First United Presbyterian Church

Black History Month at FUPC: The Desegregation of Fayetteville High School

In the past, we have sometimes observed Black History Month by singing spirituals in worship during the month of February. This year, we’re looking at some events in church history, with the help of the church history book, A LIght on the Hill.

Fayetteville High School Integration

Most accounts of 1954’s peaceful integration of Fayetteville High School credit three local Presbyterians with the success: Harry Vandergriff, football coach and world history teacher; Principal Louise Bell; and school board member Bill Morton — all members of First Presbyterian Church.

Louise Bell prepared the student body for opening day by having the members of the “16 Club” act as greeters and escorts for the African American students. Mrs. Bell also worked with the principal of Lincoln School (Fayetteville’s African American school) during the summer to help prepare the students who would be entering Fayetteville High.

Mrs. Bell and Coach Vandergriff met with First Presbyterian’s youth during the summer months, readying them to welcome the new students. Morton happily voted with the school board to integrate just four days after the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Brown vs. Board of Education.

The opening day of school was so peaceful that when Mrs. Bell received a call from the press at the end of the first day of school asking what happened, her reply was, “We had class.”

Excerpted from A Light on the Hill

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