‘Southwest Seven’ recall integrating their Atlanta high school 60 years ago

ATLANTA — Channel 2 Action NewsGets Real about the integration of Atlanta Public Schools.

On Tuesday, some of the students who were among the first to integrate their school nearly 60 years ago were honored at their alma mater.

They shared stories about the hardships they endured during that time with Channel 2′s Berndt Petersen.

Today, it’s Jean Childs Young Middle School. But in 1964, it was Southwest High School, and it’s where the “Southwest Seven” changed history.

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Phyllis Jackson Smith will never forget the first time she walked the halls. 

“My father drove us to school that day and dropped us off here,” Smith said. 

She was a member of what became known as the “Southwest Seven.”

“Integration was not easy,” Smith said. 

Smith wanted the current students to know that those who came before had courage beyond compare and endured unspeakable abuse. 


“The [n-word]. I’ll say it. That’s what they always said to me.” 

Smith says, for a time, she was the only Black student in the cafeteria during her lunch period. 

She says she had food thrown at her and was even spit on. 

“To say I went through hell would be an understatement,” Phyllis said. “But my parents taught me to stand firm.”

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Dozens of Southwest graduates were part of a special ceremony Tuesday at the middle school that highlighted their decades of great achievements in every walk of life. 

Smith now has her eyes on the generation that is coming up.

“I want them to embrace their Blackness and realize how great they are and how much they have going for themselves.  Follow through with that,” Phyllis said.