Coffee County Memory Project
The Integration Years (1966-1972)
Coffee County Memory Project
The Integration Years (1966-1972)

"The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” William Faulkner 

The effects of past actions live on, but memories of the past die with the people who possess them unless they are recorded. The purpose of this project is to record and preserve community memory of a complex and pivotal period of time, the integration years. 

The State of Georgia completed Carver School, built as an "equalization school”for African American students, in 1954. That same year the United States Supreme Court declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students to be unconstitutional, thus mandating integration.

The 1954 decision had little impact across the South until the late 1960s, by which time it was clear that school systems that failed to integrate would lose federal funding. After three years of a program known as "freedom of choice”during which students could choose which school to attend, the Coffee County School System complied with federal law and totally integrated in 1969. 

In order to achieve integration the Coffee County School Board reconfigured the use of all schools facilities. In doing so, it fundamentally altered the lives of every student in the county.  

Lester Maddox, Georgia’s Governor, sought to block integration by holding a rally on the lawn of the Coffee County Courthouse. He encouraged a boycott of the newly configured school system. Some community members organized a Citizens League, to fight against school integration and boycott the public schools. The Citizens League founded Citizens Christian Academy, a private school for the children of people who opposed integration. 

Effective integration of the Coffee County School System was ultimately achieved.

It has been said that what we get to keep from our experiences is a story. If you were involved in these events – whether as a student, a parent of a student, a school employee or simply as an onlooker, we’d very much like your personal story. 

More information to follow.

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