Members of the Clinton 12 and their families. Photo by Vivian Shipe

By Vivian Shipe

KNOXVILLE, TN — “I heard the bomb go off. It shook our house.” Those were the words of Jeannie Garrett. She moved to South Carolina but was back after 50 years to remember and acknowledge the brave young teenagers known as the Clinton 12.

In 1956, these young African American students ages 14 to 18 would be the first to desegregate a public high school in the South. The first African American graduate from public high school in the South would be Bobby Cain from this brave group 

The school would be blown up. The perseverance of those determined to break the color barrier would not.

The children went to school under the protection of state troopers and the National Guard provided by Governor Clement despite efforts by others to stop him from protecting the children. 

On August 26th they gathered again. This time to March to remember and be recognized and received by a town, a state, a nation that once hated them for trying to go to school.

Four of the 12 have passed on. Those who remain say they would do it again.

Emmy winner and author JoAnn Boyce  mentioned how different it felt marching down the hill receiving love and kisses this time in comparison to the hate of 1956

Theresser Caswell reminded everybody there is still a long way to go.

Love is the answer she said.