Soul of the Coast: Integrating Schools

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The Mississippi Gulf Coast is rich with diversity, history, and culture and it’s thanks to those who call the Coast home.

In part three of our four part series ‘Soul of the Coast’ News 25’s Victoria Bailey introduces us to a woman whose life was shaped by her experience growing up in South Mississippi.

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Carlis Daniels-Hinton is a Coast resident. “I was born in Biloxi and raised there for the first eight years of my life. My father was a cement finisher so he decided he would build a house and he bought some land in Handsboro. He built a small house on Victory Street and that’s where they raised us.”

She grew up during the 50s and 60s, when things for people of color living in the South were unequal and hard. But Daniels-Hinton says thanks to her community, she was always encouraged to reach her goals. “I went to 33rd. It was called 33rd Junior High. All the black students went to that school at that time. It was a very good school. The teachers were people that we knew in our community, they attended the churches that we attended. They knew our parents so they had a vested interest in us and we were accountable to them.”

Nationwide, the country was in an upset as African-Americans were in the fight against injustice and for equality. The 1954 landmark decision Brown versus the Board of Education ruled racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional. It was then that things began to change for Daniels-Hinton. “We only had one television in our house and a lot of things in the news about the civil rights movement, the riots, the dogs being sic’d on protesters and things like that. So, the community got together at the K.P. Hall in our community and asked us, the students, if we wanted to desegregate the school system.”

Daniels says several students volunteered, but she was among the few who actually made the transition. “My 9th through 12th grade I went to the Gulfport East High School. We didn’t have a prom. Most of the clubs we weren’t invited to, basically isolated in the classrooms and not given the attention that other students, white students, enjoyed.”

Daniels-Hinton was a member of the National Honor Society and graduated with all A’s and a high ACT score, but says she still could not get any encouragement from her new school. “I got no counseling about going to school. So I had an older brother Emmerson and he had some books and one of them was Howard University, I said let me look at that and I said that’s where I want to go.”

She received several scholarships, was accepted to the Howard University School of Nursing, and graduated cum laude, debt-free.

After graduation, Daniels-Hinton moved to Atlanta, got married and joined the political activist movement where she worked on campaigns for prolific leaders like Manard Jackson, Andrew Young, and Cheryl Franklin.

In 1996, she found a lump in her right breast. “I had connections. I was able to put together my team of all female doctors who did my care. I wasn’t really scared at the time when I had it because I guess being a nurse and a surgical nurse you see a lot of things. You see a lot of disease and death. I had a little bit of faith in the fact that if you just get the treatments and stay positive then it will work out, and it did work out. I haven’t had any re-occurrence since 1996.”

Now Daniels-Hinton is retired, living in Gulfport, working with her family business at the Almanett Hotel and Bistro. She says the youth can’t be faulted for not knowing the struggle if the older generation isn’t passing it along.  “The kids are kind of removed from the historical perspective of being black and the things we had to go through. When we were younger, we heard stories all the time about older people talking about how it was when they were growing up. Things they had to go through. You knew they had to come through some hardships. Now-a-days I’m not sure who’s to blame for it. The problem is the school system isn’t teaching history, us not being included in the history.”

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