Integration of Matoaka High School

Bluefield Daily Telegraph
October 2, 1957

Police On Guard At Matoaka High

Mercer County School Supt. W. R. (Pete) Cooke said last night that police would again be stationed at the Matoaka High School this morning to prevent any integration troubles. He added that he hoped they would not be needed.

Cooke said, "the situation appeared to be calmer at the present time and indications are that the demonstrations may have ended." Six Negro students were sent home from Matoaka High School yesterday during a demonstration by jeering white students against racially mixed classes.

Unobserved by the demonstrators across the street, the six Negroes - two boys and four girls - were escorted out of the school by an assistant principal, put in a taxi and sent home.

About an hour earlier, the crowd of white students had roughed up the two Negro boys as they got off a school bus to enter the school for morning classes. The girls were not bothered.

Second Day

It was the second straight day of anti-integration demonstration at the high school. An estimated 200 white students out of an enrollment of 670 took part in the demonstration yesterday.

Ten Negro youngsters are enrolled at Matoaka High, but only six reported for classes yesterday. Cooke said he did not order the Negro pupils sent home. Cooke added that Principal Ralph Bird "did that on his own."

As to what will be done to restore order at the school, Cooke said he could not "say anything about that" until he has discussed it with Bird.

Some white students also cut class and marched in protest against integration for the second day in a row at the Hemphill-Capels Junior High in neighboring McDowell County.

About 40 of the school's 113 students, carrying signs protesting against integration, staged a two-mile march to nearby Welch. They headed for Welch High School, which had a brief anti-integration demonstration of its own last week, but were turned back by police before they reached the school.

Police escorted the marchers back to Capels without incident.

Four Negroes

The Hemphill-Capels school has four Negroes enrolled, all of whom were in class. The number of white students taking part in yesterday's incident was about 10 less than participated in an earlier demonstration.

Parents of some who took part escorted their children into class yesterday. But none of the approximately 40 in the march to Welch this morning had returned to class later in the day. At Matoaka, the crowd of white students gathered across from the school at about the time for classes to begin at 8:30 a.m. There were shouts of "We don't want niggers."

Someone threw an egg at Bob Horan, newsman from WSAZ-TV in Huntington, and his camera crew, but it missed and spattered on a car. Cameraman Bill Kelly said there were threats to rush the television crew, but nothing came of them.

State troopers, quickly intervened when the two Negro boys were mauled as they alighted from a school bus. The pair then went inside the school.

By mid-morning the crowd had dispersed. About noon, Cooke quoted Principal Bird as having reported that most of the protesting white students had returned to class.

Those still out had moved "up the street away from the school," Cooke said.

"There has been no decision as to when the colored students will be returned to the school," Cooke added.


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