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Nashville best friends reflect on the desegregation of Metro Schools and busing

by Chanel Rowe
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Originally Published: 19 FEB 24 16:14 ET

By Aaron Cantrell

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    NASHVILLE (WTVF) — In 1971, two friends, Andre Gibson and Thomas Mclin took part in the desegregation efforts that shaped the city’s educational landscape.

At Andrew Jackson Courts 52 years ago, the duo met and became great friends.

“That’s my brother, and that’s how I see him,” Andre said.

The two — now 60 — also attended school at Pearl together. It was only a few feet away from their homes.

“January 1970 is when I first attended. The following school year that’s when we were bused to Paragon Mills,” Mclin said.

At the start of third grade Andre, Thomas, and their fellow Black classmates were bused more than 30 minutes away after a federal judge ordered Metro Schools to start integrating schools.

“They would get on buses sometimes from when they can’t see in the morning to can’t see at night,” said Juan Floyd-Thomas, Vanderbilt University’s associate professor of African American religious history.

The news headlines were everywhere, but at only 8 years old, this duo didn’t think much about it.

“We jumped up and down with enthusiasm,” Gibson said.

When the bus arrived at Paragon Mills, Thomas and Andre said they were met with anger and opposition.

“There were signs and derogatory statements. Sticks and stones being thrown at the buses,” Mclin said.

Once inside the school Thomas and Andre said it was calm. They got along with their new white classmates. They say after a week the protesters left.

“It was never, ‘I don’t like you because you a person that don’t look like me.’ We all got on the playground and played together,” Gibson said.

They may not realize it, but Floyd-Thomas said these guys were warriors.

“What they did and what they went through wasn’t just an empty gesture,” Floyd-Thomas said.

These brothers from another mother went on to make great memories at Paragon Mills.

“He had a little girlfriend at Paragon Mills that didn’t look like him. ‘Thomas, don’t tell my wife,'” Gibson and Thomas jokingly said.

They know not everyone is aware of the role Black children played during this time, but it’s clear those little kids played a big part in Nashville’s history.

“With the whitewashing of what’s going — if it’s history and slavery being not talked about and the book banning — all of this needs to be told especially in Nashville. We lived it and we’re going to tell it,” Mclin said.

This year marks 70 years since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional with Brown v. Board of Education.

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WTVF Andre Gibson and Thomas Mclin

Embargo: Nashville, TN; **This image is for use with this specific article only** In 1971, two friends, Andre Gibson and Thomas Mclin took part in the desegregation efforts that shaped the city’s educational landscape.

WTVF

19 Feb 24

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