The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Dr. Mary Tanner, James Mapp, Reverend Paul A. McDaniel

Booker Scruggs and Lyda McKeldin

Panel members Pete Cooper and Joyce Hardaway

Personal experiences inspire Brown v. BOE panel discussion

The year Joyce Hardaway earned the highest grade point average of her graduating class, her school in Harriman, Tennessee, decided not to have a valedictorian. Instead, top students were recognized. A reporter for the local newspaper was not aware of the decision, and a headline touted Hardaway as the valedictorian, vindicating her success.

The year was 1968, and four years earlier the Civil Rights Act had gone into effect, moving Hardaway into an integrated school three blocks from her home.

“I remember watching my older brother get on the school bus. He was allowed to finish high school where he had started, ten miles away in Rockwood, at the all-black school. He rode to school with his friends, and I had to attend Cumberland Junior High.”

Hardaway, Director of Recruitment for the Hamilton County Department of Education, participated in a UTC panel discussion addressing the consequences and changes brought about by the Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, which brought about the desegregation of public schools in the United States.

“When I arrived at Cumberland, I was immediately placed in the lower level classes, with the assumption that my education was inferior, despite the fact that I had a propensity for mathematics. I often corrected the teacher’s answers,” Hardaway smiled as she recalled the events. “After three weeks, I was moved to an algebra class, where the teacher was preparing students for a test. I had never had algebra, and what I picked up in the review got me a C on my first paper. That did not happen again, I learned quickly.”

Other panel members recalled their personal experiences in the era of Brown v. B.O.E. Booker Scruggs director of Upward Bound, recalls not being allowed to attend City High School, which he passed on his way to Howard High School.

“I couldn’t go, in essence because I was not the right color. After awhile, it begins to work on your mind. Am I inferior? What’s the reason?” Scruggs said.

Scruggs was a member of the 1960 senior class of Howard High School when he joined a group of his peers for a sit-in at Woolworth’s. Without direct teacher intervention, students got off the bus downtown and sat at the lunch counter over several days. The movement was considered successful when the “Whites Only” sign at the counter came down.

James Mapp, former Chattanooga Chapter NAACP President, discussed the phrase “with deliberate speed,” a part of the decision in Brown v. BOE. “There was no time definition for the effectiveness of this law,” Mapp said. “Many of the legal loopholes could have been avoided if the law had clearly stated it was to take effect ‘now.’”

Events commemorating Brown vs. B.O.E. were sponsored by UTC, The Chattanooga Chapter of The Links, Inc., and The NAACP.