Clinton (WVLT) - Today's landmark Supreme Court decision is one that hits especially close to home for 12 East Tennessee students who made headlines more than 50 years ago. These teens would become the first black students to integrate a white school in the South.
Minnie Ann Dickey is one of the Clinton 12, who sees today's ruling as a step back in time.
The time was 1956. Black students attended all black schools, and white students all white schools until 12 courageous teens came along.
"As we were walking, we weren't thinking about being scared. We were trying to get to school," Dickey said.
Then only 15 years old, Dickey was among the first of the black students to climb the stairs into an all white school.
"I had to be strong put on a brave face," Dickey said.
And help pave the path of diversity and desegregation for students across the south.
"That was our purpose, try to get together, not be separated," Dickey said.
A separation Minnie feels the Supreme Court's ruling could encourage five decades later.
"Seems like that ruling trying to get us separated again," Dickey said.
"I think there's parallel what's happening then and what's happening now," James Cain said.
James Cain's brother, Bobby,was also one of the Clinton 12 and the first black student to graduate from the school.
"It's taken 50 years but some good has come from it," Cain said. "I'm not optimistic enough to say we are going to live in a society where race color sex doesn't matter. We'll always have that, I believe."
But in these eyes that have seen great pain from separation there's also hope.
"More you work together, the more you have a society to work together with common goals," Cain said.
Goals putting our children in same classrooms, inside the same schools, regardless of their color. A legacy started some 50 years ago.
"Hope we don't go back go forward," Dickey said.
You can learn more about the Clinton 12 at the Green MacAdoo cultural center in Clinton. It's a museum that follows the desegregation of Clinton High School.