TSU Alumna Gail Upton shares ‘Clinton 12’ experience with students

Upton shares ‘Clinton 12’ experience with students

By Lydia X. McCoy

Posted February 11, 2012 at 4 a.m.

VIDEO: Upton shares ‘Clinton 12’ experience with students

Gail Upton, the first black female to graduate from an integrated high school in Tennessee, said while attending Clinton High during her 11th- and 12th-grade yearsthe classroom became a safe haven.

It was in the hallways where she and the other students had to watch their backs.

“I had my hair pulled. I had nails thrown at me. I had them step on the back of my heels and make them bleed,” she said. “We were just treated like second-class citizens.”

But, she told the students Friday, because of what she and others went through her children and grandchildren are able to go to school.

“I think it’s a much better world than it was then,” Upton said.

After high school, Upton went on to get a degree from Tennessee State University in Nashville. She lives in Sweetwater today. She said it’s important to honor and share the history of what happened at Clinton High School with today’s students.

“I hope the students learned that it doesn’t matter what color you are, everybody needs to get an education. That’s what we were trying to do, just get an education.”

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