One would think this photo is from the 1950’s but it’s not. On November 25, 1969, some 2,000 students boycotted their classes and marched down University Avenue to a rally outside the offices of the Alachua County School Board to have the all black school known as Lincoln High integrated. You see, even though Brown vs. Board of Education went down in 1954, this Florida county still had not fully integrated their school. Instead, they practiced an informal policy of “tokenism” — whereby a few black students attended predominantly white schools.

In January 1970, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered Alachua County to fully integrate the schools immediately. The schools closed on Jan. 29, 1970, and when they reopened a week later, on Feb. 7, they were integrated. The black high school, Lincoln High School, was closed, and about 1,000 black students were transferred to the 2,200-student Gainesville High School.

At the time, one black boy told the Washington Post of his experience going to a newly integrated school:

“On that first day, Dad drove me to school followed by a Gainesville police car. I received stares, and was called all kinds of nigger. No one spoke to me. No one sat near me. I could expect each day to have some white male or female spit on me and call me nigger. After about a month at the school, a group of white boys jumped me and beat me bloody. No one offered any assistance. The principal said, ‘How do I know that you did not come to school bloody from your home?’ I did not see anyone mistreat you.”

Event’s like this are the reason why I am so passionate about politics, why I follow, and why I must pay attention to my government by any means. An older lady sent me an email about my political views saying: “I’m old enough to remember when all was separated blacks and whites, from schools, stores, doctors, movies, where you could live, to the jobs you could hold. Even though we are now able to attend the same schools, stores and even eat in the same restaurants, I don’t understand why so much time is spent in living in the past. The past can not be changed it is over and done with.”

I must say that I agree with her, the past can not be changed. But we can’t forget about stuff like this. Should we not talk about the journey that African Americans are still on? There are still 8 million black people who are not registered to vote, and many others who simply won’t vote and even more who are going to vote for someone simply because they’re a Democrat or for some other reason. I firmly believe we need to be more aware of the struggle our people have been through and not just “I Have a Dream,” Fredrick Douglas, and the one paragraph on Marcus Garvey. But the people who’s names we don’t know. The images from the Civil Rights era that tell a story without names. Then, perhaps a lot of our people would not be in the position they are at now.

This is why we have to vote, for the boy who spent 15 years after Brown vs. Board in a segregated school, for that guy who was sprayed with a fire hose whose name you do not know, but whom you’ve seen fly across the street and slammed on the hard pavement by the water. They are the reason why it is so important that we make our voice count, so their pain won’t be in vain.

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