As a 1971 graduate of Elysian Fields High School, I have found that there is a great deal of history that many people, including myself, never knew existed. There is a story to be told when tracing the history of how and when Booker T. Washington School came into existence. The other side of that story is what happened that caused it to no longer exist. It was vital for many within the African American community in Elysian Fields and throughout the surrounding communities.
I have always enjoyed hearing about what happened in the “old days”. This curiosity never leaves me when thinking about the past. I am interested in how we arrived at the various destinations or the many paths taken along the journey to where we are today. A prime example would be tracing the steps from Elysian Fields Colored Schools to Booker T. Washington and Booker T. Washington to Elysian Fields Schools. This transition spanned exactly a century…from 1870 to 1970.
After many years of doors being closed because of race, it is ironic to me that on the one hundredth year of segregated schools in Elysian Fields, Texas, the black students of Booker T. Washington and the white students of Elysian Fields School were united. We found ourselves no longer separate, but rather one student body to forge a brighter future and that is something we have done for the last forty-six years. I remain friends with some of my white classmates of the first integrated senior class of Elysian Fields High School and recall some fond memories. There were many jokes and pranks played on teachers and each other. I received a friend request on FACEBOOK recently from a former classmate. It was so he could ask me if I remembered the nickname I was received in high school? Yes, it was “Biscuit Eater or BE” for short. I received that name because all of the biscuits on the table would seemingly disappear when we travelled to football games and stopped for meals after the game. That school year (1970-71) was expected to be filled with turmoil. It actually created lifelong friends and a lifetime of memories. The most educated (school officials, adults, parents) both black and white feared that the students would refuse to accept that there were more shared values instead of so many differences. What struck me the most about that year was that none of the students discriminated against or tried to overshadow each other. In reality, this behavior was unfortunately displayed by some of the faculty members and staff.
I don’t recall ever hearing a single black student saying “I wish I could still attend Booker T. Washington” or a white student saying “I wish the black students would go back to BTW”. The Booker T. Washington Mass School Reunion Committee isn’t trying to bring back Booker T. Washington but we do feel as if it is intertwined in the fibers of Elysian Fields Schools history. This history should never be covered up or tucked away as if it never existed. From the Elysian Fields Colored Schools over a hundred years ago to the Elysian Fields Schools today, sandwiched in between is the story of a school called Booker T. Washington. Individuals who never attended BTW or cared about its contribution to education in Elysian Fields and the surrounding communities cast votes that led to Booker T Washington being closed.