Myrtle Beach High celebrates 50 years since desegregation

Myrtle Beach High celebrates 50 years since desegregation

MYRTLE BEACH,S.C. (WMBF) - When the first four African American students walked through the doors at Myrtle Beach high school exactly 50 years and one week ago, it opened the door for thousands of students who followed in their footsteps. It took courage, change and progress for that to happen and today those four students and their efforts were honored by many of whom are still receiving the benefits of the four hawks that flew.

Today, three pioneers who helped shape Horry County history stood overlooking a crowd that was strikingly different from the one that greeted them on January 22, 1965.

 “I walked into this auditorium today and then after everybody came in, I just so happen to turn around and look like ‘We're all mixed, we're all sitting together,” says Martha Gore, Myrtle Beach High School class of 1967, “I'm just proud that I was one, 50 years ago, to help make a difference.”

Two years after 11 African American students desegregated Charleston County's schools, Martha Gore, Iris Jones-Vereen, Renetta Spivey-Bowens and Prince Bowens, set out to do the same here in Horry County but naturally, there was apprehension.

 “There weren't many kids that wanted to come, I guess you can imagine but my mom was strong and pushed me and I guess other mothers and fathers pushed their daughters too to come,” reflected Prince Bowens, Counselor at Myrtle Beach Middle school. “Not many wanted to, so we said we would do it because it needed to be done.”

Up until then, African American students made the 14 mile trek to Conway's All-black school, Whittemore High. Yet, the four 15-year-olds uprooted from the safety and familiarity of that institution for the unknown.

“The first day's experience was rough. There were thousands of people along the sidewalk, in the schoolyards, everywhere. And as we came up the sidewalk, we were called all kinds of names,” says Gore. “We go into the classroom and sit down and they would move away from you. One whole side of the classroom would be yours. But through it all we kept walking. That started our mission. We were going to accomplish our mission and we weren't going to let anyone turn us around.”

Gore says that after a few months things finally settled down. 50 years later, three of the four reunited at the school's new location thanks to one graduate who literally followed in the first four's footsteps.

 “I can't understand even the history of what it was like 50 years ago in this school that I graduated from, in the city that I was born and raised in,” says Krystal Forsh Dotson, ceremony organizer, “but I do understand that I stand on the shoulders of courageous trailblazers that made it possible for me to walk across that stage as a seahawk.”

Gore says one reason she felt so strongly about integration is because of her mother, Mary Canty, the woman who is credited with helping save the Historic Myrtle Beach Colored School. Mrs. Canty passed away Tuesday, January 20th from complications of a stroke. She was 81.

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