The Crispus Attucks class of 1974 will celebrate its 50-year high school reunion this summer. This class is unique because it was the first fully integrated class to start and graduate from Crispus Attucks High School.
Crispus Attucks opened its doors in 1924 as a segregated high school for all Black students. The school provided a positive space for the Black students who attended for decades. The school, which employed Black educators who held master’s and doctoral degrees, won a state basketball championship in 1955 and 1956 and provided quality education to Black students despite a lack of resources, according to a 2014 article published by the Indy Star.
Crispus Attucks’ history in the Black community makes its desegregation in 1970 noteworthy. These students, who graduated four years later in 1974, dealt with many firsts and obstacles during high school. Kendah Bluestein, a member of the class and part of the committee setting up the 50th year celebration, spoke about her time at Crispus Attucks during the historic change.
“It was like a cluster mess. It was kind of fun, kind of exciting, but then again, it was like this is not fair,” Bluestein said, looking back on her first year of high school.
Between the integration of white students and the upperclassmen already there, Crispus Attucks had an overflow of students. There were so many during Bluestein’s freshman year that they were bussed off campus to a different school. Her class did not officially walk Crispus Attucks’s halls until her sophomore year. That contributed to the unfairness she felt going into high school.
Bluestein recalls the mixed feelings within the Black community. She said the school started because white parents did not want their children going to school with Black children. Soon after its creation, it began to thrive and provide proper education to Black students. It became a source of pride for the Black community. Then, to some, it felt like that sense of pride was being taken away by integrating with white students, according to Bluestein.
Bluestein remembers how crowded the school still was even in her sophomore year. On top of that, the Black and white students did not easily mix at first. Some Black students rebelled against the thought of being in school with white students. There were also white students and their parents who did not want their children going to school with Black students.
A 1971 article in the Indianapolis Recorder spoke to this tension. Some white parents who had children set to start at Crispus Attucks that year were pulling their children from school. The principal at the time, Earl Donaldson, spoke about white parents pulling their children from the school.
“I have no way of knowing just how many of the assigned students will be involved in such a move, but as of now, we have a certain number of students assigned to the school, and we expect to see all of them when classes open,” Donaldson said.
Bluestein looks back on her time in high school and still has mixed feelings about the integration. By the end of their sophomore year and going their junior year, the white and Black students became kind of “like a family,” Bluestein said. However, she still remembers Crispus Attucks before its integration.
“I feel like they should have just left it like it was. If better education is in the works, why couldn’t you just provide us with a better education if you felt we weren’t getting that?” Bluestein said. “I do not believe it was for a better education for the Black community. I think it had to do with political stuff. I really do.
“Contact Racial Justice Reporter Garrett Simms at 317-762-7847