Willie Stewart oral history project explores voluntary desegregation program

7/21/2017 | TACOMA, Washington

Willie Stewart at the opening of Willie Stewart Academy in 2015
​ ​​​​​Retired administrator and school board member Willie Stewart played a key role in a program in the late 1960s aimed at eliminating de facto racial segregation in Tacoma Public Schools, and a recent oral history project by a TPS employee explores that story.

Stewart talked about his involvement in the program, as well as his time as the first black principal in Tacoma Public Schools and his early life in a conversation with Katie Jennison, an administrative secretary in the Teaching and Learning Department. Jennison interviewed Stewart for a class she took about Tacoma community history as part of a graduate program at the University of Washington Tacoma.

The desegregation program involved closing several schools and letting students choose which school they would like to attend. Stewart oversaw a summer counseling program that helped students and their families adjust to the changes

"It was a privilege to interview Mr. Stewart, and I was astounded at how essential his role was in the success of the desegregation plan," Jennison said. "It's truly a story that everyone in TPS should have access to, and I feel privileged to have contributed to rediscovering its history."

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