Within the low-slung brick building, the football jerseys enshrined in plastic cases were melting.
The burnished trophies were oozing into a molten pool.
The air conditioners, paid for with bake sales and door-to-door fund drives, were long gone.
And then, just as the pink of dawn licked the night sky, the last of the white wooden columns supporting the porch roof collapsed into a fiery mass.
First, O'Neal's daughter - the first black president of the student council - overheard Humphries say that he would like to "send all the black students back to the black schools." Then, O'Neal's son was barred from the RCHS junior basketball team in 1981 because he would not shave.
O'Neal and a friend repeatedly objected to the school board and ultimately filed a lawsuit against school officials in federal court.
"It seems as though we as black people can no longer rely on the courts," says Charlotte Clark-Frieson, the head of the local chapter of the NAACP. We are marooned." Meanwhile, up on the RCHS campus at the edge of town, students live with the lingering effects of last year's implosion. And are falling apart More annoying, many see the trailers as a constant reminder of how they were made to suffer for ancient arguments in which they had no part.
(Even though to the eye, I'm black.) I can tend to be shy at first, but will come out once I get to know you.
“This thing had been going on for years, and there were some of the older black community who accepted, who said, ‘This is, the way it is,’ says Shieketa Herring, a junior. We began to realize we didn't have to be treated like this.” WEDOWEE, NAMED AFTER THE CHIEF of a Creek Indian village, is about a two-hour drive west of Atlanta and near dead center of northeastern Alabama's Randolph County.
It is lush and undulating land spliced by the bass-rich waters of the Little Tallapoosa River.
David Daniel, a member of the Randolph County Board of Education and an electrician, watched the inferno from a distance as the wails of the gathered alumni on the hillside swelled around him. Wrenching his tie from his neck, Daniel elbowed through the crowd and seized a crate from the last man in the human chain that was working furiously to salvage school records from the maw of the inferno. When the last filing cabinet had been heaved onto the back of the truck that would transport the records to the courthouse for storage, Daniel pulled himself onto the flatbed, and the old Ford lumbered toward town.
As the sweating men screamed directives at one another, Daniel grabbed another box of files. As he braced himself against the hot rush of air, it occurred to Daniel that he was a perfect target for a sniper's bullet. It was a story of hostility between blacks and whites that had erupted in the 1960s only to be muffled by the placid social fabric that wraps the rural South.