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Remembering history's lessons
James Kingsberry

FRANKLINTON -- James Kingsberry said too often, people remember the horrors perpetrated upon those in the Civil Rights movement and only think about the atrocities in Birmingham, Ala., Memphis, Tenn., and other cities in the deep South.

Those stains upon the history books, he reminded people, took place right here at home, Kingsberry said during this past Saturday's Martin Luther King Jr. celebration.

He should know those moments in history, he told those gathered inside First Baptist Church -- he lived through them.

He was part of the first group of black students that began integration at Franklinton High School.

This August will mark the 50th anniversary for 13 black students and two black teachers who were part of the effort to integrate what had been an all-white Franklinton High School.

"I lived through three bombings," Kingsberry said, noting the first was right before the start of school and then two more later.

He reminded children in the crowd to remember that when they're dealing with obstacles to their education.

"Thank God you didn't have to go through that," Kingsberry said.

"... I think people today would appreciate their opportunity for an education if they went through what we went through."

Kingsberry said he and others who were part of the integration effort were certainly aware of the real dangers they faced.

Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, he said, confided with them that they knew who was behind the bombings, but there wasn't much the government could do.

"They said they could not get a jury of white men to convict," Kingsberry remembered. "They said if someone got killed, then they could do something..."

Kingsberry said it was tough integrating the school, but he had some allies, particularly in then-Superintendent Fred W. Rogers.

"He said that if I ever had a problem, come to him," Kingsberry recalled. "I only had one incident that he intervened.

"I don't know what he said to those boys, but I never had another (incident)."

Kingsberry was able to share his story during the Moments in History portion of the Dr. King celebration.

He said those days shaped him and he's glad to share them today.

"Would I have gone through it again? Yes," Kingsberry said. "Was I scared? Yes.

"It was not an easy road," he said. "But I look back at it and see where we've come ... I'm glad I went through it."


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