Kaylee Young, a rising senior at North Caddo High in Vivian, Louisiana, has an opinion on the history of school segregation: “My mom’s white and my dad is Black. I’ve heard a little bit of the history. I just heard about how it was for my uncle. He’s a white man, so he told me about how the first time he saw and touched a Black person was in fifth grade. That must be horrible: not getting to see people that don’t look like you. Obviously it’s good to be around people that look like you. But not getting to see the other side of things — that sounds traumatic to me.”
This introspection is part of Young’s participation in the SCHOOL SAGAS oral history program featuring students of formerly segregated schools. SAGAS interviewees represent diverse voices ranging in age, ethnicity and economic status. These powerful insights are used to create radio documentaries for the NPR stations in the Red River Radio system serving Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas.
The SAGAS program is coming to Harrison County. The project is spearheaded by the Bishop Blue Foundation, a nonprofit organization which celebrates the legacy of Bishop College — the historically Black institution which educated teachers and preachers for over 100 years.
As SAGAS project scholar Dr. Emilye Crosby suggests in A Little Taste of Freedom (2005), understanding the history of school segregation, desegregation and modern resegregation positions us to find contemporary possibilities for meaningful integration in the realm of education and beyond.
Crosby states, “School desegregation is very misunderstood in our history textbooks and popular culture. The SCHOOL SAGAS approach, emphasizing oral history and inviting conversation about difficult topics, is very important at a time when our country remains deeply divided. We need to move beyond unhelpful mythologies for a more nuanced understanding that engages fully with all of the problems and limitations of school desegregation, as well as with its potential, when properly approached, for a more equitable, multicultural world.”
SAGAS will document stories from Marshall High, Pemberton High, Waskom, and the surrounding school districts. Please contact STORY@SchoolSagas.org to share your memories.
The SCHOOL SAGAS project is being supported in part by an African American Civil Rights grant administered by the National Park Service, Department of the Interior. Additional support is provided by Humanities Texas, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and Red River Radio.