Reverend James Seawood grew up in the 1950s in Sheridan, Arkansas, and attended an all-black school.
The town’s main employer and landlord was a lumber mill. Following the federal mandate to integrate the public schools, the mill forced its African American employees and tenants out of town. As the population diminished, James’ mother became his school’s principal, janitor, and whatever else was needed.
At StoryCorps, he recalls how integration led to African Americans being forced out of his hometown, the human cost of “urban renewal,” and the fate of his beloved school.
Originally aired February 20, 2009, on NPR’s Morning Edition.