Two Friends Helped Integrate Macon Schools | News
This week, we're looking ahead to the 50th anniversary of Dr. King's March on Washington with recollections of integration efforts in Central Georgia.
In 1964, two best friends were juniors vying for valedictorian at Peter G. Appling. It was one of the newest all-black high schools in Macon.
"I was valedictorian," says Charles Roberts of Lizella.
Roberts clinched the title because he stayed at Appling to finish his senior year. While Milton Madison transferred to Lanier High to be one of six African-Americans at the integrated school.
"That was perhaps the hardest decision that I've made," says Madison.
Fighting for equality wasn't easy. He started senior year being escorted to class by ministers and guarded by police.
"They did not allow us to go into the classroom until everyone else was in," he says.
That was only the beginning of what Madison calls his integration years, a time spent breaking barriers. He was later reunited with Roberts at Mercer University to be the third integrated class.
"When I'm sitting in class, I'm thinking I'm representing all black people so I can't fail," says Roberts.
African-American students were outnumbered in the classroom and had to maneuver around what could be considered a new world.
"Just the structure of life was different, the food was different, music. The kinds of things people did and thought were important were just different," says Chester Fontenot the Director of Africana Studies at Mercer University.
Those experiences propelled both Miller and Roberts to push forward a dream.
"I'm going to be a part of solidifying integration at Mercer," says Roberts.
They were two of six students at the time to start the change.