‘Deathly Quiet’: Eddgra Fallin recalls ‘lonely years’ as only Black student at Austin High School

“My dad always told me that God will protect us and that it was going to be ok.”
Eddgra Fallin
Eddgra Fallin(Eddgra Fallin)
Published: Feb. 13, 2023 at 4:50 PM CST
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - We are kicking off our “Black History Month Series” honoring a local family who was part of the civil rights movement in Morgan County.

Eddgra Hill Fallin was 12 years old when Morgan County Schools desegregated in 1967.

“I was the only black student at Austin High School in the 7th and even the next year in 8th grade,” Fallin said.

She says her father dropped her off that morning.

“It was deathly quiet. Dad didn’t say anything. When we got to school dad looked at me and told me to have a good day, you’re going to be fine. Then he just drove off. He later told me that was the hardest day of his life. But he told me to be brave, so he had to be brave too.”

She said overall her experience at Austin High was non-violent. She said there were several instances where students and her teacher wouldn’t hold her hand during certain activities. But she said it was a lonely time. “I was coming from Westlawn Elementary where I had a lot of friends. I was somewhat popular and enjoyed school. So now I was in a situation, where I was the only black girl with no friends. So this is why I call it the lonely years,” Fallin said.

It’s been nearly 56 years since her experience, but she still remembers the days and months leading up to desegregation like it was yesterday.

“Leading up to this, we had a series of Saturday schools. They talked to us to prepare us for this process of desegregation. They told us to always sit in front of the class. They also told us not to retaliate and remain non-violent. But most importantly, they told us to get our lesson and represent the race with pride.” She went on to say, “My dad always told me that God will protect us and that it was going to be ok.”

Her Father, Edwin Hill was a changemaker. He served as principal at North Alabama High and later went on to serve as principal at Toney High school. He was also a band director at William Hooper Councill High in Huntsville and a civil rights leader across North Alabama.

“While dad was in Hillsboro he joined with other parents to desegregate schools in Lawrence County as well. But dad was heavily involved in the merger of the Alabama State Teacher’s Association and the Alabama Education Association. The ASTA was for black teachers and the AEA was for white teachers, so he helped with the merger,” said Fallin.

Eddgra Hill Fallin says growing up her parents shielded her and her brothers from segregation. “Their response to segregation was not participating in it. We didn’t go and sit on the balcony at the movies. I was in the 8th grade before I saw a movie. We stayed in our lane. I used to think my parents were mean. But they were sheltering us,” Fallin said.

Looking back, she says she has a better understanding and respect for how she was raised, and why her parents chose to take a stand to create change.

“When I realized what all of this was for, invited to speak to history classes at Austin High School several years ago. When I looked out at the class I saw black children, Hispanic children, and Asian children. That’s when I realized that’s what this was all for,” Fallin said.

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