Trailblazer who helped integrate Florida schools believes country is heading in right direction

LaVon Bracy weighs in on recent events: ‘I’m more optimistic now’

ORLANDO, Fla. – As News 6 celebrates Black History Month, a local woman who’s been a trailblazer her entire life is speaking out about the history that’s now happening right before our eyes.

LaVon Bracy endured relentless attacks as one of the first African Americans to integrate Florida schools. As the first and only African American to graduate from Gainesville High School in Alachua County in 1965, the threats against her life were real.

“Every day that I would go to school, I would find dead rats, roaches and snakes under my seat,” Bracy said. “I’d have tacks in my seat and I’d get these awful, awful letters each day indicating that this would be the last day on earth because I’m in their class and they don’t want Blacks in their class.”

[ROOTED IN CENTRAL FLORIDA: Read, share more Black History Month stories]

Bracy had a daily police escort from her house to the school, but that security ended once on campus. She vividly remembers arriving one morning, only to be attacked by six male students.

“They beat me unmercifully. I really thought that would be the last day I would be on the earth,” Bracy said. “I went to the principal. I was bleeding profusely. I told him I had been attacked and the principal said, ‘How do I know that you didn’t leave home like that? I didn’t see anybody attack you and if by chance they did, you should know by now that you’re not welcome.’”

But Bracy was determined and she persisted. Today, amid Black Lives Matter protests, progress against racism has been made, but as the mom of Florida State Senator Randolph Bracy, she still feels the need to have “the talk” with her son.

“For us to say that it does not happen, we are not being truthful with ourselves and we really just need to look at it and say, all of us need to say, ‘How can we start healing the nation and resolving the problems of racism that exist?’” Bracy said. “We need to have some real conversations on systemic racism and what the country needs to do about it and we need to have a real conversation about criminal justice reform and do something about it.”

Bracy says as she watched the inauguration of Joe Biden and saw Vice President Kamala Harris and poet Amanda Gorman on stage, she believes the country is now heading in the right direction.

“I’m more optimistic now than I have been in the last four or five years,” Bracy said.

Bracy has authored a children’s book, “Brave Little Cookie,” detailing her experiences at Gainesville High and the attacks she experienced to make sure younger generations never forget what she and so many other civil rights heroes endured.

You can order the book from her website here.

See an in-depth interview with LaVon Bracy and News 6 Investigator Louis Bolden here.

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