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Beyond IntegrationThe Black Freedom Struggle in Escambia County, Florida, 1960-1980$
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J. Michael Butler

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781469627472

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469627472.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.northcarolina.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of North Carolina Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in NCSO for personal use.date: 22 September 2021

Racial Irritants

Racial Irritants

(p.102) Chapter Four Racial Irritants
Beyond Integration

J. Michael Butler

University of North Carolina Press

In the aftermath of the first EHS student boycott, Merenda Kyle, the mother of Escambia School High student Belinda Jackson, took legal action to remove Confederate imagery from the school. Their attorneys claimed the symbols violated the still-open county school integration suit because it undermined the maintenance of a unitary educational system. District judge Winston Arnow agreed, called the symbols "racial irritants," and ordered the school board to remove all such icons at EHS. The symbols issue embodied the black struggle against cultural forms of de facto racism that existed in Northwest Florida, while whites viewed it as an unacceptable assault on their perceived rights as a racial majority. While racial tensions grew in the verdict's wake, five black fishermen died in local waters under suspicious circumstances. The “The Atlanta Five” drownings broadened the already voluminous racial divide that characterized Pensacola. National SCLC president Rev. Ralph Abernathy visited the area to investigate the incident, claimed each man was murdered, and accused the Escambia County Sheriff’s Department of compliance in the crime. Although a grand jury ruled the deaths accidental, the episode brought law enforcement and the local black community into direct conflict.

Keywords:   Merenda Kyle, Escambia High School, Confederate Imagery, Judge Winston Arnow, “Racial irritants”, De facto racism, “The Atlanta Five”, Reverend Ralph Abernation, The Escambia County Sheriff’s Department

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