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In
his book, “Crispus Attucks High School: Hail to the Green and Gold, Dr. Stanley Warren, a graduate and former teacher at
Attucks, writes: “The story of Crispus Attucks High School has many ups and downs, but
its place in history can never be questioned. The seeds planted for almost 90
years by the students, staff and community have bloomed magnificently and
spread a tasty fruit far beyond the boundaries of the school. Resisting
constant pressure to accept mediocrity was the watchword that kept the faithful
fighting for what they felt was their birthright and the birthright of their
children.”Pat Payne

 

Born
out of racism during the early 1900s, IPS school board members and misguided
members of the community decided that black and white high school students, who
had attended school together for decades, should be separated. So in 1927, a
new school (Crispus Attucks High School) was built and designated for black
students only.

 
But instead of becoming a reservoir for disparity and inequity,
they took lemons and made lemonade! The education that one received at Crispus
Attucks High School (now Crispus Attucks Medical Magnet High School) was
unmatched anywhere. The development of the student was the number one priority
of the school. The students who attended through those years are still voicing
high praise for the school and the staff.

 

This
was not at all a coincidence. Many of the teachers had earned their master’s
degrees and Ph.D.s when they were recruited to teach at Crispus Attucks. Staff
members worked together as a team to provide a thorough education, while at the
same time developing character, strengthening values and demonstrating pride in
the school and in African-American culture.

 

They
looked at the student as a whole person. They respected their students and
helped them identify the intrinsic gifts that they each brought with them to
the learning experience.

 

“Don’t spend
energy being bitter because someone has closed a door. Find another open door
and know that you are capable of doing anything that you are willing to work
hard to achieve — in spite of the low expectations and negative circumstances
that may surround you. You must never use racism as an excuse for failure
because failure is not an option.” This is what students learned and this is what they lived.

 

The
documentary, “Attucks: The School That Opened a City” will leave you breathless, as
countless alumni who now live throughout the country, recount how the school
touched their lives and magnified their spirit.

 

We
have filmmaker Ted Green and WFYI to thank for documenting the truth and
bringing it to our community. We have IPS to thank for implementing the historical
inquiry Crispus Attucks High School Documentary K-12 Curriculum Guide, written
to accompany the film by educators from Butler University, IUPUI and
Indianapolis Public Schools. We have Heartland Film Festival to thank for sponsoring
the film premier at the Madame Walker Theatre.

Pat Payne is the director of the
Office of Racial Equity at IPS. A graduate of Shortridge High School, Payne is
the former director of the Crispus Attucks Museum and a retired IPS teacher.