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Historical Markers for Memphis 13

Historical Markers were placed at Bruce, Gordon, Rozelle, and Springdale elementary schools to commemorate the contributions of the Memphis 13 to Memphis history.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — This year marks the 54th anniversary of desegregation in Memphis schools.

Friday, four signs went up at the schools to commemorate the students who paved the way.

In 1961, the “Memphis 13” desegregated four schools. That came after the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 decision that outlawed schools segregated by race.

“Most other cities did it with high-school-aged kids. We did it with first graders,” said Shelby County historian Jimmy Ogle.

The students were split up and sent to one of our four schools: Bruce, Rozelle, Springdale, or Gordon Elementary Schools.

Dr. LaSimba Gray with New Sardis Baptist Church started the effort to acquire markers at the schools 14 months ago. He wanted to put up signs during the Memphis 13’s lifetime. The “pint-sized pioneers” are now in their 60s.

“For the healing process, for them to see that they’re not forgotten I think tremendously enhanced their healing, and these young people were wounded as a person having gone into combat,” Gray said.

Gordon Elementary is now an alternative school for kindergarten through eighth grade.

The old archway is still standing, which acts as a reminder of the building that is now a part of history.

Now, there is a sign outside to match.

“No city in America tells a story of American history better than Memphis, Tennessee,” Ogle said.

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