In August, 1956, twelve students made history by becoming the first to African-Americans to attend a state-supported high school in the south. On their first day of school, many gathered at the elementary school they had attended to walk down the hill to Clinton High school.
The students became known as the "Clinton 12" and their story put Clinton into national spotlight. Now, the former Green McAdoo elementary is now a museum honored to the students and those who helped to change our nation.
"We had lots of fun," said James Cain, a volunteer at the museum and President of the Green McAdoo Cultural Organization. "It was first through 8th grade and then from there we went to high school."
James Cain's brother, Bobby, was a member of the Clinton 12 and went on to become the first African-American to graduate from a public de-segregated high school in Tennessee.
"I remember that it was kind of challenging for him in the sense that he probably preferred to stay at Austin High School because he was a senior when he came out and all his friends were there," said Cain.
The elementary school closed in 1965 and with the exception of some community events, very little took place at Green McAdoo. That all changed when a group of residents began researching Clinton's role in desegregation.
"We though 'maybe we should have a place to house all this information' and the school came up as a project," remembered Cain. "We talked to city school officials and they agreed to renovate the building and let us use it as a museum."
The Green McAdoo Cultural Center and Museum pays tribute to Clinton's role in desegregation and to the 12 students and brave folks who stood up for civil rights. It includes stories, pictures and rarely seen footage from the CBS broadcast of See It Now produced by Edward R. Murrow and Fred Friendly, there's also a tribute to the heroes of Clinton including Reverend Paul Turner who escorted the students to class during a particularly dangerous time and ended up being beaten by a violent mob.
There are also bronze, life-size statues outside the museum that pays tribute to the Clinton 12. The statues were donated by the state of Tennessee and are one of the largest displays of it's kind in the country.
"It makes me feel proud that what took place here actually helped to de-segregate the high schools throughout the south," said Cain. "It shows some progress that's been made in the country as far as race relations and Clinton was a part of that."
The Green McAdoo Cultural Center & Museum is located at 101 School Street in Clinton.
Hours are 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Tuesday -Saturday. For more information call 865-463-6500 or email email@example.com or www.greenmcadoo.org