At 73, Man Finally Gets Diploma Denied For Defying Segregation : Code Switch : NPR: There was no pomp and circumstance, no procession with classmates, but on Friday a school district in Illinois finally handed Alva Early his high school diploma — more than five decades after he attended Galesburg High School.
In 1959, Galesburg banned Earley from graduating and denied him a diploma after he and other African-Americans had a picnic in a park that was unofficially off-limits to blacks.
Earley, now a retired attorney, says he never thought the day would come, but as the Galesburg class of '59 gathered for a reunion this weekend, the school superintendent called Earley forward, dressed in his college gown, to accept his diploma.
A school counselor had warned him in 1959 there could be a price to pay for challenging the city's entrenched segregation — but Earley went anyway.
"We were just trying to send a message that we are people, too," Earley says. "We just had lunch. For that, I didn't graduate."