James Bryant headshot

James Bryant

Jefferson Elementary School, McGuffey Elementary School, Walker Elementary School, Lane High School

The teachers from Burley — because Burley closed down in 1967 — for those teachers who had secondary endorsement, they were sort of dispersed between Walker and Buford.  And many of them had been teaching for like over 30 years at Burley, so they were pretty much on their way out or thinking about retirement in a few years.  So we still had a little of that community at Walker.  But they would often tell us, “You know you all are being tracked.  You know you all are being placed in the lower classes.”  And I had a sweet guidance counselor, Ms. Williams, she was really sweet, but I don’t think she really pushed me to be the best that I could be academically.  My classes, my courses weren’t really challenging.  And of course unbeknownst to me at the time, I was making the adjustment, you know, a teenager, seventh grade — because some kids were driving to school in the ninth grade — so it was the adjustment of another school and not having the diversity of teachers. There were very few Black teachers, and the ones that we had, they sort of guided us through their process, “It’s going to be okay,” because we weren’t okay.  I can recall many of my White classmates being in the upper classes, the algebra classes and the higher-level classes.  And we were pretty much in the classes with those students who attended McGuffey elementary school, which were your poor whites who lived on the poor side of town.  So we suddenly realized that we were being tracked.