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Arlington Town Hall Looks At Legacy Of Desegregation

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A special subcommittee created by state lawmakers is holding town halls in several locations across the state to discuss the legacy of "Massive Resistance" and its effect on the present and future.

Arlington County hosted on of those town halls Tuesday. Arlington's Stratford Junior High, now H.B. Woodlawn, was the first school in Virginia to integrate in 1959.

Joseph Macekura was the guidance counselor at the school, and said he had been planning for Stratford's integration for two years before it happened. But he says he was still awestruck by the weight of its significance when it arrived.

"It no longer became an individual event. It became a part of the national responsibility," he says.

Michael Jones was one of four African-American students that entered Stratford in 1959.

"I never knew when this happened, that we would be here 50 years later still celebrating the event," Jones says.

But this isn't all about looking back. William Vollins, a retired principal who was one of the first African-American teachers to work in the newly integrated schools, said he's concerned that too much of today's energy is focused on grouping children into ethnic and racial blocs.

"They would ask me, 'What is your ethnic breakdown of students?' And I would say, '100 percent human beings,'" Vollins says.

Similar town halls have been held in places where public schools were closed during Massive resistance: Norfolk, Warren County and Charlottesville.

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