Black students ended a boycott today after a high school senior was given permission to read Dr. Martin Luther King's "I have a Dream" speech at a school talent show.
About 120 black students - half of the school system's 246 pupils - had boycotted classes since Monday, and angry black residents demanded changes in school policies after Sherida Jones 17, was forbidden to read King's speech.
The disruptions have perplexed this east Oklahoma town of 522. Until the 1930s, Boynton had prospered on an oil refinery and a brick factory. But the refinery closed and the clay for bricks was depleted and so Boynton, with a declining population, has been a mostly agricultural community surrounded by wheat, peanut and cotton farms.
Blacks comprise about 50 per cent of the population, but the schools are run by an all-white school board of five members, one elected each year.
Classes were dimissed today at 1:30 p.m. because of "the confusion," a teacher said.
A bi-racial committee reviewing black demands tied to the incident was to report to the school board at a meeting tonight. The committee began a meeting Thursday night that last until 2 a.m. today.
Principal Rick Duncan said Sherida Jones would be permitted to give King's speech at a talent show to be "rescheduled as soon as possible."
The boycott was organized after School Superintendent Harold Cantweel discouraged her from delivering the speech because, he said, its "racial overtones" were inappropriate for the occasion.
Cantwell was in a meeting much of the day with the bi-racial committee, which pondered a list of demands presented to the school board by black residents Wednesday night. Demands included amnesty for the boycotters, permission to give the speech, and appointment of a black school board member.