Opelika High School, 1972-Present

Dublin Core


Opelika High School, 1972-Present


Education; Lee County, AL; Opelika, AL; Opelika High School, 1972-Present; Desegregation; Civil Rights Era; Johnson, Judge Frank M.; J.W. Darden High School; Opelika High - Southside Campus


In 1969, U.S. District Court Judge Frank M. Johnson ordered the Opelika to desegregate its school system. Observing that African Americans comprised 30 percent of the students enrolled in Opelika city schools, Johnson demanded that all of Opelika’s public schools contain a comparable percentage of African American students by the 1970-1971 school year. In the fall of 1970, Opelika High School (then located on the site of modern-day Opelika Middle School on Denson Drive) reported 37 percent African American enrollment. However, Opelika’s school board denoted J.W. Darden High School (Opelika’s black high school) a vocational adjunct campus of Opelika High School in November 1969 and renamed the school Opelika High – Southside Campus. Coincidentally, every student who chose a vocational curriculum in fall 1970 was African American, and Opelika’s high schools consequently remained segregated. The 37 percent enrollment figure included the raw total of the two separate campuses.

Noting Johnson’s irritation over the violation of the spirit of his order and fearful of being censured by either him or the Department of Justice, in 1971 Opelika’s school board purchased property and quickly began erecting a new high school. They recognized that the Denson Drive campus was too small to accommodate the newly-integrated student body. Completed in less than 10 months by a Texas-based architectural firm, the new Opelika High School opened in fall 1972. No massive white flight or significant violent episodes occurred upon the school’s full integration. In the years since its opening, Opelika High School constructed an on-campus football stadium, a performing arts center, a new band room, and a video production studio. The school stands to this day at 1700 Lafayette Parkway, Opelika.


Taylor McGaughy


Image Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opelika_High_School

Text Sources: Joseph M. Bagley, A Meaningful Reality: The Integration of the Opelika, Alabama City School System, 1965-1972 (MA Thesis, Auburn University, 2007), 5, 42-48.

Opelika High School, http://www.opelikaschools.org/ohs/.

The Heritage of Lee County Book Committee, The Heritage of Lee County, Alabama (Clanton, AL: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 2000), 78.


Lee County Cultural Resource Survey




Taylor McGaughy


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