Fifty years after graduating, the last segregated black class of Pine Street School returned to Conway to celebrate, reminisce and honor classmates who have died.
The theme of the event was one of perseverance and camaraderie. Instead of focusing on the injustice of segregation, the classmates celebrated their bond as the last segregated black class in Conway.
Pine Street graduate and member of the reunion committee Cozetta Crenshaw said she and all of her classmates were well aware that they would be the last class to graduate from Pine Street; after 1967, black students were divided up and sent to schools in their own districts.
In 1966, Pine Street seniors were given the choice to stay and graduate from the school or to attend one of the newly desegregated schools in the county. Crenshaw said her parents allowed her to make the choice, so she chose to stay.
"It was an unforgettable thing," Crenshaw said. "There was this sense of pride and this sense of pain."
After graduating from Pine Street, Crenshaw attended Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical and Normal College, now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. She graduated in 1971 and went on to teach high schoolers and, later, adults in Conway for 30 years. She said she was inspired to go into teaching by one of her Pine Street teachers, Alma Davis.
Crenshaw returned to Pine Street the summer after her freshman year at AM&N, hoping to reminisce about the school she had attended since the age of 7, but it was gone.
"When I got there, I only saw the elementary building," Crenshaw said. "I was devastated. There were a lot of wonderful memories, and I couldn’t go there anymore."
Included in the reunion were those who attended Pine Street in 1965, 1966 and 1967 because many students went back to desegregated schools in their own districts to graduate. One such student was Ruby Galt-Walker, who attended Pine Street until her junior year, after which she attended Greenbrier High School.
"It was shocking, leaving all my friends from the first grade through tenth grade," Galt-Walker said. "But my transition was good. I was treated well."
The reunion was kicked off with a buffet-style dinner and music. One couple, Pine Street graduate Samuel Smith and his guest Tamara Guy, were the first on the dance floor.
Throughout the night, Crenshaw read trivia-style questions out of the 1967 Pine Street yearbook, including "What was the theme of our first prom in 1966?" The answer: A shower of stars.
Classmates who had died before the reunion were honored with a candle-lighting ceremony, during which each remaining graduate lit a candle for each name on the list.
This reunion marked the fourth since 1967, Crenshaw said. The most recent reunion was the 30th reunion on July 4, 1997, so it has been 20 years since the remaining graduates have come together.
The night before the reunion at Hilton Garden Inn in Conway, the graduates met for a casual meet and greet with classmates and former teachers. On Sunday morning the group attended a worship service at Greater Pleasant Branch Baptist Church.