Integration at Caverna

In 1957 Caverna Schools integrated all 12 grades the same year. The Cave City Colored School and the Horse Cave Colored School were closed, and African American students were sent to Caverna. Newton Thomas, the principal of the Horse Cave Colored School, and Ralph Dorsey, the superintendent of Caverna, were instrumental in orchestrating a smooth transition. The U.S. Supreme Court had declared that integration of schools should occur “with all deliberate speed.” In many Kentucky counties this was interpreted “as slowly as possible,” but it happened quickly at Caverna, one of the first Kentucky school systems to have an integrated teaching staff. Many African American students “didn’t make it” at Caverna and some didn’t even try to go to the integrated school–they dropped out. A generation of students were caught in the trying times of the transition, and these stories reflect the complex emotions and differing perspectives of a culture undergoing change.

Oral Histories

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Ann Matera,
Caverna Class of 1958

“Prof. Thomas, A Giant of a Man”
“The Supreme Court and Appalling Conditions”
“All Twelve Grades at Once”
“Hiring Black Teachers”

Bettie Glover,
Caverna Class of 1967

“Started my career here in 1977”

Martha Rose Miller Turner,
Caverna Class of 1951

“Prof. Thomas was the nicest man”

Seaborn Ellzey,
Caverna Class of 1957

“I would have been resentful as hell”

Beverly Nuckols,

Caverna Class of 1978

“Hard for my Parents to Adjust”

Richard Wilson,

Caverna Class of 1958

“First Black Graduate of Caverna”

“New School and Prof. Thomas”

Clarence Glover
Asst Principal, Farnsley Middle School, Jefferson County Public School

Former Boston Celtics Basketball Player

“Orchestration of Integration”
“Mr. Thomas was Brilliant”
“Mr. Dorsey and Prof. Thomas made me wear shorts”
“With all deliberate speed”

Gloria Boyd,
Caverna Class of 1971

“The First African American Cheerleader and Homecoming Queen”
“Ralph Dorsey, BH Weaver, and Great Teachers at Caverna”
“Generations at Caverna”

Alma Ford

Horse Cave Colored School Student

“Prof. Thomas, he prepared us”
“Prof. Thomas, A Humble Man”
“Caverna Made Me Who I Am Today”
“I was mad”
“The Opportunity Was There”
“Caverna Gave a Future to My Children”

Chris Curry,
Caverna Class of 1986

“Basketball in Horse Cave”
“Negro National Anthem”