‘It was a total year of isolation’: Dr. LaVon Bracy recalls being the first black graduate of Gainesville High School

‘It was a total year of isolation’: Dr. LaVon Bracy recalls being the first black graduate of Gainesville High School
(WFTV.com News Staff)

ORLANDO, Fla. — Dr. LaVon Bracy was the first African American to graduate from Gainesville High School in 1965.

In an interview with Channel 9, Bracy talks about the hardships she encountered while attending Gainesville High School.

Bracy lived with her family in St. Augustine before moving to Gainesville. Bracy’s father was the president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in St. Augustine.

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When Bracy’s family moved to Gainesville, her father told her mother that he would not do anything related to civil rights.

“Well, that lasted a hot minute,” Bracy said. Her father soon became the president of the NAACP in Gainesville.

Ten years after Brown v. Board of Education, schools in Gainesville were still segregated.

The NAACP filed a lawsuit against the Alachua County School Board and won. A judge said the schools had to integrate immediately.

Bracy said her father had to find students to be integrated in schools. She said her father knocked on about 500 doors and found one 10th-grader, one 11th-grader and no 12th-graders.

Bracy was in 12th grade at the time and wanted to help her father. She then volunteered to go to the new school.

Bracy said her mother was livid and refused to let her daughter go. She said her father told her mother, “I can’t ask other parents if I’m not willing to make the sacrifice that they’re making.”

Eventually, Bracy’s mother allowed her to go.

When recalling her first day of school, Bracy said she was called names and spat on.

“It was like I had an infectious disease and no one wanted to be around me,” Bracy said.

Bracy said she sat in silence for an entire year while attending Gainesville High School because no one wanted to be seen talking to her.

“It was the most isolated year of my life,” Bracy said. “It was isolated on two fronts. I went to school, nobody talked to me. Then, all of my friends on the other side alienated me because they thought that I thought that I was better than them now that I’m going to the white school. So, I lost my black friends and I had no friends on the other side. So, it was a total year of isolation.”

When Bracy graduated, she didn’t want to go to the ceremony. She said she begged her parents to not let her go.

“My mother said, ‘All the hell you’ve been through this year, you going to graduation,'" Bracy said.

Although she was nervous, Bracy said she went to her graduation.

“When I got to graduation, the first thing I did was to look at my seat to see if in fact there were any tacks. That’s the first day that there were no tacks,” Bracy said.

Bracy said when she left Gainesville, she went to a historically black institution. She said she used that opportunity to heal and to become an advocate for voter registration.

“I began to speak for those who could not speak for themselves because I promised myself after a full year of being silent that I’d never be silent again,” Bracy said.

You can watch the full interview here.

Dr. Bracy integrated Gainesville High in 1965. She endured emotional and physical abuse while enrolled there. She graduated, but she says it took a long time for the wounds to heal.