1971 High School Protest

David Hartful began his senior year by making the honor roll the first semester. The second semester he decided not only to improve his future but the future of all the black kids going to high school in Murfreesboro now and in the future. He and other concerned Black students decide to create Murfreesboro Central High’s first Black Student Union.

The first order of business was to have a ceremony honoring Dr. Martin Luther King. He was assassinated only three years earlier. The first ceremony was at Central High School on April 2, 1971. The second was open to the public and held at First Baptist Church on April 4, 1971.

Later that month the students stage a sit-in at the high school. They wanted better treatment and more opportunities at the high school. The list of demands were:

  1. Two more black cheerleaders
  2. A black speaker at commencement
  3. A black speaker at commencement ceremony
  4. More black literature in the library
  5. More black teachers and coaches

Their actions got the attention of the faculty and the school board. In a Saturday school board meeting, they were able to make their demands and talk about what it was like to be a black student at the recently integrated school. They saw white students being punished more leniently than black students. Many of their concerns were similar to the concerns we have today.

The school board did have some push back. For example, Mrs. Richard Reeves said many blacks have excelled and Central High and cited, David Hartful, as an example. Forever, they ultimately realized they had to capitulate. Principal Swafford said the following:

“This situation would not be where it is if the black students who came to see me on Wednesday morning had not demanded. They not only demanded action, but made it clear I don’t have much time to make up my mind”

The school board did not comply with the demand to give the BSU two black cheerleaders. They compromised at two new cheerleaders, one black and one white. David Hartful was allowed to speak at commencement. His speech can be found on this website.

Jerry Anderson Foundation

Jerry Anderson was a star athlete from Murfreesboro, TN and Vice President of the black student union. After graduation, he went to the University of Oklahoma, where he was a star cornerback. During his college football career, he led the Sooners to the 1974 and 1975 National Championships. He later went on to play in the National Football League as a Cincinnati Bengals and the Canadian Football League.

Football was not Anderson’s only passion. He wanted to help people and especially children. His first act of selflessness came during the Tulsa flood of 1984. Anderson rescued two people trapped in vehicles. However, he was haunted because there was one he could not save. After his football career was over, Anderson headed back to Tennessee to pursue a degree. He wanted to get a job helping children.

On Memorial Day of 1989, Anderson decides to go fishing with two young family members. At the same time, two other boys, Pooh McFarlan and Johny Lodgson decided to fish nearby. The two boys fishing nearby decide they need to move to catch more fish. There was an old dam nearby that was underwater because the river was swollen. The boys decided to cross to the other side of the river by walking on the dam.

When the boys were walking on the damn, one slipped and fell into the river. The current was so strong he started to be pulled underwater. The other boy attempted to save the first, and he fell. Anderson sees the boys in the whirlpool and jumps in the river to save them. The boys that came with Jerry ran to call 911.

Anderson swam out to the whirlpool and was able to toss both boys out of the whirlpool so they can swim to shore. Jerry watched as both boys swam safely to shore. Unfortunately, Jerry would not be able to save himself. He attempts to swim out of the whirlpool, but can’t free himself. He comes up for air three times before losing the battle. A paramedic arrives on the scene, but it is too late. Jerry’s body was exhumed and transported to the hospital. He was declared dead on arrival.

The death of Anderson hit the class of 1971 very hard. Plans began to create someway to honor him. It was decided to create a foundation to help underprivileged children. The scope would begin as local and would grow nationally. The first project the group embarked upon was getting a pool named after Anderson in a low-income part of town. With that mission in mind, The Jerry Anderson Memorial Foundation was born in October 1989.

From the beginning, the foundation had influential Tennesseans on the board and serving as officials. On the board was a Kiwanis Club Governor, County Executives, the President of First City Bank, and a State Representative.

Murfreesboro NAACP eventually absorbed the Jerry Anderson Foundation. They were successful in buying computers for the Boys and Girls Club in 1991. Even without a formal foundation, the class of 1971 has not stopped helping the community. Their reunion in 2006 resulted in a fundraiser to buy books for school children.