by Hunter Dawkins, Publisher
After introduction to the new student board member; Saniia Ladawn Turner, to the Pass Christian School Board of Trustees, the school district recognized Kevin Antoine on a Zoom video to discuss a proposal honoring the nine African-American students that integrated the public schools in 1966.
Antoine; a Chief Diversity Equity & Inclusion Officer for Bucks County Community College in Newton, Pennsylvania, is a native of Pass Christian who had previously discussed honoring these nine students with Pass Christian School District Superintendent Dr. Carla Evers because his brother and fellow students integrated the school system three years prior to the federal court in New Orleans ordering all southern school districts to desegregate. According to Antoine, the culture of the city of Pass Christian made this integration peaceful and occurring without problems.
The federal courts based the decision on Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, which was a landmark decision of the United States Supreme Court in which the Court ruled that state laws establishing racial segregation in public schools are unconstitutional, even if the segregated schools are otherwise equal in quality. Handed down on May 17, 1954, the Court’s unanimous (9–0) decision stated that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal”, and therefore violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. However, the decision’s 14 pages did not spell out any sort of method for ending racial segregation in schools, and the Court’s second decision in the case only ordered states to desegregate “with all deliberate speed”.
“This is the first time I have ever heard about it,” expressed Pass Christian School Board of Trustees President Margaret Jean Kalif. “We should honor these students in February for Black History Month.”
Antoine spoke of the students and how his brother was the first African-American Athlete in the Pass Christian Public School District. Additionally, he added many contributions of these students during their career in the school district, such as several of the nine being the first African-Americans in the Pass Christian Marching Band in 1968.
Finally, Antoine spoke to the school board about the myth of how all Mississippi Gulf Coast schools integrated in 1969 after Hurricane Camille and hoped these nine students were honored for entering the school system before the federal mandate.