60 years later, Memphis 13 teaches Shelby County students legacy of desegregation

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — This week marks 60 years since the desegregation of Memphis City Schools, when some of the first Black students made history in the Bluff City.

They’re known as the Memphis 13, and they’re working to make sure that history is taught for generations to come.

In 1961, the group was just five and six years old.

On Oct. 3 of that year they walked into Bruce Elementary, Gordon Elementary and Springdale Elementary, many not knowing the magnitude of what they were doing.

One of those students, Dawania Kyles, part of the “Bruce 3,” said the integration changed life in Memphis.

“We were all affected by it,” Kyles said.

Now they’re working with Shelby County Schools to create a curriculum that teaches the history of desegregation and the legacy of the Memphis 13.

The curriculum includes a documentary about the students and their stories.

“We are saying all of our children should know that story,” Kyles said. “If are children know that story then parents are going to know that story.”

The curriculum is part of the Memphis 13 Foundation, which includes partnerships with local schools, churches and nonprofits.

Learn more about the Memphis 13 here.