Denver woman helped blaze the trail to integrate schools in the deep south

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Most of us may have heard of the Little Rock Nine—the nine students who, after several attempts,  were able to integrate Little Rock High School.

But all over the south during the 50s and 60s there were other Black children who braved death threats and beatings to attend all-White schools.

One such student was Dr. Aundrey Wilkins, who along with two of her girlfriends integrated the middle school in Lower Peachtree, Alabama.

“My mother was a teacher and she opted for a Free Choice program to integrate the school in our country town,” said Wilkins.

“We didn’t really know about other areas of the south where desegregation efforts were going on—the only way we did was by going to Black churches. What we knew was in our little town Whites didn’t want us to be in their schools at all.”

With only a few supportive White friends the Lower Peachtree Three made their way into school, only to be spit on, beaten, and abused by White students and teachers.

Wilkins goes on with the story.

They endured and made it through high school. When they made good grades they were changed—all of the kids made As and Bs in their schools. But at the White schools, their grades were Ds and Fs.

By High school, the students were making honor roll-type grades but when they looked for their names on the Honor Roll list, they were informed the Honor Roll had been discontinued.

While they managed to endure, when they were seniors, almost all the White students and teachers left for private schools, leaving only a handful of White students—mainly the poorer ones who couldn’t afford the private schools were left.

The principal offered them the option of walking with just a few students or getting degrees early. All three opted to take their diplomas and begin working for the summer.

The next fall all three went on to college where they graduated and have lived productive lives.

Dr. Wilkins just retired after serving 30 years with the Environmental Protection Agency in Denver. She now heads the organization A Call to Love Ministries.

The final thought on what Wilkins and thousands of other courageous Black kids went through may be summed up this way:  When you are anxious to achieve something you forget about fear.

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