The Wake County Public School System honored the students who played a pivotal roll in desegregating schools in Wake County more than 50 years ago in a Salute to the Trailblazers ceremony on March 13.
“The goal is to recognize those individuals who we call our Trailblazers, the first African-Americans to walk through the halls of the all-white schools in Wake County,” said Keith Sutton of the Wake County Board of Education.
Sutton honored Joe Holt and William Campbell as the first Trailblazers presenting them a certificate and medal. In the 1950s, Holt’s family sought to enroll him in Broughton High. When the Board of Education rejected the request, the family filed a lawsuit. The legal action paved the way for the Campbell family to enroll William Campbell as the first student to integrate an all-white school when he entered second grade at Murphey Elementary in 1960.
In his keynote address for the evening, William Campbell thought back to those days and his parent’s heroic actions. “This sacrifice was really not mine,” Campbell said. “The sacrifice and courage was from June and Ralph Campbell. I would ask all of you today to imagine if you have a seven-year-old child and you were willing to sacrifice that child for the greater good of our community. That is courage beyond compare.”
The certificates presented to Holt and Campbell recognized their example and sacrifice in providing the foundation for integrating the public schools and establishing a path of new opportunities for all students in the Wake County Public School System.
The school system reviewed Board of Education minutes from the 1960s where the board voted on each request of an African-American family to enroll their children in an all-white school. These are the students recognized as Trailblazers.
Sutton honored the Broughton Three and the Daniels Five as Trailblazers. The Broughton Three included Cynthia Williams, Merl Capehart and Dorothy Howard. They were the first to integrate a high school. The Daniels Five included Gloria Hunter, Parnel Jones, Larry Manuel, Rebecca Bryant and Anna Morgan. They were the first to integrate a middle school.
In this year’s event, Trailblazers from 1960-65 were honored. Sutton said the recognition ceremony would continue next year to honor more Trailblazers.
Listen to William Campbell’s comments at the Salute to the Trailblazers.