65 years later: Festus High School remembers historic integration

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FESTUS, MO – Folks in Festus Tuesday night were celebrating a big change in their community that happened 65 years ago. No longer would there be all-white and all-black schools. What happened in Festus decades ago could serve as a lesson for our country today.

Tuesday night basketball players from Festus and in Crystal City wore throwback uniforms from another time another school. Damarion Anderson plays for Festus, “We should respect them for the things they did for our community.”

He was talking about Douglass High School, an all-black school that opened in 1900. Finally, with the passage of time, the superintendent in 1955 decided to end segregation.

“I remember it being real smooth. It was very smooth,” said Cassandra Blanks.

While violence against African-Americans occurred in many communities where people struggled to achieve civil rights and school integration, residents said it was different in Festus. Blanks remembered attending the all-black grade school and later going to class with both white and black kids.

“Because the people in the community, how they worked together to make it smooth,” said Blanks.

Dewhitt Bingham wrote a book about Douglass High School, his grandfather was a Douglas student.  Bingham agreed the transition from segregation to integration was trouble-free.

“I believe it was because of the state of the heart that the people had here locally…they were more open more accepting to it.,” said Bingham.

Money raised from tonight’s game will fund a scholarship for minority students, it was a salute to the alumni from Douglass High and the community of Festus.

“Douglass played a big role in our community so I feel like we should give back to what they did,” said Collin Reando, a basketball player.

Though progress has been made, Dewhitt Bingham, said there was still work to be done, for example, fairness in the workplace concerning pay and promotions for minorities.

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