Tuesday, November 7, 2017

November 10th 1976: 40th Anniversary of the Manual High School Race Riots (Vol.1 Issue 4)

On November 10th, 1976, a violent incident at duPont Manual High School resulted in over 30 students suspended, 16 students injured, and 8 arrested by the Louisville Police department.

According to duPont Manual historian Mike McDaniel in his 2005 book on the history of the school, November 11, 1976 was "quite probably the worst day in the history of Manual."

The incident, referred to as a 'race riot' by the Board of Education and faculty at the school,  was extensively covered by reporter Wanda Nichols, in several articles in the Courier Journal.

According to Nichols investigation, tensions had been rising between white and black students for awhile at the school, but unrelated to the 'busing for desegregation' disturbances happening around the same time, such as at Durrett and Fairdale high schools, as Manual was exempt from court-ordered busing because its racial makeup already met federal guidelines; At the time duPont Manual had about 1,600 white students and 800 black students.

Students reported to Nichols that for some time white students complained that they were punished more harshly than black students for infractions. Manual Principal George Sauer addressed parents at a meeting that night reassuring parents that 'We don't care what color they are. The same offense gets the same punishment regardless of race.'

But students told Nichols that the riot that occurred in the cafeteria on the morning of November 10 was over an incident with two black students who had previously been suspended returned returned to school that morning and harmed a white girl. Next 150 white students stormed the hallways chanting 'White Power' which resulted in a vicious clash in the cafeteria shortly before 11 am. that ended with 20 police officers rushing into the school to stop the riot. An unnamed security guard told Nichols "those kids were really trying to kill each other."

Wanda Nichols found that two Manual girls were treated at area hospitals for injuries congruent with a physical assault, although one of the girls, Bonnie Boston, reported that she was unable to determine the race of the assailants. For the rest of the week Manual High School was surrounded by police cars and guarded by over a dozen officers. "The worst I've ever been hurt in 18 years I've been in the school system" Principle Sauer told Nichols about the actions of his students; "I was ashamed. I was embarrassed."

The history of duPont Manual High School shows an altogether opposite interpretation of tolerance than of the actions on November 10th 1976. dupont Manual High School is an amalgamation of two High Schools, Female High School (opened in 1856 as the counterpart to Male High School) and duPont Manual Training High School (for boys) opening in 1892. They merged in 1950 becoming the coeduactional duPont Manual High School.
And even though Male and Manual have the oldest football rivalry in the state (dating back to 1893), the two schools (and football teams) successfully merged from 1915 to 1919.

duPont Manual eventually moved past the incident, what Principal Sauer called the "blemish on the school's name," and in 1991 Manual was recognized as a Blue Ribbon School  by the United States Department of Education, the highest honor the department can bestow on a school.

duPont Manual High School (Public Domain Photo)

Source Guide:

 "Stand Up and Cheer : the Official History of du Pont Manual High School, Louisville, Kentucky" by Mike McDaniel (2005). 

"Racial Fight at Manual High School causes several injuries,  two arrests" by Wanda Nichols in the Courier-Journal. Nichols, Wanda (1976-11-11).  

"Calm Restored, Manual Seeks Causes of Unrest" by Wanda Nichols in the  Courier-Journal. (1976-11-12). 

 "Manual teachers want money for more security guards" by Wanda Nichols in the  Courier-Journal. (1976-11-13).