The year was 1956 and 12 African-American students in Clinton were about to change history.
The story of the integration of the first public high school in the south is located within the walls of Green McAdoo Cultural Center.
The story has heroes — The Clinton 12 and the abuse they endured, the senior class president who stood up for what was right, the high school staff members who welcomed African-Americans, a small town preacher who wrote and spoke passionately about equality and who was beaten for it, citizens of a predominately white small southern town who stood up to outside agitation.
The story has villains as well — the agitator from New York, the Klan, and yes, some citizens of a predominately white small southern town who did not want change, and the bombing of a high school on American soil by American terrorists.
All of these stories are within the walls of Green McAdoo Cultural Center.
Saturday morning what had once been Clinton’s, became the State of Tennessee’s.
The Green McAdoo Cultural Center was welcomed, officially, to the state museum system with a ribbon cutting ceremony.
Twelve years after the City of Clinton sanctioned this tribute the state will now carry the torch.
Tennessee State Museum Executive Director Ashley Howell said Green McAdoo not only tells the story of the Clinton 12, but “of Oak Ridge and the modern Civil Rights Movement.”
“The leaders of the past inform the leaders of the future.”
Howell said the state’s system is catching up to the history of the last 100 years and that it is catching up with giant strides, such as the inclusion of the cultural center.
Taking in Green McAdoo will give what happened in Clinton in 1956 a larger voice. The site will now be included on the country’s Civil Rights Trail.
While the story of Clinton has spread, it has spread slowly. Several years ago cadets from West Point “stumbled” across Green McAdoo and learned the story.
The inclusion on the Civil Rights Trail will mean less stumbling.
“We want the parking lot full of busses,” Clinton Mayor Scott Burton said in his closing remarks.
And like the leaders of Clinton in 1956 took a stand, Burton pointed to former Mayor Wimp Shoopman and former City Manager Steve Jones for taking a stand 12 years ago and creating the Green McAdoo Cultural Center.
“We share the stories of Tennessee,” Howell said. “We are all story tellers and we need to tell these stories for the next generation.”