54 Years Later: A High School Diploma

Email a Friend
From and

This month and next, young people all over the country will be trading in their high school textbooks for caps and gowns.

But in the case of Olivia Ferguson McQueen, the trade won’t be happening over night; it will be happening after a gap of more than fifty years.

McQueen should have graduated in 1959. But - rather than complete her senior year with her classmates at her all-black high school in Charlottesville, Virginia - she was a plaintiff in a lawsuit to desegregate the city’s schools.

A judge ruled in her favor, but the Governor fought the ruling, and McQueen, as a result, found herself trapped in a limbo: not able to attend an all-white school, and not willing to go back to her all-black school either.

And so, she completed high school with tutors and in the end, received a makeshift certificate typed on plain paper, rather than a formal diploma.

This past weekend, however, McQueen finally received a proper diploma from the Charlottesville City Schools, handed to her by the superintendent herself.