Civil Rights

Sonnie Hereford III

Sonnie Hereford III was an important figure in the desegregation of schools in the United States. He was born on October 6, 1931, in Huntsville, Alabama, and passed away on February 8, 2011. Hereford became known for his role in desegregating public schools in Huntsville during the civil rights movement.

On September 9, 1963, Hereford and his wife, Annie Mae Hereford, made history by enrolling their six-year-old son, Sonnie Hereford IV, in Fifth Avenue School, a previously all-white elementary school in Huntsville. This act challenged the racial segregation policies that had been enforced in the city’s schools.

Dr. Sonnie W. Hereford III and his son Sonnie Hereford IV return home after their first attempt to integrate Huntsville’s Fifth Avenue School was blocked by Alabama State troopers

Hereford’s decision to enroll his son in a white school was a courageous and groundbreaking step. At the time, Alabama, like many other Southern states, was resisting desegregation efforts. Hereford and his family faced intense opposition, including threats and harassment. However, under the protection of federal marshals, Sonnie Hereford IV became the first African American student to attend a white public school in Alabama.

Hereford’s actions helped pave the way for further desegregation efforts in Huntsville and across the state. His bravery and determination in the face of adversity contributed to the dismantling of segregation in schools and played a significant role in advancing civil rights in Alabama.

Sonnie Hereford IV and his father Dr. Sonnie Hereford recreate their Sept. 9, 1963 walk along Governors Dr. to enroll Sonnie as the first black student to enroll at a white Alabama public school on the 50th anniversary of the event

Sonnie Hereford’s legacy is a testament to the courage and resilience of individuals who fought against racial discrimination during the civil rights era. His actions helped to reshape education in Alabama and inspire others to continue the struggle for equal rights and opportunities for all.

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