KAUFMAN HISTORY: A look back at Kaufman’s Pyle High School offers insight into America’s segregated past

Pyle High School Class of 1949.

Pyle High School Class of 1949.

MEAGAN COUNTS, Staff writer

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Imagine living during segregation, not being able to talk to who you wanted. Or drinking out of different water fountains, or feeling the tension in the air. It seems a bit difficult to think about all of this happening, even until the 1960s and right here in Kaufman.

Pyle High School was a 1A school for black students in Kaufman County. The school was segregated from the white school which was Kaufman High School. Segregation is the action or state of setting someone or something apart from other people, and segregating whites from blacks was enforced by law in the South for decades.

The original Pyle High School.

The original Pyle High School.

At Pyle, grades merged from 1-12 and were divided into three sections: elementary, middle school, and high school. The school had no finances, and one interesting fact is that PHS did not have a cafeteria until only five years before it got shut down.

Schools for African-Americans under segregation did not equal those of white students. At Pyle, students celebrated homecoming, prom, and festivals. PHS had football, band, and basketball, but all equipment was handed down from KHS.

Ms. Casteleberry's seventh-grade class in 1966.

Ms. Casteleberry’s seventh-grade class in 1966.

“Pyle had no finances. In band they only got one stick and one symbol,” says Dave Booker, who attended PHS as a freshman when the two schools integrated. He is now is a substitute teacher and NJHS.

Pyle's Ed Johnson went on to play pro football for the Chicago Bears.

Pyle’s Ed Johnson went on to play pro football for the Chicago Bears.

In football the players had to wear what fit them best from the old KHS uniforms. Ed Johnson was the first athlete from Pyle to play professional football for the Chicago Bears.

 Nineteen sixty-six was the last year of segregation among Kaufman schools, and the students had a choice of going to KHS or staying at Pyle. Mrs. Wallace’s class was the last first-grade class to attend an all black school in Kaufman.

Booker was a freshman (at only 10 years of age) when segregation ended. whites. Up until then, communication between black and white students was very limited.

 “We couldn’t communicate with the whites unless we were at work, only a few of the white kids pulled cotton with us.” Booker says.

Since the end of segregation, things have certainly changed. Now people can communicate with whomever they would like, can drink in the same water fountain, and learn with other races of people in schools. Many in Kaufman may be surprised that things weren’t always this way.

 Meagan Counts is a sophomore in Mr. Chaffin’s journalism class.

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5 Comments

5 Responses to “KAUFMAN HISTORY: A look back at Kaufman’s Pyle High School offers insight into America’s segregated past”

  1. Brenda Paine on February 3rd, 2014 4:35 pm

    Good story. Enjoyed reading about Kaufman’s history with segregation, and it reminded me of the segregation we had while I attended school in Grapevine. We were segregated until 1963 and then all schools were integrated. I never understood why they weren’t going to school with us all along. My parents made sure there were no prejudices when bringing us up.

  2. Michael Lott on February 6th, 2014 12:02 am

    Great story about Pyle High School. I remember my father telling me about the schools integrating sometime in the 1960s. It’s a shame that the south imposed segregation along with all the other atrocities committed against African Americans. For me, its hard to imagine something like this could have ever existed. It’s important to revisit our history despite how ugly it might have been.

  3. Gail Obaseki on February 27th, 2014 7:27 pm

    Thanks for telling this story. In the first picture of the graduates, my mom, Juanita Wimbley-Smith is the second from the left in the back row. She was the valedictorian of that class of 1949. As ugly as segregation was there was a very deep sense of community among the black residents that developed because of it. The bond between the families… The reality of NO separation between church and school (Our principal was our pastor at Bold Pilgrim Baptist Church and so many activities of Pyle spilled over to Mt. Arie Baptist Church across the street)… I was a product of Pyle until my 8th grade year and then went on to finish at KHS. As a member of that “bridge” generation who experienced both segregation and integration, I can truly say my life was made richer by both experiences. Thank you again for stopping to take a look at Kaufman’s rich history!

  4. Minnie Marsh on February 28th, 2014 2:31 am

    I remember in ’69 when we at Plye were made to go to Kaufman high,was not ready for that change, but I made it.

  5. Coach Stone on February 28th, 2014 7:30 pm

    Great job Meagan on this article! I have been coaching in Kaufman for the last 7 years and from time to time, I’ve had the opportunity to talk with people who attended Pyle High school. It is still hard for me to wrap my mind around the differences in the eras. Being able to coach kids from all different backgrounds, be it race, religious or socioeconomic differences, has only strengthened my understanding of our society. Separating people for such reasons seems like it would only slow our growth as a society and nation.

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