Mansfield ISD Magazine Spring 2016 - Page 6

Mansfield ISD Celebrates 50 Years of Integration G oing to school in Mansfield ISD today is much different than it was back in 1966. Brenda Norwood should know. She was part of the first integrated graduating class of Mansfield High School and later became the first African-American employee at MISD. “As a youngster growing up, going into town, you had to go through the back door,” said Norwood. “And if you went to the theater, there was a door for whites and a door for blacks.” Norwood remembers the days of segregation in MISD very vividly. The black students in kindergarten through eighth grade went to a separate school named The Colored School. Once in high school, the students were bussed to Fort Worth to attend I.M. Terrell High School, an all-black school. She said effigies were hung to frighten African- Americans from wanting to integrate. The law to desegregate schools was passed in 1954. However, Mansfield schools remained divided. That is, until the district was forced to integrate for the 1965-66 school year. The 1966 graduates were honored at the February regular board meeting. mother, Norwood persevered, and every day got a little easier. By graduation time, some of the black and white students had even developed friendships. “It was probably better than expected given the history of the community,” said Raymond Meeks, a fellow 1966 Mansfield High School graduate. “We’re very proud that we were able to accomplish that.” Norwood said her experiences have made her a stronger person. “We were frightened,” Norwood recalled about arriving to Mansfield High on the first day of school. “We didn’t know what was going to happen.” “Mansfield had to go through some struggles— just like Little Rock and all the other towns that went through the integration. You learn from these things.” She said it was a tough experience in the beginning. Teachers openly expressed their opposition to integration, racial tensions were high, and she wanted to quit. Thanks to encouragement from her The foundation set by the 1966 graduating class help set the current foundation of unity within the district. The history of divide has transformed into a culture of acknowledging the strength in diversity. 4 Mansfield School & Family