When Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas was racially integrated, I was twelve years old. The talk on our campus was that the black kids in our town had a newer school building that looked a lot better from the outside and offered a broader curriculum. Why did they want to go to school with us? The kids (including me) were ranting and raving. When I got a chance I asked a black lady why they wanted to go to school with us. She told me that they didn’t want to go to school with us anymore than we wanted to go to school with them.
At home, I was repeating the things I had heard at school. My father told me about a black school that he passed every week. When it rained, what little playground they had was a mud hole. In the winter when the children should be in class, some would be walking down the road gathering fire wood for the wood heater. They had no other way to heat the school and no one supplied the school with wood. That summer while helping my father with his job he showed me the school house. It was a small, run down clap board building with one or two rooms. I realized how wrong I had been. The kids at my school were right in one way; the school building that the black students used looked better and the curriculum may have been better, but the black children had to pay a price. The black kids were bused from all over the county to the one school while the white kids had four schools scattered over the county. I don’t know for sure, but the county must have spent about three times as much for the white kids as they did for the black kids.