Remembering Court-Ordered Integration at a Mississippi High School

Lines Were Drawn looks at a group of Mississippi teenagers whose entire high school experience, beginning in 1969, was under federal court-ordered racial integration. Through oral histories and other research, this group memoir considers how the students, despite their markedly different backgrounds, shared a common experience that greatly influences their present interactions and views of the world--sometimes in surprising ways. The book is also an exploration of memory and the ways in which the same event can be remembered in very different ways by the participants.

Lines Were Drawn, hardcover
320 pages (approx.), 6 x 9 inches,
20 b&w illustrations (approx.),
foreword, appendix, bibliography, index

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Oral histories gathered by three graduates of a major high school in Jackson, Mississippi

The editors (proud members of Murrah High School's Class of 1973) and more than fifty students and teachers address the reality of forced desegregation in the Deep South from a unique perspective--that of the faculty and students who experienced it and made it work, however briefly. The book tries to capture the few years in which enough people were so willing to do something about racial division that they sacrificed immediate expectations to give integration a true chance.

This period recognizes a rare moment when the political will almost caught up with the determination of the federal courts to finally do something about race. Because of that collision of circumstances, southerners of both races assembled in the public schools and made integration work by coming together, and this book seeks to capture those experiences for subsequent generations.

Book Excerpts

The Experiment: 1970—71 Academic Year Teena F. Horn

After Jackson schoolchildren and their families survived the initial shock and meltdown of half a year of chaos in the public school system, we dared to dream that things would improve. Those of us who were about to be sophomores hoped our educational experience would return to normal. More school district lines were drawn from a federal, not local level.

The Brinkley Experience of Johnny Jones John Jones

The first day at Brinkley was memorable. At assembly that morning we heard from the black principal (a holdover and kind man), followed by the white co-principal (a military type looking for trouble). They both told us that the eyes of the nation were on us, that if we could make integration work at Brinkley, it could work everywhere.

Epilogue Alan Huffman

Someone stole Angie Baxter’s yellow Toyota from the Murrah parking lot one day, then brought it back and parked it in the same spot. She figured out what happened because the gas tank was empty and there was popcorn on the floor. We had to laugh. For most of us, that was about as bad as it got at Murrah. Some students did experience truly traumatic events, but overall, ours was a remarkably smooth transition, considering what was at stake.


"This volume is a fascinating treasure trove of accounts of the events arising out of the massive desegregation of the public schools of Jackson, Mississippi, in the 1960s and '70s as remembered and recorded by many of the students, teachers, and parents who were directly involved in that tumultuous experience. This book points out the grim reality of how an uncompromising resistance to school desegregation was met with a more massive political and judicial response resulting in a devil’s brew of conflict that for a time threatened the very existence of effective public education in Mississippi. Now as a result of the experience of those years, we can reflect on the admirable courage of those confused but committed students and their teachers who learned and taught some very wise lessons that provide us with guidelines for future racial progress and reconciliation."

Fifty-seventh governor of Mississippi

"In this inspiring and bittersweet memoir, graduates of Murrah High School look back on their role in the desegregation crisis of the early 1970s. This important book speaks to our condition today and it should be required reading for both educators and public officials."

Author of Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi