Green McAdoo Cultural Center

The Green McAdoo Cultural Center tells the saga of the infamous days in 1956 when Clinton became the scene of the first court-ordered integration of a public high school in the South. The center is located in the former Green McAdoo Grammar School, which was built in the 1930s to serve the local black population. The school was named for Green L. McAdoo, a former "Buffalo soldier" who became a leader of the black community.

The museum lays out the story of the "Clinton 12," the black students who enrolled at Clinton High School, by giving visitors a "chalk talk" setting the scene in the early 1950s. Visitors then walk through a series of exhibits including anti-integration propaganda, hate letters as well as notes of encouragement, and ends with film interviews of some of the participants.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this museum is the sheer number of primary sources on display--a wide selection of actual letters, one from CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow, and one addressed by some hater to "Paul Turner, DEVIL OF THE FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH." Rev. Turner was a white minister who supported integration and who, for his good works, received all manner of abuse. The filmed interviews are long--as much as 15 minutes in some cases. The most moving to me was that of the principal of Clinton High School, a decent man who because of circumstances was thrust into a situation that called on him to display an amazing level of leadership. His good work took a terrible toll, however, as he committed suicide years later.

Many of the exhibit photographs came from Life magazine, and have been blown up to the point that the human figures are life-size. I was particularly struck by one shot of two black people, fear on their faces, inside a car surrounded by angry-looking whites. The white people in that photo could still be alive, and most certainly their children are still around. One wonders if any of them have come to this place to see this image.

The Museum is open Tuesday thru Saturday 10 am - 5 pm. Call 865-463-6500 for information. No admission is charged. To get there from Knoxville, From I-75 north bound, take exit 122. Turn left onto Rt. 61. Take a right at the red light onto Broad Street. Once you cross Main Street, take a slight right onto Hillcrest St. Take a left onto School Street. Parking is on the right.