But this weekend's Great Golden Gathering, gathered nearly 200 alumni from 15 African-American schools across Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia in a mass of hugs and laughter.
Calvin Sneed, the event’s chairman, guided the idea for a mega-reunion in less than a year. While some of the schools have their own reunions, this is the first reunion encompassing all of the region’s African-American schools.
One of the planned guest speakers included civil rights activist Rev. Jesse Jackson, who canceled his appearance earlier this week due to his mother being in the hospital. That didn’t stop him from sending his best to the reunion, though. Jackson sent a several-minute video clip to Sneed, who kept it a surprise until showing the clip after the banquet Saturday evening.
Between 1963 and 1966, the region’s African-American schools closed for integration, including Langston High School in Johnson City, Douglass High School in Kingsport, Douglass High School in Bristol, Virginia, Slater High School in Bristol, Tennessee, George Clem High School, Douglas High School, Tanner High School, Swift College High School, Arty Lee High School, Morristown West High School, Nelson-Merry High School, Austin High School, and Bland High School, which combined Central High School and Appalachia Training School.
PLEASE SEE THE VIDEOS AND PICTURES FROM THE EVENT IN THE NEXT STORY