On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court of the United States made the historic decision that “in the field of public education, the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place.” This decision served to integrate public schools in America. Prior to this decision, African American students were not allowed to attend school with white students. In Murray, Kentucky, the school for African American students was Douglass High School.
Douglass High School was named after escaped slave turned activist Frederick Douglass. It was located on the East side of Murray on LP Miller Street, which is named after a Douglass alum and administrator. Here, the African American students of Murray received their education. Since it was the school for black students, most of what Douglass received was second hand, from textbooks to athletic equipment.
Many Douglass alum remember their football and basketball programs as being outstanding, recounting that many teams were scared to play them. One Douglass alum, Dennis Jackson, graduated and continued his education and athletic career at Murray State University. Jackson was the first black athlete at Murray State, where he ran track and played football. Jackson’s teammates at Douglass remembered him being “so fast he could fly.” Jackson was inducted into the Kentucky High School Athletic Hall of Fame in 1999.
When Brown v. Board of Education was decided, Douglass High School integrated with Murray High School, the independent city school district of Murray, KY. In the fall of 1955, four Douglass graduates were some of the first African American students to enroll at Murray State University. The integration of the schools allowed students to interact with people from different walks of life on a daily basis, and helped Murray become one community.
Currently, the Murray community is working toward putting together a museum-like site where the story of Douglass High School can be memorialized for future generations.