SPRING CITY, Tenn. — Joyce “Poochie” Perkins Jackson’s 1966 graduation from Spring City High School was a solitary achievement.
Jackson, her husband and mother recently visited the Tennessee civil rights sit-ins traveling exhibit, “We Shall Not Be Moved,” which featured pictures of the school’s graduating class of 1966, on its debut weekend at the Spring City History Museum Annex.
Among the photos on display were Jackson’s senior portrait and a brief biography that called her a “trailblazer.”
“It was lonely at the top,” Jackson said, holding her picture.
Jackson began her senior year in 1965 as one of 13 blacks out of 369 students. In May 1966, she became the first black student to graduate from Spring City High School.
She said she never considered during segregation that she was receiving a different education than her fellow students, but that integration did allow her to receive a better education.
“I’ve had a good life,” she said.
The state-prepared exhibit marks the 50th anniversary of Tennessee’s civil rights sit-ins and is sponsored by the Spring City Historical Museum, Spring City and Volunteer Electric Cooperative.
Spring City Mayor Mary Sue Garrison said securing the exhibit for its 12-city tour across Tennessee took about two years.
Among the life-sized cardboard displays are a 1920s mimeograph, a 1950s radio, a rotary phone and a manual typewriter. A display case with a 1963 platform guest pass to the March on Washington and other memorabilia are featured.
Garrison said the exhibit will continue at the city museum’s annex on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays until April 22.
Jackson’s mother Katie McDonald, a Spring City resident for 64 years, said she loved the city and didn’t recall integration there being a problem, unlike in her hometown of Decatur, Ala.
“How far we’ve come,” she said with a smile.
Kimberly McMillian is based in Rhea County. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.