Eugenia Calloway flipped through the pages of the 1968 Cross Keys High School yearbook, glancing over the photographs of many white faces. But in the back of the yearbook she found first the boys’ basketball team and then the girls’ basketball team.
“There I am,” she said, pointing to the smiling girl on the far right of the team photo. One other black girl was on the far left; all the players and the coaches in between were white.
“That’s when I had the most fun, when I was playing basketball,” she said.
Calloway was one of 17 students who integrated Cross Keys High School nearly 50 years ago, part of that first group of black students to attend an all-white school in DeKalb County and now known as the “Lynwood Integrators.”
“It was interesting,” Calloway said of attending Cross Keys High School as one of only a handful of black students. “Difficult and interesting.”
On Jan. 18, at Lynwood Park Community Center, the city of Brookhaven honored Calloway and the other Lynwood Integrators during a dinner and ceremony to also commemorate its first Martin Luther King Jr. Day event.
Lynwood Park Community Center was once the elementary and high school in Brookhaven’s historic African-American community. Some students also integrated Chamblee High School.
Councilmember Linley Jones organized the event along with many Lynwood Park residents. She explained that it wasn’t until 1968 — 14 years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that public schools were to be desegregated — that DeKalb schools became integrated.
Much of the evening was given to the integrators to talk about their experiences of having to leave the “safe haven” of their community’s Lynwood school to ride buses to the formerly all-white schools.
“It was a very difficult transition,” said Janice Anderson. “Teachers were frightened of us. We were treated practically as foreigners. We were smart at our school and all of a sudden we were dumb. But we rose to the occasion and we had to support each other.”
Margaret Sawyer said she remembered being spit on when attending Cross Keys High School. “One of my teachers said she was not going to teach these niggers. I remember telling my parents, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’ And it was there I found out I really was a colored girl,” she recalled.
Gary McDaniel remembered the first day he and the 16 other students pulled up to Cross Keys High School on the bus.
“There were 500 people waiting, looking at you dead in the eye. When we got to school that first day … I didn’t get scared. I had butterflies, but I couldn’t get scared because I had to protect,” he said.
The evening ended with Mayor John Ernst reading a proclamation to pay a tribute to the students for their “courage and contribution” to the city’s Civil Rights movement and the crowd singing the Lynwood Park High School’s alma mater. WSB TV newsman Mark Winne served as moderator and host.
The proclamation from the city of Brookhaven reads:
Historical Lynwood Park was once home to segregated, all-black public schools known as Lynwood Park Elementary School and Lynwood Park High School; and
In 1954, the United States Supreme Court found racial segregation of public schools to be illegal and unconstitutional in the case of Brown v. Board of Education Topeka; and
In 1955 the United States Supreme Court in the case of Brown v. Board of Education Topeka ordered all segregated public schools like Lynwood Park Elementary School and Lynwood Park High School to be desegregated, and
In many instances the all-black public schools were not integrated but, instead, the students were removed from their schools and placed in all-white public schools; and
In 1968, a small group of black students from the Lynwood Park schools bravely integrated the DeKalb County school system, leaving Lynwood Park schools and entering previously all-white DeKalb County schools; and
These individuals, known as the “Lynwood Integrators,” were participants in one of the most important civil rights advancements in our nation’s history, the integration of American public schools; and
The Lynwood Integrators withstood hardship, discrimination and all challenges attendant to their historic action; and
The Lynwood Schools were subsequently shut down and converted to the Lynwood Community Center, serving the residents of Lynwood and Brookhaven to this day; and
The city of Brookhaven wishes to honor the courage and contribution of the Lynwood Integrators.