Newsreel footage covering the the violent response to the attempted racial desegregation at Clay Consolidated School in rural Western Kentucky in 1956.
On September 7, 1956, a crowd of 100 people blocked the street leading to Clay Consolidated School and turned back a car driven by Louise Gordon, who was trying to enroll her two children in the all-white school. On September 10, a crowd that included Mayor Herman Clark surrounded and rocked Gordon’s car as she approached the school. Kentucky Governor A.B. "Happy" Chandler called out the National Guard to Clay, and on September 12, Guardsmen opened the school to the Gordon children. Ten of seventeen teachers failed to report to work and two resigned. On September 13, Kentucky Attorney General Jo M. Ferguson ruled that the Gordon children should be denied admittance to the school because the Webster County Board of Education did not have an integration plan. The school did not reopen to Black students until the following September.
Read more about the desegregation of schools in Clay and Sturgis here
Begins silently with a shot of a sign reading "CLAY - POP. 1400," followed by footage of National Guardsmen milling around the entrance of a school. They hold the door open for two young Black students, Teresa (age 8) and James Gordon (age 10)
. A group of white women approach the doors but are stopped by the Guardsmen.
A teacher at the school, Mr. Wagner, is asked if he will report for work. He says yes, and explains that he has 30 years of teaching experience and has been told that he could lose both his retirement and his teaching certificate if he does not continue to teach. When asked about his own children, he says they will not be attending school under the "present conditions."
Next, Adjutant General of Kentucky J.J.B. Williams addresses the press about "the situation in both Clay and Sturgis." He says that "a great many more white students came back to school this morning" in nearby Sturgis.
Ends with more silent footage of Guardsmen.