Marietta History Center announces Lemon Street Chronicles & MLK holiday celebration

Marietta History Center taken from other side of railroad tracks

The Marietta History Center (MHC) announced a free presentation of the Lemon Street Chronicles, an oral history of the Lemon Street primary and high schools.

Those were the segregated schools for Black students in Marietta and much of Cobb County until 1967 when Cobb County schools formally integrated 13 years after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision ordering the desegregation of public schools.

The presentation will occur during the celebration of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday on Saturday, January 15, when there will be free admission to the MHC throughout the day.

The MHC describes the Lemon Street Chronicles as follows:

The Lemon Street Chronicles is a brand-new oral history DVD of interviews with Lemon Street High School alumni created by Tim Penn. The Lemon Street primary and high schools were the segregated schools for African Americans in Marietta and much of Cobb County until 1967. Copies of the DVD can also be purchased in the Museum Store for $15. 

The free admission includes access to “Marietta 1899: Color Captured in Black & White”, described by the MHC as follows:

This special exhibit highlights the photography of New York photographer James Shaw and his visit to Marietta in the spring of 1899. The exhibit showcases never-before-seen images of the Marietta Square, the Marietta National Cemetery, Kennesaw Avenue, Kennesaw Mountain, and rural Cobb County. 

While visiting, Shaw attended the May 30th Federal Memorial Day celebrations on the Marietta Square. As a northerner, he was likely fascinated with how this formerly Confederate city would handle commemorating the Union dead. Not surprisingly, most attendants were African Americans from all over the Atlanta area. These are perhaps the most diverse images of nineteenth century Marietta we have ever seen. A truer version of life as it was, undiluted by the whitewashing of history. While bias of a white perspective remains, Shaw chose to include the activities of both races, thus presenting multiple shades of color in black and white photography.

Background on the desegregation of Marietta and Cobb County Schools

The following summary of the beginning of the integration of Cobb and Marietta schools used information from Cobb County, Georgia and the Origins of the Suburban South, by Thomas Allan Scott, as the source.

By the mid-1960s the Cobb and Marietta schools were pressured to comply with the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education ruling on desegregation by the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, the predecessor to the Department of Education.

Like many southern counties and cities, Cobb and Marietta attempted to slow-walk the desegregation by offering an intermediate “school choice” plan that would have allowed first- and twelfth-grade students to choose their school for the 1965 to 1966 school year.

HEW rejected this plan, and a modified one was submitted later, and also rejected.

Cobb County Board of Education Chairman Joe Bird then called HEW and asked them what they would accept.

He presented a plan HEW would find acceptable to the school board on May 18, 1965, and the board grudgingly accepted it, desegregating half the grades in 1965-1966 and the other half during the next school year.

The Marietta school system soon followed suit, and by 1967 the schools were formally integrated.