot of ugliness down at the school that year; best we just move on and forget it.”
For years, Martin wondered what it was some white residents of Clinton didn’t want remembered. So she went back, eventually interviewing over sixty townsfolk—including nearly a dozen of the first students to desegregate Clinton High—to piece together what happened back in 1956: the death threats and beatings, picket lines and cross burnings, neighbors turned on neighbors and preachers for the first time at a loss for words.