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Black History Month: Evelyn C. Robertson, Author and Educator

By Erica Williams
By ewilliams@wbbjtv.com

WHITEVILLE, Tenn- He was a student during segregation and would later go on to be an educator before and after schools were desegregated. Now Evelyn C. Robertson is focused on keeping an educational landmark alive.

"The concept of separate but equal was never a true concept because it wasn't equal," said Robertson, who was a teacher and later a principal at Allen White school in Whiteville. It was the only school in Hardeman County where African Americans could get an education.

"There were hand-me-down books that were provided to the black schools," said Robertson. "The buildings were often times in a state of despair."

In 1970, Robertson saw a change. Schools were integrated and he became the first black assistant principal of Central High School in Bolivar; but it was the experience he had at Allen White that would later shape his life.

In 2010, he wrote the book, "Education and The American Dream" to chronicle the history of Allen White.

"The community was based upon the school because people identified Allen White with Whiteville," said Robertson.

African Americans throughout Hardeman County were not the only ones to be educated at the school. Robertson recalls students from Mississippi and Arkansas who also took advantage of the school's live-in campus because they didn't have transportation to get home.

"Students and other families made tremendous sacrifices to get their kids an education and I want to make sure the younger generation remembers it," said Robertson.

After his career as an educator, Robertson later saw success as the first black superintendent of Western Mental Health in Bolivar. He also served as the Tennessee Commissioner of Mental Health and Retardation.