CLEVELAND – After a 62-year-long legal battle, the Cleveland School District desegregation case ended. But the story of Cleveland Central High School is just beginning. And who better to tell it than the people who came from separate schools to unify a student body in the Mississippi Delta.

“Behind The Headlines: Cleveland Central,” launching today, takes readers behind the scenes — in the classrooms, on the practice fields, at the seminal events in the lives of Bolivar County teenagers — to show the successes and stumbles as students from the predominately black East Side High School and racially mixed Cleveland High leave old traditions and relationships behind and create new ones during the first year of the desegregation order.

Homecoming reveals hopes, fears amid Cleveland’s desegregation journey

Some welcomed the order and some resented it. They all will have their say as Mississippi Today reporters Kelsey Davis and Aallyah Wright talk with students throughout the school year. Their stories, videos and photos can be seen at Behind the Headlines: Cleveland Central

Recently crowned Homecoming Queen Olecia James and fellow student Ava Lubin are the first to tell their stories. And there will be plenty more to come.

Cleveland Central Middle, High hold first classes under desegregation order

By graduation day, we expect students to tell us, in their own voices, what went right and what went wrong in the historic first year of Cleveland Central High School.


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Aallyah Wright is a native of Clarksdale, and was a Mississippi Delta reporter covering education and local government. She was also a weekly news co-host on WROX Radio (97.5 FM) and collaborator with StoryWorks/Reveal Labs from the Center for Investigative Reporting. Aallyah has a bachelor’s in journalism with minors in communications and theater from Delta State University. She is a 2018 Educating Children in Mississippi Fellow at the Hechinger Report, and co-founder of the Mississippi Delta Public Newsroom.