Legendary civil rights attorney Fred Gray has received accolades from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, American Bar Association, and the NAACP, among many others. Now he is honored with a play that brings the history related to the integration of the Tuskegee High School, with which he was much involved, to dramatic life. Written and directed by Dr. Tessa Carr on the faculty at Auburn University and presented by the Mosaic Theatre Company, The Integration of Tuskegee High School tells the story of Attorney Gray’s role in the pivotal 1963 desegregation lawsuit.
Civil rights attorney Fred Gray and London Carlisle, the actor who plays Gray in The Integration of Tuskegee High School.
The play was the inspiration of Dr. Mark Wilson at Auburn’s Carolyn Marshall Draughon Center, who believed that a series of interviews with students and community leaders who had lived through school desegregation would be a good basis for a dramatic work. Dr. Carr, Artistic Director of the Mosaic Theatre Company, was equally inspired in the writing of it. In her research she says she was struck by the extraordinary difference in the experiences of Caucasian and African American students involved in the events. It was her aim, she told Auburn University’s Perspectives “to put their voices in conversation — voices that had never had the opportunity to be in conversation before.”
The play was first performed in 2014. The new production includes the voice of Attorney Gray as a guiding narrator. After the premiere, Dr. Mark Wilson told The Plainsman it was so powerful he was left speechless. He noted that the performance would be available for online viewing.
Attorney Gray attended a special invitation-only performance on April 16, where he met London Carlisle, the actor playing himself. In an interview with the Opelika-Auburn News, Gray wryly remarked, “The stage presentation was a good enactment of quite a bit of what you just didn’t see in every day life.” After the performance, Attorney Gray told the Plainsman, “We still have a lot of problems. We need to work on them and not take 50 more years to solve them.”
Fred Gray’s memoir, Bus Ride to Justice: Changing the System by the System, The Life and Works of Fred Gray, is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.