Clinton – US Civil Rights Trail

Clinton High School, Integration in Tennessee

Following the pivotal U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, Federal Judge Robert L. Taylor ordered the desegregation of Clinton High School in Anderson County. On August 26, 1956, a group of African-American students – the Clinton 12 – attended their first day of class, marking the first integration of a public high school in the South. What began as a seemingly peaceful transition quickly evolved into a threatening uproar. Large crowds of integration protestors formed outside the school. Intimidation tactics eventually grew into violent riots, leading Tennessee Gov. Frank G. Clement to call for the assistance of the National Guard, marking another first in the Civil Rights Movement.

On May 17, 1957, Clinton High School student Bobby Cain became the first African-American student to graduate from an integrated public high school in the South. A year later, the school was bombed. Fortunately, this occurred after hours and no one was injured. Thanks to local citizens, the school was rebuilt. But Anderson County public schools were not fully integrated until 1965.


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