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Town to commemorate 50 years of desegregation in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools

The discussion, which will take place at Northside Elementary School from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday, is being organized by Lincoln High-Orange County Training School Alumni Association along with Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, UNC Libraries and the towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro.

Along with discussing the history of local desegregation, attendees will talk about its current implications for the community.

The all-black Lincoln High School existed until 1966, when both it and the old historically white Chapel Hill High School closed. Students from the two schools then attended the new Chapel Hill High School across town, which still exists today.

Danita Mason-Hogans, the event’s coordinator, said the discussion will unveil a different side of Chapel Hill.

“It’s really a challenge to look back on that part of history and that ugly part of Chapel Hill, which has such a progressive reputation,” she said.

Mason-Hogans said the idea of having a discussion came from her father, David Mason Jr., who is the president of the Lincoln High-OCTS Alumni Association.

Mason, who graduated from Lincoln High School in 1961, said the impact of the decision in Brown v. Board of Education wasn’t immediately realized in Chapel Hill.

“One thing you can take into consideration is that in 1954, the Supreme Court ruled schools should be integrated,” he said. “The question then becomes, why did it take Chapel Hill 12 years to integrate the schools?”

Mason said those who attend the forum will have a better understanding of why this happened. He also hopes current racial issues will be brought up.

“It’s important to understand that some of the problems we experienced initially are still present,” Mason said. “We have to come up with a mechanism to correct disparities, especially how it results in the disproportion of punishment and the achievement gap.”

A study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania revealed that although black students made up about a quarter of the student population of 13 states, including North Carolina, during the 2011-2012 school year, they accounted for almost half of suspensions.

Chaitra Powell, African-American collections and outreach archivist at the UNC Libraries’ Southern Historical Collection, is working on a photo slideshow for the event and hopes to kickstart an oral project. She said the collaboration between a diverse range of organizations will be beneficial.

Powell said she hopes the event will be an opportunity for people who experienced desegregation to share their perspectives.

“Desegregation is traumatic if you have a homogeneous community and suddenly it’s gone — your teachers, your resources — and you go to another school which isn’t welcoming,” Powell said.


CLARIFICATION: A previous version of this story was unclear about when desegregation occurred in the historically white Chapel Hill High School. The school closed in 1966 and was replaced with the integrated Chapel Hill High School across town, but some black students attended the school before integration was completed in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.

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