First Black student to attend Alabama public schools recreates historic walk for 60th anniversary of integration

WAFF 48's D'Quan Lee reporting
Published: Sep. 10, 2023 at 12:21 AM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - A walk down memory lane at the corner of Gallatin Street and Governors Drive for Sonnie Hereford VI is a reminder about historic progress for everybody else.

He was the first Black student to attend a public school in Alabama 60 years ago Saturday.

“Over the years, it has become extremely special,” Hereford said.

Saturday morning, he, along with his daughter and grandson, retraced the steps he once took to Fifth Avenue School.

Hereford said it allows him to reminisce and remind him that as a country we’ve come a long way.

“We had to work hard, we had to plan well, we had to make sure things stayed non-violent. We had the right leadership to make sure that those things happened because if we had had a lot of violence and property being destroyed, I doubt that our movement would have been successful, at least not as early as it was,” he said.

Dr. Beth Hereford, Sonnie’s daughter, says knowing her father was such a big part of history can be overwhelming and emotional at times, but empowering.

She also wants to give credit to her grandparents for doing their part in leaving behind a legacy.

“When I think about bravery, I really think about my grandmother who allowed her baby to go through that at that time, knowing that the bombings in Birmingham were just taking place a week later,” she said. “So the bravery she had to send her son out into the world to do this work, that’s who I really think about as being brave is Martha Hereford.”

Fifth Avenue School may not still be standing, but Hereford’s legacy shall always remain in the form of Sonnie Hereford Elementary.

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