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Racial Tensions Still Linger 35 Years After Civil Rights Movement in Selma, AlabamaAired March 5, 2000 - 8:19 a.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: On March 7th, 1965, Selma, Alabama was the starting point for one of the bloodiest civil rights marches in U.S. history. That march is being re-enacted today in a city where some things have changed but others remain the same 35 years later.
CNN's Aram Roston reports.
ARAM ROSTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John Simpson was not allowed to go to Selma High School when he grew up. It was an all white high school.
JOHN SIMPSON, PRINCIPAL, SELMA HIGH SCHOOL: I was black. Simple as that. Could not go to school. And I wouldn't dare go there. I would probably get arrested, of course, if I had tried.
ROSTON: Now, 48 years old, after a career in the air force, Simpson is back in Selma as the principal of that very school. The school that was all white back then is now 99.5 percent black even though 40 percent of Selma's population is white. Many white parents have been sending their children to a different school, the John T. Morgan Academy. It's a private school just a few miles away where there are no black students.
CHRISTOPHER DE BUZNA, JOHN T. MORGAN ACADEMY: We have, I think, about 20 minority students here, Japanese, Filipine, Iranian, Iraqi, Indian. So we have probably 20 of 650 some students.
ROSTON (on camera): Are there any black children?
DE BUZNA: No.
ROSTON (voice-over): The headmaster says no black students have ever attended the school since it was founded in 1965 and he says not a single black student has ever applied.
(on camera): What is your explanation for this?
DE BUZNA: I have none. You know, that's their option. If they want to come and, you know, take our entrance test and if they want to apply, then they'll be, you know, go through the process like everybody else. You know, if nobody's ever applied, I can't answer your question.
ROSTON (voice-over): The march across the bridge for voting rights and the brutal way it was crushed made Selma a symbol of the civil rights struggle in the south. Images of what was later called Bloody Sunday helped galvanize support for the Voting Rights Act. But now, over the last 10 years, people have noticed a stark process of resegregation.
SIMPSON: It seems that the people here in Selma seem not quite ready yet to integrate. It seems that it's blatantly done this way. The blacks are going to one school, the whites are going to the other and it's hurting the city and it's hurting the schools -- and it's hurting the students.
ROSTON: The school superintendent says Selma is just a symptom of a national trend.
JAMES CARTER, SELMA SCHOOLS SUPERINTENDENT: It's not unique to Selma. I think it's a problem in the country where you have the resegregation of schools throughout this nation.
ROSTON: Some people here in Selma say just as the city became a symbol for racial injustice 35 years ago, it can be seen as a reflection now of racial tensions that remain.
Aram Roston, CNN, Selma, Alabama.
O'BRIEN: Later today, President Clinton will take part in events marking the 35th anniversary of the march. CNN is planning live coverage of his speech in Selma at 2:00 P.M. Eastern Time.
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