MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - To kick off this Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, pioneers in civil rights history are being honored in Memphis. Nearly 60 years ago, three young African American students helped integrate Memphis City Schools by attending Bruce Elementary School.
“Coming here is like coming home,” said one of the Bruce 3, Menelik Fombi.
On Oct. 3, 1961 Menelik Fombi, Harry Williams and Dwania Kyles left home to come to Bruce Elementary School. The Bruce 3 and ten other students made up the Memphis 13. They were young African American students who integrated Memphis City Schools that day.
“The world is a much better place than it was then,” Kyles said. “Does it need a lot of work? Yes, it does.”
The world is a bit brighter inside Bruce Elementary School in Midtown now that a mural honoring the Bruce 3 is unveiled. The paintings of the children are taken from a picture captured on that historic day. They’re complemented by colorful homages to the past and the future.
The mural was sponsored by ServiceMaster and painted by local artist Jamond Bullock. Now, it’s a history lesson for every student passing through Bruce.
“When we look at these images, we have to understand this was fueled by parents, by families who just wanted their children to have the best education possible,” Kyles said. Williams thanked his late mother in his speech to the crowd Friday.
“Without her I wouldn't be here,” Williams said.
“They had the wisdom, the knowledge, and the foresight to realize this system cannot be maintained and said we’re going to do something about it,” Fombi said.
Now the torch of change is passed to a new generation at Bruce Elementary. They’ll carry on into the future with the knowledge of the past.