Bruce Elementary students honor Memphis 13

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Memphis, Tenn. — Students in Memphis are celebrating a movement milestone today.

It’s been 55 years since 13 African-American students became the first to integrate Memphis City Schools.

On Monday, students at Bruce Elementary showed their gratitude for those who weren’t much older than them when they joined the front lines of desegregation.

The Memphis 13 are known for changing the course of history.

"Every one of those 13 were just ordinary people, who took extraordinary actions and said we are going to be the ones to do this," said National Civil Rights Museum president Terri Freeman.

Back in 1961, 13 African American students took a leap of faith as they paved the way for change. While students honoring the 13 can’t even begin to imagine the weight of that sacrifice, they still smiled and clapped their hands in appreciation for the major impact made by that brave group.

"You had to have a lot of courage just to get up and even come into the school; there were many days I did not want to come."

Harry Williams remembers all too well the pain of being a part of the 13. Williams said his parents pushed him to keep enduring even when he wanted quit because they saw the bigger picture.

"To make the decision that they would let their 6-year-old go into a school setting and be the targets," said Freeman.

Decades later it appears the pain was definitely worth the process. This year’s National Civil Rights Museum freedom banquet will also honor the Memphis 13.