September 12th, 1966

Black Students Attacked While Integrating Schools in Grenada, Mississippi

Twelve years after the United States Supreme Court's landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling holding school segregation unconstitutional, the city of Grenada, Mississippi, continued to operate a segregated school system. In August of 1966, a federal judge ordered that African American students be permitted to enroll in the formerly whites-only schools. Approximately 450 African American students enrolled prior to the scheduled start of the school year on September 2, 1966.

On September 2, the school district postponed the start of school by ten days. White leaders used that time to attempt to coerce African American parents into withdrawing their children from the white schools by threatening them with firing or eviction; as a result, 200 students withdrew.

On September 12, 1966, the Grenada schools opened, and 250 African American students attempted to integrate the schools. A large white mob surrounded the school and turned away most of the African American students. As the students retreated, members of the mob pursued them through the streets, beating them with chains, pipes, and clubs. At lunchtime, the mob returned to the school to attack the few African American students who had successfully entered. As the students left for lunch, members of the mob attacked them, leaving some hospitalized with broken bones. Reporters covering the story were also beaten.

The mob violence continued for several days, with no intervention from law enforcement. On September 16, a federal judge ordered protection for the students, and on September 17, thirteen members of the mob were arrested by the FBI.