bay st. louis, African Americans, integration, st. rose de lima, festival, segregation

Bay St. Louis celebrates first school to accept African Americans in the 1960’s

BAY ST. LOUIS- In Mississippi., The St. Rose De Lima Annual Heritage Festival celebrates African American history in Bay St. Louis. WGNO's Adam Bowles has more on this historical festival.

Bay St. Louis isn't just an ordinary beach town. One school in the town is celebrating history by being the very first school there to accept African Americans.

"It was a dream for me and we were fortunate to go to St. Rose De Lima," Marilyn Smith says.

Marilyn is 70 years old, but she went to St. Rose De Lima Catholic School back when segregation was real. Now in 2018, African Americans here in Bay St. Louis are celebrating being fortunate, after years ago some struggled.

"Ummm it was horrible. Yea I mean for me because I was crying every day because I didn't want to go to school," Glinda Jackson says.

School was different back then. St. Rose De Lima Catholic School was the very first school in Bay St. Louis to integrate back in the 1960's. But now, at this ordinary heritage festival; the people of Bay St Louis are celebrating the extraordinary and just being together.

"I can say that, we were privileged," Marilyn says. "We didn't have to go to another school to integrate. But, it was the best education and it was the best place to be for young black Americans."

They are moving on with lives of their own.

"The sisters, they were master degree teachers, they had doctors degrees."

They are celebrating with a festival, with people of all color in Bay St. Louis.

''It's just a wonderful place to live. It's a wonderful place to grow up. It's a wonderful place to live in now," Marilyn says.

The St. Rose De Lima Catholic Church welcomed the public to pray during the festival.  The church is known for it's mural depicting an African American Christ figure rising from an oak tree.