Easley issues proclamation honoring school integrators

Posted June 25, 2008 3:21 p.m. EDT
Updated June 25, 2008 9:23 p.m. EDT

— Gov. Mike Easley on Wednesday recognized seven of the first men and women who, as children more than 50 years ago, broke racial barriers by crossing the thresholds of all-white public schools.

The governor brought one man and six women to the Executive Mansion to honor their actions, saying their bravery changed society and education forever in North Carolina.

"It's one thing to do heroic deeds when they're popular. It's another thing to show courage in the face of criticism when it's unpopular and you have no public support," Easley said. "That's who the real heroes are in life. That's who these seven individuals are."

Easley issued a proclamation in honor of their actions and presented each with an Old North State Award, which is issued to individuals for contributions that have had a significant and positive impact on the state.

"I came from a family that believed in a quality education and also felt it was wrong, morally wrong, for us to be denied the education we should have," said Dorothy Counts Scoggins, one of the 11 black children to integrate public schools in Charlotte, Greensboro and Winston-Salem on Sept. 4, 1957.

North Carolina did not immediately comply with the historic 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision ordering that public schools be integrated. Easley said state officials took three years to determine how to carry out the court's order.

"It was a very fearful experience and very threatening, because you didn't know what was going to happen, recalled Josephine Boyd Bradley.

It would be another 12 years before schools were fully integrated. Scoggins admits people were not ready in 1957, but said that what she did had to happen.

"And for my nephew, as a result of that, he's able to have an education in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system," she said.