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1908 yearbook from Kansas high school reveals it was integrated years ahead of its time

A collector of old yearbooks showed off one of her greatest treasures in a viral TikTok video: A 1908 yearbook from a high school in Kansas that was already integrated, decades before the Supreme Court ended school segregation.

The collector, who posts on TikTok as Can You Sign My Yearbook, shared a peek inside the old volume from Leavenworth High School in Leavenworth, Kansas.

A quick look through the pages shows that all four classes — freshmen through seniors — were integrated, with black and white students in the same classes and sororities.

Wow! A yearbook collector shared her 'extraordinary' find on TikTok, a 1908 yearbook from Leavenworth High School in Leavenworth, Kansas

Wow! A yearbook collector shared her ‘extraordinary’ find on TikTok, a 1908 yearbook from Leavenworth High School in Leavenworth, Kansas

Looking back: Leavenworth High School had black students in each class in 1908. One senior, Florence Wiginton, sparked the curiosity of viewers

Looking back: Leavenworth High School had black students in each class in 1908. One senior, Florence Wiginton, sparked the curiosity of viewers

History: Kansas never legally mandated segregated high schools, so some admitted students of different races

History: Kansas never legally mandated segregated high schools, so some admitted students of different races

Details: Florence was described as 'exceeding[ly] well read' and was a member of the Alpha Omega sorority.

Details: Florence was described as ‘exceeding[ly] well read’ and was a member of the Alpha Omega sorority.

The collector said the yearbook is the ‘most extraordinary thing I own,’ flipping first to a set of ads at the beginning of the book.

She then moves through several pages, showing off the senior portraits of past students.

She also shows group photos of each class, as well as group photos of two high school sororities 

While the students are predominantly white, there are black students mixed in — including Florence Wiginton, a senior, who captures the TikTok user’s attention.

Florence was described as ‘exceeding[ly] well read’ and was a member of the Alpha Omega sorority.

Vintage: The yearbook has sheer overlays with the students' names over their pcitures

Vintage: The yearbook has sheer overlays with the students’ names over their pcitures

According to a Leavenworth Post newspaper clipping at the time, Florence's graduating class was remarkable for another reason: There were significantly more girls than boys

According to a Leavenworth Post newspaper clipping at the time, Florence’s graduating class was remarkable for another reason: There were significantly more girls than boys

Paid for: The yearbook also included several ads in the front pages

Paid for: The yearbook also included several ads in the front pages

According to another TikTok user, who looked her up on Ancestry.com, Florence was born November 12, 1889.

Her father, Champ, died when she was a child — and as a ‘half orphan’ she was placed in a protective home for a period of time before rejoining her mother and siblings.

As an adult, she married a man named James E. Pruitt and became a teacher.

She died at age 55 on June 5, 1945 in Manteno Township, Illinois.

According to a Leavenworth Post newspaper clipping at the time, Florence’s graduating class was remarkable for another reason: There were significantly more girls than boys, with 23 young women and nine young men graduating in 1908.

At the graduation ceremony, the girls dressed in white dresses, white stockings, and white shoes, while the boys dressed in suits.

The times: At the graduation ceremony, the girls dressed in white dresses, white stockings, and white shoes, while the boys dressed in suits

The times: At the graduation ceremony, the girls dressed in white dresses, white stockings, and white shoes, while the boys dressed in suits

Integrated: According to the Kansas Historical Society, secondary schools were not officially segregated in the state, except in Wyandotte County

Integrated: According to the Kansas Historical Society, secondary schools were not officially segregated in the state, except in Wyandotte County

'In 1868 state law allowed but did not require separate schools,' KHS explains. 'Some schools admitted children without discrimination'

‘In 1868 state law allowed but did not require separate schools,’ KHS explains. ‘Some schools admitted children without discrimination’

However, contrary to what the original TikTok user said, it was not, in fact, illegal for schools to be integrated at the time.

According to the Kansas Historical Society, secondary schools were not officially segregated in the state, except in Wyandotte County.

‘In 1868 state law allowed but did not require separate schools,’ KHS explains. ‘Some schools admitted children without discrimination, and one of the first state superintendents of public instruction, Peter McVicar, vocally opposed segregated schools. 

There was, though, some segregation for younger children. In 1879, the Kansas legislature allowed elementary schools in cities with populations of 15,000 or more to segregate by race. 

This was challenged by several lawsuits over the years, until the Supreme Court finally ruled that all school segregation was illegal in 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education. 

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Written by Angle News

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