Mansfield Revisits Civil Rights Struggle of 1956

NBC 5 was there when a group of black students were turned away from Mansfield High School in 1956

Before the civil rights struggles in Little Rock, the Birmingham bus boycott or the March on Washington, Mansfield, Texas was the scene of racial tensions on August 30, 1956. On that date in 2016, leaders will gather to celebrate the progress in race relations since then and honor people who paved the way for equality.

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down racial desegregation in schools in the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision but separation remained the rule in Mansfield two years later.

"This was a period of time when the people could not attend the schools here in the district," said Pastor Michael Evans of Mansfield's Bethlehem Baptist Church.

In 1956, if you were an African-American student living in Mansfield or anywhere in Tarrant County, you were forced to attend school at an all-black school an hours drive away in Fort Worth. 

Attempts to racially integrate Mansfield High School were met with hate-filled anger. On August 30, 1956, it would be on display for the world to see. NBC 5 (then WBAP-TV) news cameras rolled as Deacon T.M. Moody led a group of black teenagers including his own nephew, Floyd Moody, to Mansfield High School. He was armed with a court order to enroll the teenagers.

The response was swift and severe as hundreds of white people, some armed with shotguns and dogs, turned the students away. Many people hung effigies of black people on trees, flagpoles and on top of the entrance at Mansfield High School.

Mansfield would not integrate until 1966.

The events of that August day cemented Moody's leadership in the black community but made him a villain to others. 

"It took a lot of courage to do that," said Evans. "His life was threatened but here we are 60 years later."

Moody's legacy is still evident, not only in the buildings that bear his name, but also in the district's distinction of being one of the most diverse in Texas. 

White students are 35 percent of the Mansfield ISD. African-Americans make up nearly 28 percent of the district. Hispanics are 25 percent and Asian-Americans account for nearly 7 percent.

Pastor Evans said he owes his place on the Mansfield ISD school board to Moody. A mural in his church is a daily reminder of where the district has been and where it still must go.

"We have all been made better because of our yesterdays and it causes us to be more sensitive to the strides we need to make now in 2016," said Evans.

EVENTS HONORING MANSFIELD 60

Tuesday, August 30, 2017

Noon: "Prayer at the Mural" hosted by Pastor Michael Evans at Bethlehem Baptist Church, 1188 West Broad in Mansfield.

6:30 p.m.: Rev. Kyev Tatum, Pastor S. Floyd Moody, Judge L. Clifford Davis, Vivian Wells will gather at Mansfield Historical Museum and Heritage Center, 102 N. Main Street in Mansfield.

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