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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Memphis in Shelby County, Tennessee — The American South (East South Central)
 

The Memphis 13/Bruce Elementary

 
 
The Memphis 13/Bruce Elementary Marker image. Click for full size.
By Steve Masler, October 8, 2015
1. The Memphis 13/Bruce Elementary Marker
Inscription. Front
The first African-American students to enroll in Bruce Elementary were Dwania Kyles, Menelik Fombi (formerly Michael Willis), and Harry Williams. All lived closer to Bruce than to the African-American school where they would other wise have been assigned. Dwania Kyles remembered the social isolation at school and how she relied on friends in her neighborhod church for support. "It was just the constant barrage of negativity," Menelik Fombi recalled. "One on one you may be OK with a boy. You get two or three of his friends and your a n____. The whole group dynamic would change." Harry Williams remembered his motivation to break the segregation barrier. "I didn't want to be no wimp," he said. "I had my little pride back then." He also recalls a diligent principal. "She made sure we were safe." Also to be remembered are the dedicated parents of these students: Samuel B. Kyles, A.W. Willis, and Romanita Morris.

Back
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 to integrate four elementary schools. This phased-in approach, adding a grade per year,
The Memphis 13/Bruce Elementary Marker image. Click for full size.
By Steve Masler, October 8, 2015
2. The Memphis 13/Bruce Elementary Marker
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.
 
Location. 35° 7.886′ N, 90° 1.331′ W. Marker is in Memphis, Tennessee, in Shelby County. Marker is on Carr Ave., on the right when traveling south. Click for map. Marker is in this post office area: Memphis TN 38104, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Annesdale Park Subdivision (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); St. John's United Methodist Church (about 600 feet away); First Congregational Church (approx. half a mile away but has been reported missing); Kuni Wada Bakery Remembrance (approx. 0.6 miles away); Confederate Soldiers Rest (approx. 0.6 miles away); Jane Terrell Hospital
The Memphis 13/Bruce Elementary Marker image. Click for full size.
By Steve Masler, October 8, 2015
3. The Memphis 13/Bruce Elementary Marker
(approx. 0.6 miles away); Captain Kit Dalton (approx. 0.6 miles away); Elmwood Cemetery (approx. 0.7 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. To better understand the relationship, study each marker in the order shown.
 
Also see . . .
1. The Memphis 13 (2011). Documentary Film. (Submitted on October 10, 2015, by Steve Masler of Memphis, Tennessee.)
2. The Memphis 13. (Submitted on October 10, 2015, by Steve Masler of Memphis, Tennessee.)
 
Categories. African AmericansCivil RightsEducation
 
Flat Marker, Bruce Elementary image. Click for full size.
By Steve Masler, October 8, 2015
4. Flat Marker, Bruce Elementary
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Steve Masler of Memphis, Tennessee. This page has been viewed 146 times since then and 2 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. 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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