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Exhibit honoring Oak Ridge 85 opens at Oak Ridge History Museum

The Oak Ridge 85 were the first to integrate public schools in the southeast in 1955.

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. — A new exhibit honoring the 65th anniversary of the pioneering Oak Ridge 85 officially opened at the Oak Ridge History Museum on Friday.

On Sept. 6, 1955, 85 Black students from the historic Scarboro community integrated Oak Ridge High School and Robertsville Junior High, becoming the first to desegregate public schools in the southeast.

RELATED: The Secret in Scarboro: The Oak Ridge 85

The 65th Anniversary Exhibition includes three major components:

  • A series of panels describing the history of the Oak Ridge 85 students with full-color photos of the 85 and their accomplishments
  • The “Secret Growth” exhibit from the American Museum of Science and Energy, which details the growth of the community of Black Americans who first came to Tennessee to help with the World War II Manhattan Project
  •  An exhibit of 26 entries in a recent  Art and Poetry Competition for K to 12 students held by the Oak Ridge Schools honoring the civil rights leadership and courage of the Oak Ridge 85 students. With more than 130 entries to the competition, the district was able to publish a book of the students' works that is available on Amazon.

The organizing committee said it is about coming together as a community.

"Very early on we adopted the theme of Friends and Neighbors. That's what we wanted to do through this celebration. Help people understand how we were friends and neighbors and how we, as friends and neighbors, could come together and celebrate this," said Dr. Martin McBride with the 65th Anniversary Celebration Committee.

The exhibition will run throughout the month of September. The Oak Ridge History Museum is located at 102 Robertsville Road in Oak Ridge.

During the ribbon-cutting, the organizing committee also announced the Oak Ridge 85 and the Secretary of Energy had been recognized with the Social Responsibility in the Nuclear Community Award, a national civil rights award from the American Nuclear Society.

Credit: Elizabeth Sims
The Oak Ridge 85 and the Secretary of Energy were recognized with the Social Responsibility in the Nuclear Community Award by the American Nuclear Society.