Historians, former civil rights activists, and residents of McComb came out earlier this month to attend the 55th Anniversary of the Burgland High School Walk Out, the first mass Black student movement in Mississippi.
In 1961, Brenda Travis and Isaac Lewis were jailed for trying to integrate the waiting room of a Greyhound Station in Jackson. When Travis returned to school October 4, 1961, at the instruction of the then superintendent Robert S. Simpson, she was expelled by Principal Commodore Dewey Higgins. Travis’s expulsion upon her return to school sparked the Burglund High School walkout.
City Selectman Donovan Hill gave the following statement, “The event was geared toward bringing it all together around the past fight for civil rights and the fight today. Engaging in the Honoring the Past, Undoing Racism Today, and Claiming the Future workshops created the space for civil rights veterans such as Bob Zellner, Hollis Watkins Muhammad, Bob Moses, Bobby Talbert, Joe Lewis, Brenda Travis and current community leaders to talk openly about the issues we faces today. Two things that are still relevant is race and mass incarceration, with one fueling the other.”
Travis and her classmates marched to the City Hall that day in 1961 where many of them were threatened and jailed. In the weeks following, the youth would be allowed back into school but only under certain conditions, while more protests took place. Many students did not return, some were routed to other schools. For her participation however, Travis was sent to Oakley Training School where she remained until April of 1962, when paroled into the custody of Herman Eisman, moving with his family to Alabama.
The event closed with a beautiful banquet joined by many of the Burglund High School graduates. Bob Moses was the Key Speaker for the occasion. The City of McComb and the Town of Summit presented Keys to the City to Bob Moses and Brenda Travis for their dedication and accomplishments during the fight for civil rights. Governor Phil Bryant was requested to apologize to Ms. Travis for her exile from Mississippi, but he did not attend. Instead he wrote a resolution.
Brenda Travis stated many times that there are many people riding the bus of benefits from the work of the Civil Rights era, but the people riding have quickly forgotten about the struggle. We need the people riding to get out and continue to put the wheels in motion because the fight isn’t over!
The Brenda Travis Foundation revealed the design of the historical landmark for Burglund High School during the banquet.
The foundation is asking for donations to fund the project of placing this marker and others around the county to keep the story alive.