MEMPHIS, Tenn. —In September 1957 nine African American students walked into Central high school in Little Rock– that was a monumental moment in the civil rights movement– as the desegregation of public schools began.
That was three years after the landmark Supreme Court ruling, Brown versus The Board of Education which ordered public school districts across the country to integrate.
Here in Memphis ten years after that ruling.
” Memphis was a segregated city up until the early 60s.” Jesse Turner junior entered Christian Brothers high school as the first black student to attend an all-white high school in Memphis, public or private.
Jesse Turner junior entered Christian Brothers high school as the first black student to attend an all-white high school in Memphis, public or private.
“Quite frankly I didn’t know what to expect,” Said Turner “I kept to myself early on, ate by myself.”
That was until he was befriended by a junior, Jack Young.
“He seemed to take more abuse just for taking time to eat with me, than otherwise and this went on for some months. “Shared Turner.
He says the first few months at CBHS were not easy, but after a while, things settled down and he became accepted, all while concentrating on his grades.
“I excelled the first year,” Turner said. “I had the best average in the school, I had all A’s ”
Turner says some days were not easy.
He recalls a time just before graduation that another student knocked the books out of his hands but overall he credits the school’s administration for focusing on discipline.
“The were just determined to run a tight ship, they did then and they still do.”
Turner’s younger brothers also attended the school, one desegregated the football team and the other went on to be student body president.
“It just shows you how things change in ten years. ”
Reflecting back on his contribution to his role in desegregation.
“I think the goal of the role as first blacks is to do what we have done and to set an example that others can follow, and I think our message to our generations today especially after you look at our former president, is you can do anything you want to in this country. ”
Turner graduated CBHS co-salutatorian.