Reporter: GAMBRELL, DAVID (MRS.).
In this WSB newsfilm clip from Augusta, Georgia on March 15, 1972, white and African American parents and students gather at Southside Elementary School and speak to reporter Abe Gallman on the first day of the second phase of court-ordered busing and school pairings for school integration.
The clip begins with a school bus pulling into a parking lot of Southside Elementary School. Bystanders watch the bus as it pulls up to the school door. As African American children get off the school bus, two women direct the students. The camera turns to an African American mother speaking to reporter Abe Gallman, who stands off-screen. The woman declares that she does not object to the court-ordered busing and school pairing, because she believes her children will get a better education in the new system. She explains that she has heard that the white schools have materials that the African American schools do not; she believes that integration will allow all children and parents to know the same things.
As the school bus pulls away from Southside Elementary School, the camera focuses on a group of white mothers and children standing at the edge of the parking lot. Two white mothers walk with their children from the edge of the parking lot to the door of the school; the children carry picket signs with them. School principal Sam Rogers meets the group. As they begin to ask Principal Rogers if there is room at the school for their children, he interrupts them and tells them their children cannot attend the school because the school has neither space nor teachers for the children.
After a break in the clip, the camera focuses on a rally held at the elementary school. State senator Jimmy Lester uses a bullhorn to speak to a crowd of white parents and children. Lester declares that "we are winning the battle against forced busing." The crowd cheers his statement, and he goes on to assert that the actions of white parents and legislators have shown the nation they "will speak for our rights."
The clip then focuses on a white crowd holding signs and standing near a school. Reporter Abe Gallman comments on the scene, explaining that white parents held morning rallies at Fleming and Southside elementary schools. Following the rallies, "the children were marched off by their parents to newly-formed private schools." As he speaks, the clip shows a school bus for "Lumpkin Road Baptist Church." Parents and children from the crowd carry picket signs as they approach a building with a hand-lettered sign in the doorway. The sign reads, "Welcome Fleming." Taylor L. Osment, pastor at Lumpkin Road Baptist Church speaks to Gallman from the doorway. Osment explains that he feels the busing for school desegregation is unjustified and has made the church available for those who feel the same way. Asked about plans to expand the school, Osment replies that there are plans to expand the school through the eighth grade the following year, and that the church is providing its facilities for a temporary school for the remainder of the school year.
The clip ends showing white children sitting in folding chairs around tables; the children have books in front of them. A teacher in an orange dress sitting at one end of the room speaks to the children. The students later write on paper in front of them or look through books.
Schools in Augusta, Georgia first integrated in the fall of 1964 after the school board announced that first through third grades in local elementary schools would be open to students of any race in the school's attendance zone. That fall, ten African American students entered previously all-white schools. In the fall of 1965, the Richmond County School Board established school attendance zones and announced parents could choose which school in their zone their children would attend. The zones were not racially mixed, and in the fall of 1967, the United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (H.E.W.) declared the Richmond County plan unacceptable. H.E.W. called on the school board to come up with another method of ending the dual school system. In October 1969, H.E.W. suggested that white and African American schools should be paired and students bused to achieve desegregation. Parents and leaders throughout the state strongly objected to this suggestion. In Augusta, parents formed "Citizens for Neighborhood Schools" and fought the proposed busing plan. In July 1971, federal judge Alexander Lawrence ruled the school board's attempts at pairing unsatisfactory and ordered the school board to follow the North Carolina Swann-Mecklenburg plan, which had been approved by a federal court. Judge Lawrence allowed the Augusta schools to open that fall while two Rhode Island educators prepared an integration plan. From the six options presented by the Rhode Island educators, Judge Lawrence chose a pairing and busing plan. He ordered the school board to implement Phase I of the plan February 15, 1972 by pairing seven schools. Phase II, which began March 15, 1972, paired four elementary schools, Southside, Fleming, Griggs, and Jenkins. On the first day of Phase II, white parents met at the two previously all-white schools, Southside and Fleming, and tried to enroll their children. Turned away, the parents held a brief rally against the forced busing and pairing plan. After the rally, parents took their children to newly-formed private schools.
Title supplied by cataloger.
The Civil Rights Digital Library received support from a National Leadership Grant for Libraries awarded to the University of Georgia by the Institute of Museum and Library Services for digital conversion and description of the WSB-TV Newsfilm Collection.
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Cite as: WSB-TV newsfilm clip of students and parents at a local school on the first day of Phase II of a court-ordered desegregation plan utilizing school pairing and busing, Augusta, Georgia, 1972 March 15, WSB-TV newsfilm collection, reel 1815, 55:44/58:42, Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection, The University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, Ga, as presented in the Digital Library of Georgia.