MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A group of students known as the Memphis Thirteen were honored at Gordon Achievement Academy on Tuesday morning.
A mural was unveiled in the cafeteria of the North Memphis school in hopes of helping students learn about their history.
The Memphis Thirteen were the first students to integrate Memphis schools 62 years ago. Memphis Shelby County Schools is making sure the next generation does not forget their story.
In 1961 the school was called Gordon Elementary and before Sharon Malone, Sheila Malone, Pamela Mayes, and Alvin Freeman walked in — it was an all-white school.
“It was a struggle. If you look at this picture, that’s me. We are walking and they told us to just look straight and don’t look at anybody,” Malone said.
They were only six-year-old first graders when they say their parents gave them the task of making a difference in the community, not only for themselves but for every black child in the city of Memphis.
“We open the door, yall came through and that’s one of the proudest moments for us,” Malone said. “I had a teacher that was mean to me. My classmates did not want to play with me.”
“Because of my first-grade teacher, for some reason, she took me under her wing and I got to be the only person in the world that was given a picture of their first-grade teacher, especially under those circumstances,” Alvin Freeman said.
Freeman says he still has that picture.
“People in Memphis, Tennessee still do not know who the Memphis thirteen are,” Malone said. My classmates, we just celebrated our 50th-year class reunion, and some of them are just now finding out.”
This is why they believe the fight is not over and they demand the next generation to continue the course.
“They can do whatever and go to whatever school, college, and university that they want to it’s up to them to make the choices in their life all we did was start it for them. Now, they got to carry on,” Malone said.
There are now murals in all four schools the Memphis Thirteen attended.