James Bryant headshot

James Bryant

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

It was in 1970 — I think I was a junior that particular year — we organized a group of students, and we decided we were going to protest.  We went with a list of grievances to the administration asking them, we wanted more teachers of color, we wanted a Black History course, and we wanted to be placed in classes that we could be challenged.  So we had a list of demands, and we presented the list to the administration.  So as a result of that, we ended up with Ms. Whitsitt, one Black guidance counselor, Mr. Freddie Murray, the assistant principal, and maybe three or four Black teachers who had just recently graduated or moved to this area.  I think one teacher’s husband was in law school at UVA, and she taught English.  And Mr. Stanley Ryan and the late Dr. Anthony Sherman, they were recent graduates from that first wave of Blacks who integrated UVA, so they were offered jobs.  But we still weren’t really satisfied, and we petitioned in eleventh grade to get a separate course, a Black History course.  And we said we didn’t mean any harm or disrespect.  We’ve heard about George Washington and Thomas Jefferson forever and a day.  We wanted our own separate course to learn about the contributions of African Americans.  So Mr. Huegel decided that he would approve this course, but it wasn’t until my senior year that I was able to take the course.  And in actuality, I didn’t really need all those credits to graduate because I had more than plenty to graduate.  But because I was in that group that petitioned, I stayed until the end of the school day because it was offered one period in the day, sixth period my senior year, this African American History course that still exists today in the curriculum at Charlottesville High School.  And now the students are receiving honors credit.  But it was my group, my classmates, the class of ’72, who petitioned in ’71 the administration to incorporate that course as part of the curriculum.