Parts of desegregation came to TPS 50 years ago
Some students said there were so many things happening in 1968 they barely noticed the desegregation of faculty at Tulsa Public Schools.
Linda Berger, one of the white teachers who was assigned to Booker T. Washington in 1968, said it went so smoothly that it doesn't stand out in her memory.
“It was such a positive experience for everyone,” said Berger, who moved to Tulsa in 1968 from Missouri. “It was a great teaching experience for all of us involved. It was a great experience all the way around for everyone.
“The only thing I remember is we had meetings to keep on top of any possible feelings that might emerge but nothing did.”
Many students at Booker T. Washington had white teachers for the first time in their lives.
“We definitely noticed that suddenly we had some white teachers at Booker T. Washington and that some of our favorite teachers had been transferred to other schools,” said Marvin McQuarters, a member of BTW's Class of 1968.
McQuarters said it was a different era. Children, regardless of color, grew up with a lot of respect for teachers.
“Everything was cool (when the white teachers came to BTW),” said McQuarters. “I remember that it went pretty smooth. Part of that was how our parents raised us. You respected teachers. If you got in trouble in school you were going to be in trouble at home.
“If my memory is correct, everyone got along pretty well. I don't remember anything happening.”
McQuarters and other members of the Class of 1968 from Booker T. Washington, Central and McLain high schools will gather for a 50th class reunion this week.
According to an article written by then-TPS Superintendent Larry Zenke in 1982, nearly 190 teachers were involuntarily transferred to alter white-to-black faculty ratios in Tulsa Public Schools in 1968.
Three years later, TPS began its first phase of desegregation that included construction of a magnet program at Booker T. Washington High School.
Many of the north Tulsa students in the Class of 1968 first began to feel the impact of desegregation in 1965 when attendance areas of Booker T. Washington and Carver Junior High School, which were predominantly black, were changed. That sent many black students to Central High School and Roosevelt Junior High School.
In 1967, portions of Johnson Elementary and Carver were added to schools with mostly white student populations.
What was once a community in north Tulsa was being split apart through students.
“That's why we are having this 50th reunion with all three schools because we were all friends,” said Doris Marshall, who was sent to Central High School. “We had grown up together. Many of us have remained friends all of these years later. So, we invited everyone.”