‘Deadly learning’: Edgar Fallin recalls ‘lonely years’ as a black student at Austin High School

Huntsville, Ala. (WAFF) – We are kicking off our “Black History Month Series” in honor of a local family that was part of the civil rights movement in Morgan County.

Edgar Hill Fallin was 12 years old when Morgan County schools were desegregated in 1967.

“I was the only black student at Austin High School in 7th grade and even the next year in 8th grade,” Fallin said.

She says that her father left her that morning.

“It was deathly quiet. Dad didn’t say anything. When we got to school, Dad looked at me and said have a good day, you’ll be fine. Then he just drove off. Later he told me it was the hardest day in was his life. But he told me to be brave, so he should be brave too.”

He said that overall his experience at Austin Heights was violence-free. He said there were several instances when students and his teacher would not hold his hand during certain activities. But she said it was a lonely time. “I came from Westlawn Primary School where I had many friends. I was somewhat popular and enjoyed school. So now I was in a situation where I was the only black girl with no friends. That’s why I call it the lonely years,” Fallin said.

Almost 56 years have passed since his experience, but he still remembers the days and months leading up to the breakup like it was yesterday.

“Before that, we had a number of Sabbath schools. They talked to us to prepare us for this separation process. They always told us to sit in front of the class. They also told us not to take revenge and not to be violent. But most importantly, they told us to learn our lesson and represent the race with pride.” She continued, “My father always told me that God will protect us and everything will be fine.”

His father, Edwin Hill, was a changeling. He served as principal at North Alabama High School and later served as principal at Toney High School. He was also a group director at the William Hooper Huntsville High Council and a civil rights leader in North Alabama.

“When Dad was in Hillsboro, he joined with other parents to desegregate the schools in Lawrence County. But Dad was heavily involved in the merger of the Alabama State Teachers Association and the Alabama Education Association. ASTA was for black teachers and AEA was for white teachers. so he helped with the merger,” Fallin said.

Edgar Hill Fallin says that growing up, her parents protected her and her siblings from separation. “Their response to segregation was not participating in it. We didn’t go and sit in the balcony at the movies. I was in 8th grade before I saw the movie. We stayed in our rows. I used to think my parents were mean. But they sheltered us. “said Fallin.

Looking back, she says she has a better understanding and respect for her upbringing and why her parents decided to make a difference.

“When I realized what it was all about, I was invited to a history class at Austin High School a few years ago. When I looked around the classroom, I saw black kids, Hispanic kids, and Asian kids. That’s when I realized that that’s what it was all about,” Fallin said.

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