One county in Alabama was finally moving forward with stopping segregation in its schools. The first integrated school in Sumter County finally made its debut on Monday, ushering in a new era after a painful past.
The University Charter School (UCS) opened its doors to serve students from kindergarten to eighth grade in the city of Livingston, AL.com reported. Both white and Black students — more than half of the 300-plus students were Black while a little less than a half were white — sat and learned in classrooms. UCS made history with having a better balance of a diverse student body. No other school in the county has even come close to UCS’ more equitable ratio of white and Black students, according to historical enrollment documents.
The UCS ratio shed light on the county’s demographics, which is 76 percent Black and 24 percent white, according to the latest U.S. Census data. The county was also the poorest one in the state.
The process of integration in Sumter, like that of Alabama, has been slow despite the large population of African-Americans in the county. The 1969 federal court decision that ordered integration to come to Sumter — 15 years after the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision — spurred white students to create their own private schools called “segregation academies.”
As those private “academies” spread, Sumter’s public school district became predominantly Black. Parents were stuck with a choice of sending their kids to an all-white private institution or a largely Black public school.
However, that hasn’t stopped strong integration pushes, which have led to the creation of UCS. A circuit county judge gave the green light for the school’s opening last month, beginning to clear the way for the painful segregation struggle to end and a more intertwined community to emerge.
With the school’s debut, parents, teachers and students alike were thrilled and recognized the significance of the event.
“The school will work wonders for the community,” Markeitha Tolliver, parent of fourth-grader Marquez Tolliver, said. “I’m praying they keep it for a very long time.”