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Scarboro 85 Monument
The First Black Athletes break the intractable color-barrier in Southeast Public Schools and Universities
A Monument to 85
Civil Rights Heroes Who Helped Bring Our Country together!!
85 Young Students
Who Began the Modern
Civil Rights Era
The Scarboro 85
An American Triumph
First Black Students
Southeastern Public Schools
First Black athletes
in all-white Southeastern Public School and university Sports
first Major Victory
over Jim Crow
Opening-the-Door for SE Acceptance of the historic “Brown” court Decision
Their Landmark School
Five years before Ruby Bridges,
Two years before the Little Rock Nine,
A year before the Clinton Twelve,
Months before Dr. Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks rose to national prominence by leading the historic Montgomery Bus Boycott, and
Six years before the first three Black undergraduates entered the University of Tennessee (Fifteen years before the first Black UT basketball player!)
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Frequently Asked Questions (Click for Answer!)
1. Were the Scarboro 85 First?
The Scarboro 85 were the very-first Black students to enter All-White Southeastern public schools. Although some schools in the North and West had desegregated a year earlier — no schools in the Southeast did so. Southeastern schools formed a unified block of defiance to the Supreme court: no desegregation.
Many felt that Southeastern public schools would never agree to mixed clases. Then the brave Scarboro 85 students, parents, and teachers risked dangerous retaliation to quietly enter All-White classes on September 6, 1955. They were first!
2. How did the Scarboro 85 school desegregation --- profoundly change America?
It was the first major breakthrough of the Southeast’s inflexible (and dangerous) Jim Crow racial culture.
This culture was the central racial question facing America back in 1955. At the time, there were no precidents for desegregation in the Old South. Many feared the worst —- widespread violence and an end to Southeastern public education.
Southeastern states openly challenged — as a unified, defiant block — the Supreme Court’s historic Brown desegregation ruling when it was issued in 1954. Many experts dispaired that Southeastern public schools would never desegregate.
Then in the fall of 1955, eighty-five brave young Black students from the Scarboro neighborhood in Tennessee broke-through the seemingly-Impenetrable barrier.
Their great courage launched the modern American Civil Rights era.
It was a real game-changer for our nation.
3. Was it difficult to break the color barrier in Southeastern Sports?
It was extremely difficult (and emotionally-painful) for young Black athletes to break-through the Southeastern color barrier in public sports.
Two of the Scarboro 85 — Henry Fred Guinn and Lawrence Graham (now Dr. Ahmed Akinole Alhimisi) — became the very first Black athletes to compete in All-White Southeastern public school (and university) sports on December 3, 1955. They were a part of the pionering mixed-race Oak Ridge High School basketball team.
A third Scarboro 85 student (Robert Berry) joined the Oak Ridge High Freshman Team.
Mixed-Race public school teams were brand-new racial territory back then. They generated high levels of public stress. In reaction, some opposing schools would threatened cancel games, if Black players came to a basketball game with the Oak Ridge High School team.
So — despite their athletic talent and hard-work — Scarboro 85 players had to wait by the phone before a game to see if they could travel with the team.
At the games, the young Black players faced cat-calls of “N-Word” go home — and other racial insults. These experiences left deep emotional scars that lasted all their lives. Can you imagine?
4. How did Anderson County help launch the modern civil rights era?
Anderson County helped launch the modern civil rights era, by being the first to desegregate its public schools in the Southeastern United States.
Eighty-Five brave students from the Scarboro neighborhood in Anderson County gave us the first major victory over the repressive Jim Crow racial culture. They successfully opened a path around the Southeast’s unified resistance to the US Supreme Court’s Brown ruling.
Back in 1954 the main question facing the Brown decision was the question of Southern resistance to school desegregation. Experts warned that the South would never accept mixed classes. Black and White children in the same classroom was unthinkable to the Jim Crow culture.
Widespread violence and perhaps the end of Southeastern public education seemed likely.
The first Southern test came with the Milford 11 students in Southern Delaware in September 1954 — a year before the Scarboro desegregation. The utter failure of this public school desegregation was a direct repudiation of the Brown decision.
Although Delaware is located just-north of the Mason Dixon line, southern Delaware possessed a Deeply-Southeastern culture from nearby rural Virginia.
The failure of the Milford 11 desegregation attempt was widely publicized. It seemed to confirm people’s worst fears: Southeastern states would never agree to desegregate. A year later, eighty-five brave Scarboro students in Anderson County tried again.
This time, the desegregation succeeded thanks to the courage of the Scarboro 85 students, their parents, and teachers — and the support of the people of Anderson County. After all, no desegregation can truly happen without local support.
By the end of 1956, nearly a hundred Black students had enrolled in the White public schools in the County — a wonderful example of Black and White citizens coming together to help unify our nation.
5. What key role did the Department of Energy play in the Scarboro 85 desegregation?
6. Was Rosa Parks involved with the desegregation?
At the time of the Scarboro 85 desegregation, Ms. Parks was actually in Tennessee attending the famous Highlander Folk School.
It’s documented that she closely monitored the situation and actively considered coming to Oak Ridge — because the desegregation was such a first!
8. What is the significance of the Scarboro 85 symbol: the Sankofa Bird?
The Sankofa Bird tells us to know our history. The idea is to look back at our past to learn — and then move forward.
It perfectly symbolizes the growth and energy that comes from remembering the inspiring courage of the Scarboro 85 students and their amazing service to America.
It’s about seeking inspiration to tackle challenges in front of all of us — from the important achievements in our past.
9. What exactly is a "Monument and Historical Interpretive Site" and who is designing it?
10. How will the Scarboro 85 Monument highlight --- "Black and White communities coming together to help America?"
Internationally-Known Fisk Jubilee Singer Benefit Concert!!
Join us for a wonderful benefit performance by the Widely-Acclaimed Fisk Jubilee Singers. This may be your only chance to hear this world renowned group. Reserve your tickets today! More Details
Anniversary of First Black Students to Enter an All-White Southeastern Public School
On September 5, 1955, 85 brave young Black students quietly entered All-White classes in Oak Ridge High School and Robertsville Junior High School in Anderson County, Tennessee. More Details
Anniversary of the First Black Athletes to Enter an All-White Southeastern Public School (or University) Sports Event
On December 3, 1955, two Scarboro 85 students entered an Oak Ridge High School Basketball game, becoming the first Black Athletes to participate in Southeastern Public School and University Sports. More Details
Key Desegregation Leaders
- Arizona Officer, Pioneering Black Educator who Founded the Segregated Black Oak Ridge School (the Scarboro School) and who helped lead the subsequent landmark desegregation
- Waldo Kohn, Visionary Mayor who first proposed desegregating
- Tom Dunigan, High School Principal during the Scarboro 85 School desegregation
- Coach Ben Martin, Basketball Coach of first public school mixed-race team in the Southeast
- Fred Brown, First Black Teacher in All-White SE Schools
- Bertis Capehart, School Superintendent during the Scarboro 85 desegregation
- Archie Lee, Scarboro 85 Student, First Black National Honor Society Member in Southeastern United States
Videos, Documentaries, and References
- WBIR Documentary Series
- Monument Video
- Faces of the Scarboro 85
- 65th Anniversary Celebration
- Scarboro 85 Timeline
- Our Nation’s Civil Rights Timeline
Scarboro 85 Awards and
- Congressional Record Recognition
- American Nuclear Society Civil Rights Award
- Nuclear News Editorial
- Local Recognitions
Our Partners & Sponsors
- City of Oak Ridge
- Weaver Consulting
- Oak Ridge Periodic Tables
- United Way of Anderson County
- Scarboro Community Alumni Association
- John and Vanessa Spratling
- Rose Weaver
- Martin and Anne McBride
- Pat Postma
- Pastor Henry and Trina Watson
- Karla Mullins
- D. Ray Smith
- Pastor David Alred
- Ram Uppuluri
- Ziad Demian
- Naomi Ascher
- Explore Oak Ridge
- Oak Ridge Heritage and Preservation Association
scarboro 85 Monument Committee, Chairman
Coach John Spratling