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Memphis in Shelby County, Tennessee — The American South (East South Central)
 

The Memphis 13/Gordon Elementary School

 
 
The Memphis 13/Gordon Elementary School Marker image. Click for full size.
By Steve Masler, October 8, 2015
1. The Memphis 13/Gordon Elementary School Marker
Inscription. Front
The first African-American students to enroll in Gordon Elementary School were Sharon Malone, Sheila Malone, Pamela Mayes, and Alvin Freeman. They were chosen in part because they lived closer to traditionally white schools than to African-American schools where they otherwise would have been assigned. "Gordon was two blocks from our house," said Sharon Malone. "All we had to do was cross one street to get to Gordon. We had to go 13 blocks to get to Klondike." Her twin sister, Sheila Malone Conway, remembered how soon the ending of segregation in the city schools was forgotten. "It's sad that this happened in Memphis and the people don't know." As for follow-up from those who had selected them, Conway recalled only a Christmas party. "You did something to change this city, and they should have followed up to see how we're doing. It's just the fact that we were forgotten." Also to be remembered are the dedicated parents of these students: Mary Elizabeth Malone, Henryene Mayes, and Ozell Freeman.

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In implementing the U.S. Supreme Court's 1954 decision outlawing school segregation by race, the Memphis Board of Education ultimately agreed in 1961 to a plan to integrate the schools. The Memphis Branch of the NAACP recruited 200 applicants, and 13 African-American first graders were selected
The Memphis 13/Gordon Elementary School Marker image. Click for full size.
By Steve Masler, October 8, 2015
2. The Memphis 13/Gordon Elementary School Marker
to integrate four elementary schools. This phased-in approach, adding a grade per year, was regarded as the safest way to desegregate the schools. Without violence on October 3, 1961, the students enrolled in Bruce, Gordon, Rozelle, and Springdale Elementary schools. After opening day they were on their own. During the course of the year and those that followed, their social isolation and educational progress were left unmonitored. Despite their difficulties, these 13 "pint-sized pioneers" struck a fatal blow to school segregation and claimed their place in Memphis history.
 
Erected 2015 by Bethlehem Baptist Church, The Shelby County Commission and The Friends of the Memphis 13.
 
Location. 35° 9.66′ N, 90° 1.487′ W. Marker is in Memphis, Tennessee, in Shelby County. Marker is on Decatur Street 0 miles south of Looney Ave., on the left when traveling north. Click for map. Marker is in this post office area: Memphis TN 38107, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 2 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Isaac Hayes (approx. 0.8 miles away); Manassas High School / The Cora P. Taylor Auditorium (approx. 0.8 miles away); Winchester Cemetery (approx. 0.9 miles away); North Memphis Driving Park
The Memphis 13/Gordon Elementary School Marker image. Click for full size.
By Steve Masler, October 8, 2015
3. The Memphis 13/Gordon Elementary School Marker
(approx. 1.1 miles away); St. Mary's Cathedral Chapel and Diocesan House (approx. 1.2 miles away); Collins Chapel Christian Methodist Episcopal Church (approx. 1.3 miles away); Fort Adams/Fort Pike (approx. 1.4 miles away); Mallory-Neely House (approx. 1.4 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Memphis.
 
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker. Set of four Memphis 13 desegration markers
 
Also see . . .
1. The Memphis 13 (2011). Documentary film (Submitted on October 9, 2015, by Steve Masler of Memphis, Tennessee.) 

2. The Memphis 13. (Submitted on October 9, 2015, by Steve Masler of Memphis, Tennessee.)
 
Categories. African AmericansCivil RightsEducation
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Steve Masler of Memphis, Tennessee. This page has been viewed 125 times since then. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on , by Steve Masler of Memphis, Tennessee. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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