Founded 1963 Relaunched 2019. The Postmodern South.
A Day for Isaac Hayes in Covington’s Frazier Park
A Day for Isaac Hayes in Covington’s Frazier Park

A Day for Isaac Hayes in Covington’s Frazier Park

Despite being forever associated with Memphis and Stax Records, Isaac Hayes was born near Rialto, Tennessee, just north of Covington, and is arguably Tipton County’s most famous son. Annually, in August, Hayes is celebrated in Frazier Park, the site of the former Frazier High School in Covington which served generations of Black students before integration in 1970. My friend, Covington alderman John Edwards is the organizer and main sponsor of the annual event, which ought to gain more attention than it does. This year’s event was hampered by extreme heat, to the extent that there were weather service warnings about excessive heat indexes. There were a lot of vendors present, but not as many attendees as I had expected. Music was provided by the Fifth Element Band, a well-known West Tennessee soul and blues band, but as they did not have a vocalist, all the music was instrumental.

As I do whenever I am on the site of a former Black school, I felt a pang of grief and regret. While I have been a lifelong supporter of integration, I am coming to feel that Black people paid too high a price for it and reaped too small a benefit, if there was even one at all. Certainly the loss of schools like Frazier High in Covington, Ellis High in Munford or Gailor High in Mason was not a positive outcome, and I am just beginning to learn how Black students were mistreated in the newly-integrated schools. That so many of the campuses have been allowed to deteriorate is just another indication of how the powers that be treated African-Americans with utter contempt. I realize now that integration only makes sense when both communities are willing to attempt it. If the burden falls on Blacks to integrate, while whites give up nothing, then nothing has really been gained at all. Perhaps the greatest loss was Black students no longer being taught by legacy Black educators who knew the neighborhood, knew the kids’ parents, and gave everything they had to make sure that kids had a future and an opportunity. Black administrators and coaches were demoted, Black teachers furloughed or transferred away from the communities they knew. Even when legacy buildings and campuses were retained, the names of Black educators were removed from them.

Ironically, Isaac Hayes graduated from Manassas High School in Memphis, another historically Black school that was abandoned and then demolished. The new Manassas High School is little more than a decade old, and not on the site where Hayes attended. We owe it to his memory to preserve the legacy of Black history and Black culture in West Tennessee.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.