HHS honors integration graduate

Published 3:22 pm Thursday, March 2, 2017

During its Black History Program, HHS honored Essie M. Richardson. Richardson was the first African American graduate of HHS in 1966

By: Shayla Terry

With the last days of February approaching, Highland Home School honored their own hero during their Black History Month program.

Essie M. Richardson was the first African American student to graduate from Highland Home in 1966. Richardson went on to become a graduate of Alabama State University, and is a former accountant and entrepreneur.

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Richardson says she chose to attend Highland because of her interest in business.

“There was a form sent out, and we had to complete the form stating where we wanted to go,” she said. “I wanted to get into the business profession, and they didn’t offer that educational course at Helican. I chose Highland Home.”

Richardson faced discrimination, but chose to stay at the school despite difficulty.

“When I came in the class was full,” Richardson said. “There were questions about whether or not we had enough chairs to seat one more person, or the extra energy to instruct one more person.”

A former student at Highland with Richardson spoke of how lonely of a process integration was for Richardson, yet she was always humble.

She graduated ranked number five out of 33 students.

Highland Home honored Richardson with the 2017 Standing Tall Award for her bravery and perseverance.

Students also performed speeches, skits, and dance ensembles throughout the program; with Assistant Principal Dr. Victoria K. Reese reciting Maya Angelou’s Still I rise in closing.

“Mrs. Essie Mae Richardson, because of you I rise,” Reese said. “Because of the names we bear on our shirts, we rise. Highland Home School, we rise.”

Students and faculty members wore shirts that paid homage to various African American trailblazers.