Mural honors students who integrated Memphis City Schools

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Friday morning Bruce Elementary unveiled a mural of the first three black students to integrate the school in 1961.

It showed youthful images of 1st graders Harry Williams, Dwania Kyles, and Menelik Fombi in 1961 when they integrated Bruce Elementary School.

"I really didn’t acknowledge this for years but now I see what I did and I am very proud of myself,” Williams said.

Now 59 years later the former students now affectionately known as the “Bruce 3” came back to the school to unveil a mural in their honor.

Kyles said only one word came to mind to describe what she experienced.

“What we were confronted with was a toxic environment and that is the only way to say it,” Kyles said.

Ten other black elementary school students joined the “Bruce 3” integrating three other Memphis City Schools.

The collective group is known as the “Memphis 13.”

Kyles said seeing this mural makes her finally feel the love she missed in 1961 when she first entered Bruce.

"The world is a much better place than it was then. Does it need a lot more work? Yes it does,” Kyles said.

The artist who made the walls of the school’s cafeteria a gigantic history lesson was local artist Jamond Bullock.

"I’m grateful to be a part of history myself. If we can empower more people through art and storytelling. I’m grateful to be apart of it,” Bullock said.

Williams said he’s glad he endured the hard days at Bruce to pave the way for the students today.

"My words I have been saying since day one don’t ever let anyone say what you can’t do. You put your mind to do anything you want to do,” Williams said.