Students who made history in 1960′s Macon County, Ala., to speak May 23 in Tuskegee

AUBURN UNIVERSITY -Anthony Lee and Willie Wyatt Jr., two of three seniors who attempted to integrate Macon County High School in Notasulga, Ala., in 1964 will discuss their experiences related to the integration on Wednesday, May 23, at the Tuskegee Human and Civil Rights Multicultural Center at 2 p.m. and will join Notasulga High School’s graduation later that day to be part of a ceremony they never received as students.

Both of these events are made possible by two students in the College of Liberal Arts at Auburn University.

In September 2011, Auburn students Marian Royston and Blake Evans traveled with Mark Wilson, director of Civic Learning Initiatives in Auburn University’s College of Liberal Arts, to the Newnan Public Library in Georgia to interview Willie B. Wyatt regarding his role as one of 13 students who filed the historic lawsuit, Lee v. Macon County Board of Education, which desegregated Tuskegee High School in 1963.

Amid the nationally reported events in Notasulga, including the burning of the school, Wyatt and two other seniors graduated not only without fanfare but without even a ceremony. “The principal walked into our last class on our last day and handed us diplomas,” Wyatt remembered. “That was my graduation from high school.”

The oral history interview was one of several taken as part of the College of Liberal Arts Community and Civic Engagement Initiative’s participation in the Appalachian Teaching Project, a program of the Appalachian Regional Commission.

“It’s exciting to see that our work on this project opened the door for these gentlemen to receive the honor they deserve,” said Marian Royston, a history major and minor in community and civic engagement. “Both Wyatt and Lee came to Auburn University in 1964, and Lee became the first African American student to begin as a freshman and graduate from Auburn University. So this project has a deep Auburn connection as well.”

Wyatt recalled being a high school senior and being selected to integrate the all-white Tuskegee High School. Gov. George Wallace closed the school and surrounded it with armed guards in defiance of the federal court order. Later in the year, after white students departed for other schools or the newly created Macon Academy, the black students were split between Shorter High School and Macon County High School in Notasulga, where Wyatt and others were met with violence and resistance.

Following last year’s interviews with the students, plans began to honor Wyatt and Lee, as well as the memory of the late Robert Judkin, by inviting them to walk with the 2012 Notasulga High School graduating class on May 23. Wyatt and Lee, along with attorney Fred Gray who represented the students in the lawsuit, will discuss the events at 2 p.m. on May 23 at the Tuskegee Human & Civil Rights Multicultural Center.

For more information on the project or May 23 events, contact Mark Wilson at mwilson@auburn.edu or (334) 844-6198.

(Submitted by Vicky Santos.)

Contact: Mark Wilson, College of Liberal Arts, (334) 844-6198 (mwilson@auburn.edu),
Deborah Gray, Tuskegee Human and Civil Rights Multicultural Center, (334) 724-0800 (dgray@tuskegeecenter.org), or
Mike Clardy, Office of Communications and Marketing, (334) 844-9999 (clardch@auburn.edu)