When the Druid Hills High School class of 1986 celebrated its 25th reunion this summer, I invited several of my classmates to record their memories with StoryCorps Atlanta. We grew up in Atlanta in the ’70′s and ’80′s, so one unique aspect of our educational experience was being the first generation of children in the South whose schools were fully integrated. Because of an elective transfer program, our schools were approximately 50% Black and 50% white, from 1st grade through our senior year.
In his interview with fellow classmate Jim Ostrowski, Roland Dawkins remembered that in 1986, “Druid Hills was predominantly white, very affluent, highly educated, but also a very liberal and Democratic portion of Atlanta. At that time, I lived literally on the other side of town, and the (integration) program, “Majority to Minority” was in its heyday. I had to take a bus, actually a couple of buses, for an hour and a half. Eventually it got tiresome, but by then all my friends went to the school I went to.”
Jim, who was our senior class president, added that it was, “something way out of the ordinary for that neighborhood, at that time, but it all seemed to work pretty well.” They talked about how he and Roland, with all their differences, “were the bridge between cliques, we were the bridge between races, between socioeconomic stratuses.” Their friendship has lasted more than 30 years.
When I told Melanie Lester in our interview that I remembered her strong personality standing out during the elementary school years, she confirmed. “I was always a really, really friendly person. Strong willed, yeah, I would agree with that. Opinionated, yeah, I would agree with that, as well.” With regard to race, “I never saw black or white, though… that was the great thing. It would never occur to me that there was a difference.”
Roland expressed a sentiment shared across the reunion’s StoryCorps interviews. “All my very good friends were at school, and they were a mix of people, and they came from all walks of life.” As their reunion invitation stated, “You can’t get the last 25 years back, but you can still talk about it.”