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Class of '67 to recount desegregtion

Photo by Carly Farrell

Photo by Carly Farrell

ALBANY, Ga. -- For Patricia Chatmon Perryman, one of 31 African-American students who integrated Albany High School in 1965, "Every day was a battlefield."

Perryman and three of her classmates will share their experiences Jan. 27 at the Albany Civil Rights Institute's first Monthly Community Night of 2011, entitled "Back to School/Integration 101."

In addition to Perryman, Grady Caldwell, Mary Jones Wright and Robert D. Thomas were among the 31 African-American members of the Class of 1967 who transferred from the all-black Monroe High School to Albany High in the fall of their junior year in 1965.

The previous spring had seen the graduation of the first six African-Americans (all young women) from the previously all-white Albany High School. They had transferred from Monroe High in their senior year.

The African-Americans in the AHS Class of 1967 were the first to transfer in their junior year and thus spend two years at the predominately white school.

"Many white adults in the 1960s resented the civil rights movement, which was really an attack on their white privilege," ACRI Executive Director Lee Formwalt said. "Their high school children shared some of their attitudes, which made it very difficult for African-American students who were perceived as outsiders at the historically white school."

The four classmates later enjoyed successful business lives:

- Perryman, one of the four ACRI presenters, is the daughter of late African-American businessman and civil rights activist Thomas C. Chatmon Sr. She grew up in Albany and after graduating AHS, attended Fisk University and graduated from Georgia State University.

She has been an activist, actress/model, advocate and entrepreneur.

- Caldwell was born in Albany and went to Albany State College, where he graduated with a degree in business administration. After a long and varied career, he turned to ministry in 1991 and two years ago became founding pastor of the New Mercy Baptist Church in Griffin. His experiences integrating the AHS football team and his later struggles with chemical dependency play a major role in local author Bill Lightle's book, "Made or Broken," about Albany, integration and sports in the 1960s and 1970s.

- Wright grew up in Albany, and after graduating from AHS, was one of the first African-American women to be hired by Southern Bell Telephone Co. For two years she worked full-time and attended Albany State College. She retired as an area manager after working with BellSouth Telecommunications for 36 years. She then returned to college and graduated with a business administration degree in 2006.

- Thomas is the son of Albany civil rights activist Robert D. Thomas Sr., who was one of the Albany Nine. Robert Jr. graduated from Albany State College and was a contract negotiator at Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins. He has managed and owned several businesses and owns and operates Thomas Insurance Services in the Macon area.

The presentation will begin at 7:30 p.m. at the ACRI on 326 Whitney Ave. and is free and open to the public.