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Secret no more: Year of recognition, celebration for the Oak Ridge 85

The Oak Ridge 85 were the first Black students to integrate schools in the southeast. After 65 years, their stories are no longer secrets of the Secret City.

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. — On Sept. 6, 1955, 85 Black students from the historic Scarboro community integrated Oak Ridge High School and Robertsville Junior High, becoming the first in the southeast to do so.  

For 65 years, their stories and history-making impact on the region were largely unknown outside of the Secret City.

Then, on Sept. 6, 2020, Oak Ridge and Scarboro community leaders kicked off more than a year of celebrations to honor the 85 and share their history.

September 6, 2020

The day was officially named the Scarboro Oak Ridge 85 Day, and it was commemorated with plaques bearing the names of the 85 students going up in local schools.

RELATED: 'I feel proud' | Oak Ridge 85 honored six decades after integration efforts

November 22, 2020

WBIR's five-part documentary series "The Secret In Scarboro: The Oak Ridge 85" releases.

RELATED: The Secret in Scarboro: The Oak Ridge 85

January 12, 2021

The Oak Ridge Board of Education renamed its new preschool to The Oak Ridge Schools' Scarboro Preschool in honor of Scarboro with four wings designated to its community heroes: Arizona Officer, George Walker, Fred Brown and Sallie McCaskill. Many helped with the 85's integration.

RELATED: Oak Ridge BOE renames new preschool to honor Scarboro, 'community heroes'

February 22, 2021

The Oak Ridge School District announced it was adding the Oak Ridge 85 to its middle and high school curriculum with a new course fully launching at the end of the school year.

RELATED: The secret stops here: Oak Ridge schools add Oak Ridge 85 to curriculum

February 24, 2021

A House Joint Resolution was introduced into the Tennessee State House to name Sept. 6, 2021, as Oak Ridge-85 Students Day.

RELATED: Joint resolution honoring Oak Ridge 85 introduced in TN House

Oak Ridge education leaders said they had plans to petition the state school board to amend state standards so all Tennessee students can learn about the 85.

RELATED: Oak Ridge school leaders plan petition to add Oak Ridge 85 to state standards

March 11, 2021

Students in Oak Ridge received awards for their talent and participation in a district-wide art and poetry contest. From haikus to black and white drawings, their work honored the legacy of the Oak Ridge 85.

RELATED: Oak Ridge students to receive awards for artwork & poetry in honor of Oak Ridge 85

May 26, 2021

Y-12 National Security Complex donated $8,500 to the Scarboro Alumni Association to support students in the Scarboro community. That number, 8,500, represented the Oak Ridge 85.

RELATED: Students in the Scarboro community get support to help them further their education

July 27, 2021

Oak Ridge hosted a ribbon cutting on the newly renamed Scarboro Preschool and honored community education leaders.

RELATED: Oak Ridge hosts ribbon cutting on Scarboro Preschool, honors education leaders

August 31, 2021

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee honored the history-making steps of the Oak Ridge 85 and the Clinton 12 during a ceremony in the Scarboro Community Center. He gave out proclamations declaring Aug. 31 as Clinton 12 and Oak Ridge 85 Day.

RELATED: Governor Lee honors Oak Ridge 85, Clinton 12 65 years later

September 2, 2021

The Scarboro community hosted a reunion weekend, starting with a Scholarship Awards Banquet to honor scholarship recipients and the Oak Ridge 85.

RELATED: Scarboro Community to host reunion honoring Oak Ridge 85

September 3, 2021

An exhibit honoring the Oak Ridge 85 opened at Oak Ridge History Museum.

RELATED: Exhibit honoring Oak Ridge 85 opens at Oak Ridge History Museum

The Oak Ridge 85 and Clinton 12 were honored during halftime at the Clinton vs. Oak Ridge High School football game.

September 4, 2021

The Scarboro community hosted a unity parade and fun festival.

October 16, 2021

The Noon Rotary Club of Oak Ridge sponsored the annual Street Painting Festival with the theme "Honoring Scarboro 85" in the historic Jackson Square.

RELATED: Street Painting Festival to honor Oak Ridge 85 kicks off Saturday

December 2, 2021

The Oak Ridge 85 and the Secretary of Energy will be recognized with the Social Responsibility in the Nuclear Community Award, a national civil rights award from the American Nuclear Society.

For more on the Oak Ridge 85, check out our YouTube playlist: