From the Taylor Middle School web page, “W.C. Taylor High School opened in September 1952 when schools were segregated by race. Taylor was the Negro high school for Fauquier County touted in The Fauquier Democrat as “a model of its kind. Without unnecessary frills, it still contains every modern feature that the latest in school design can incorporate. And according to School Superintendent Carson M. Bradley, it is built to last.” Construction cost for Taylor was one million dollars, and the new school was named for Mr. William C. Taylor, who taught in Fauquier County schools for 65 years. Mr. Taylor was still living when the school was named for him. When Fauquier County schools integrated in 1969, Taylor became a junior high school, housing students in grades 8 and 9; seventh grade was added later. In 1995 the school changed grade configurations again and now houses grades 6-8 as W.C. Taylor Middle School.”
Fauquier High School 1969, the start of a new era..
1969 brought forth the start of a new era for the Fauquier County School System and especially for its students. That was the year Fauquier County was forced by law to complete desegregation of all county schools. This meant students no longer had a choice in which high school they wished to attend. Fauquier High had been admitting African American students for quite some time, so this wasn’t a matter of integration, the requirement was to close or integrate the county’s all black schools and completely integrate those students to the white schools. Some of my friends had attended Fauquier High from the beginning of their high school careers and had never seen the inside of W.C. Taylor High School. So it wasn’t an issue of Fauquier High School becoming integrated, it was the issue of Fauquier County Public Schools no longer providing “separate but equal” facilities for blacks. I was very happy with the situation as it stood prior to 1969, I had no desire at all to attend Fauquier High School. Over the years we’d seen some of our best athletes recruited personally by Fauquier High’s principal. He would come to Taylor to pitch the benefits of playing sports for his school rather than ours. So, as far as our football and basketball players were concerned, they already knew that they, at least, had a chance to make the teams when they arrived at their school, if they were good enough.
Other students weren’t quite as lucky as the athletes coming from Taylor. When I arrived at Fauquier I’d already been in Taylor’s marching and concert bands for 3 years and I expected to continue my musical career at Fauquier, but this was not to be. We were shocked to learn that we would have to undergo an audition to earn a spot in the band. That part wouldn’t have been so bad, but this was a blind audition, we were to bring our instrument without any clue of what we would be asked to perform. One after another we were all rejected. All except one, a tuba player, he was very good. I had first written a negative report about the experience, but in retrospect, the fact that he made the band at all is a good indicator that I and others probably would have made it had we performed well enough.
Other than having both blonds and brunettes, the cheer leading squad was not very diverse when we arrived at Fauquier High.
As far as the cheerleading squad was concerned, they weren’t scheduling any auditions, they weren’t doing any try-outs, there were no invitations to join. If you wanted to be a Fauquier High School cheerleader, you had to be white. That fact drastically reduced the chances of us having one of our girls make the team.
I wish I could tell you who finally got angry enough to organize a protest, I don’t know, but some one did. I remember Francis “Doola” Washington and Garland Walker approaching me in the hallway one day to inform me that there was going to be a sit-in in the school lobby to protest that there were no blacks on the cheer squad. At the time I payed little attention to it, from my perspective who would want to be on that team? All they had were 15 second routines that displayed robot-like moves for each cheer and they never seemed to get the crowd fired up during games. Pep rallies were different, the crowd participated a lot more during pep rallies. But why would anyone want to join that stiff bunch, that was my question. We were used to seeing some hip action at Taylor, some bumping and grinding, like with those Washington girls from uptown, “Chill”, “Tooda” and “Doola”. Just like our band, who had whole families in the marching band (mine included), there were whole families that were brought up in the cheer-leading squad at Taylor, the Washingtons and Bumbrays, just to name two. They knew how to get the crowd involved and get the crowd motivated and they looked and sounded good doing it. That wasn’t something I saw at Fauquier, not saying others didn’t see it or that there was no public display of school spirit, it’s just not something I noticed. But if the girls wanted to join the team, they should at least have an opportunity to try out for it and they weren’t being afforded that option.
Mrs. Jacqueline Baker signed a hall pass so I could attend a protest to demand equal rights for black students..
The day of the sit-in was like any other day for me. I was headed for math class and noticed the lobby filled with students, both black and white.
There were signs and posters, they were actually blocking the entrance. Some students found another way to enter the building while others walked in and sat down and joined the protest. Someone yelled out to me to come join them, I yelled back that I had to put my books up and come back. I didn’t put my books up, I went to class. While sitting in Math class the gnawing feeling kept at me, telling me I should be there showing my support. I knew that meant cutting class and probably getting expelled, so I had to find a way to participate and not get caught up in the obvious trouble everyone was in for. I devised a plan.
I waited until my second period Spanish class and went back down to the lobby to see how things were going. The protest rally had grown in volume, both in size and sound. Mr. Campbell and Mr. Ward were busily warning people not to block the entrance, if it continued the Fire Marshall would have to be called. I spoke briefly to Garland and went to my 2nd period Spanish class. Once I arrived there I raised my hand and told Miss Baker that I wanted to be excused to go down and to ‘just observe’ the protest proceedings in the lobby. I asked if I could get a hall pass to do so. That’s right, I asked permission to participate in a protest rally. Surprisingly, Miss Baker agreed. Not only did she agree, she instructed me to report back to class what I observed. I was participating in a civil rights protest as part of a class assignment!
The fire alarm sounded and we were ordered to exit the building or risk being arrested.
I went down to the lobby and joined a group of friends, by then they were chanting and were more determined than ever to have their demands met. The students were warned not to disturb classes in any way and that quieted the chanting for a while. Not long after I joined the group, the Fire Marshall arrived to inform us that it was illegal to block the entrance to the school and that there had to be a clear path for people to enter and exit the building, in case of a fire. The group complied by making a small opening within their ranks. But that ploy didn’t work, that didn’t disperse the protesters as planned. So, Mr. Campbell conducted at least two fire drills, informing us that if we did not leave the building during those drills we would be arrested. Unfortunately for him, the drills went off without a hitch, we all exited the building, the lobby and building were left completely empty. When everyone was allowed back inside, we all came to the lobby steps, to the spots we had previously occupied on the floor. This was solidarity at it best.
Not long after, I returned to class and reported what had taken place and while I was there, the third period bell sounded. I took my hall pass to my 3rd period teacher, Mr. Wilson. I needed to show him that I had already gotten permission to observe the protest from my previous teacher, Mrs. Baker. I explained that I needed a pass from him to continue my ‘project’. Miraculously, Mr Wilson chuckled to himself and I was given another hall pass and returned to the lobby. At the time I felt it was very appropriate, since Mr. Wilson taught African American History.
Mr. Wilson was nice enough to allow me to return to the sit-in.
Once I found a seat on the entrance steps of the lobby, Mr Campbell left for a while. When he later returned, he was carrying a large sheet of paper, it was a sign up form. Mr. Campbell hushed the crowd so he could make an announcement. He explained that if our demands were to be taken seriously, he would have to present them to the school board. He went on to explain that he needed to gather the names of all of the participants as a way to show the board how much support this cause was receiving. They might then be swayed to make changes. This would be like signing a petition for him to take before the board. But something about this didn’t sound right to me. I was suspicious, so when the sheet made its way to me, I took a look at it and realized that this paper would provide him with all of the names of all the people who had participated in this breach of school regulations, he was definitely up to something. I borrowed a pen from someone and where I should have signed my name, I signed “Daffy Duck” and passed the sheet on to the next student. I warned the person beside me that I suspected Campbell was up to something, but I left it at that. After all the names were taken Mr. Campbell assured us he would take care of the rest and we could return to class. We left feeling as though our mission had been accomplished and our voices would at last be heard. Soon after, word got around that everyone whose name had been on the sign up sheet was being expelled from school for two weeks. Everyone except me, at least. All of the black students were kicked out of school and a few of the more well known trouble making whites. But I had a double indemnity insurance policy, my name wasn’t on the list and even if it had been, I’d received permission to be there from two very well respected teachers.
The next two weeks were brutal, I worked uptown after school and had to walk past the expelled students who sat on the post office steps everyday. I was heckled and called me a traitor as I walked by. They thought I should have fallen on the sword and gotten expelled along with the rest of them, but I didn’t see it that way. “You shouldn’t have signed your names” was always my come back. It wasn’t until much later that I came to agree with them. I had played it smart, but I’d also taken the easy way out.
A dash of color had finally been added to the group.
Eventually, the sit-in paid off because a while later, word came down on high that an audition would be held for next year’s cheer leading squad. Unfortunately, we still got shafted, in my humble opinion. At the time I felt a conspiracy had taken place. The tryouts were held during Summer break and not many people were aware of when that would be. The other issue was since the try outs were being held out side of normal school months, few people would be able to make it to the trials. I have since realized that many sports try-outs and practices are held prior to a school’s scheduled opening, but at the time, it seemed a bit underhanded from them to play out that way. The other issue was even though an African American was chosen from those who auditioned, she was not a former Taylor High School student, they chose someone who had been attending Fauquier her entire high school career. To me this was a smack in the face of the former Taylor students and to those who valiantly protested for the right to have an African American on the squad. I am sure I was in the minority with that stance, most were satisfied just to see a black face representing us during pep rallies and sporting events. I will admit that it didn’t hurt that Cindy was both cute and talented, so it softened the blow quite a bit on how things were done. The revolution was over, they’d met our demands and most everyone walked away happy. With that, the cheerleader sit-in of ’69 ended. The class of ’71 returned to school with a black representative on the squad.
~ THE END ~
Apparently, Taylor students and the Fauquier High administration were not on the same page as to what we expected to see from our cheerleading squad…
Note: The above information is based solely on my memory of the events and what I believe took place. If you have issue with any of these details, please feel free to comment below, allowing your issues to be duly noted and history to be properly recorded. If anyone has additional documentation tat can fill in any of the blanks, you are welcome to provide it.
Growing Up Colored
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