Memphis in Shelby County, Tennessee — The American South (East South Central)
The Memphis 13/Rozelle Elementary School
The first African-American students to enroll in Rozelle Elementary School were E. C. Freeman, Joyce Bell, Clarence Williams, and Leandrew Wiggens. Mattie Freeman, mother of E. C. Freeman, said, "It would be foolish to send my little 6-year-old 3 miles away [to school] when there was one a block away." Joyce Bell White noted that when her classmate E.C. Freeman Fentress died in 2010: "In her obituary, it [her role as one of the Memphis 13] wasn't even mentioned." Leandrew Wiggens remembered the pressure. "It got overwhelming to me. So I begged my Mom. Eventually my parents took me out. If I was scared, they were scared." Clarence Williams recalled his father's viewpoint. "He thought I would get a better education at Rozelle, get more out of life." Also to be remembered are the dedicated parents of these students: Mattie Freeman, Bettie Marie Bell, Edward Williams, and Woodrow Williamson.
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, was regarded as the safest
Erected 2015 by New Sardis Baptist Church, Dr. Erma Clanton, the Friends of the Memphis 13 and the Shelby County Historical Commission.
Location. 35° 7.104′ N, 90° 0.538′ W. Marker is in Memphis, Tennessee, in Shelby County. Marker is at the intersection of Roland Street and Walker Avenue, on the right when traveling south on Roland Street. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 993 Roland St., Memphis TN 38114, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within one mile of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Tennessee Williams Play (approx. 0.6 miles away); Zion Cemetery (approx. 0.7 miles away); Chew C. Sawyer (approx. 0.7 miles away); Central Gardens Historic District (approx. one mile John B. Weatherall (approx. one mile away); Grace-St. Luke's Episcopal Church (approx. one mile away); Johnny Cash's First Performance / Johnny Cash and Tennessee Two (approx. one mile away); Confederate Soldiers Rest (approx. 1.1 miles away). Touch for a list and map 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 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 Americans • Civil Rights • Education •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on October 10, 2015, by Steve Masler of Memphis, Tennessee. This page has been viewed 290 times since then and 117 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on October 10, 2015, by Steve Masler of Memphis, Tennessee. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.