The Memphis 13/Bruce Elementary

The Memphis 13/Bruce Elementary (HM1OKN)

Location: Memphis, TN 38104 Shelby County
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Country: United States of America
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N 35° 7.886', W 90° 1.331'

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The first African-American students to enroll in Bruce Elementary were Dwania Kyles, Menelik Fombi (formerly Michael Willis), and Harry Williams. All lived closer to Bruce than to the African-American school where they would other wise have been assigned. Dwania Kyles remembered the social isolation at school and how she relied on friends in her neighborhod church for support. "It was just the constant barrage of negativity," Menelik Fombi recalled. "One on one you may be OK with a boy. You get two or three of his friends and your a n____. The whole group dynamic would change." Harry Williams remembered his motivation to break the segregation barrier. "I didn't want to be no wimp," he said. "I had my little pride back then." He also recalls a diligent principal. "She made sure we were safe." Also to be remembered are the dedicated parents of these students: Samuel B. Kyles, A.W. Willis, and Romanita Morris.


In implementing the U.S. Supreme Court's 1954 decision outlawing school segregation by race, the Memphis Board of Education ultimately agreed in 1961 to a plan to integrate the schools. The Memphis Branch of the NAACP recruited 200 applicants, and 13 African-American first graders were selected to integrate four elementary schools. This phased-in approach, adding a grade per year, was regarded as the safest way to desegregate the schools. Without violence on October 3, 1961, the students enrolled in Bruce, Gordon, Rozelle, and Springdale Elementary schools. After opening day they were on their own. During the course of the year and those that followed, their social isolation and educational progress were left unmonitored. Despite their difficulties, these 13 "pint-sized pioneers" struck a fatal blow to school segregation and claimed their place in Memphis history.
Year Placed2015
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Tuesday, October 13th, 2015 at 9:01am PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)15S E 771337 N 3891678
Decimal Degrees35.13143333, -90.02218333
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 35° 7.886', W 90° 1.331'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds35° 7' 53.16" N, 90° 1' 19.86" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)901, 615
Which side of the road?Marker is on the right when traveling South
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 581 Carr Ave, Memphis TN 38104, US
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