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Looking back: Gibbons becomes first integrated school in NC

Looking back: Gibbons becomes first integrated school in NC

Image of students in the class of 1957 with the bishop

The Class of 1957 was our school's first integrated class to graduate.  

The first Black students began class at our school on Aug. 31, 1954. Bishop Vincent Waters mandated the integration in 1953, one year before Brown v. Board of Education.

Cardinal Gibbons, known as Cathedral Latin at the time, became the first integrated school in the state of North Carolina, admitting six students from St. Monica grade school. (Editor's note: There is now a stairway in our school dedicated to St. Monica's influence on our school)

Below, is an excerpt from a story written by the Diocese of Raleigh. 

Vintage Photo of Bishop Vincent Waters

“His thoughts and feelings on the injustice of racism and segregation could not have been clearer as he diagnosed prejudice as a disease, with the unity of religion and faith being the prescription for the cure:'Let me state here as emphatically as I can, that there is no segregation of races to be tolerated in any Catholic church in the Diocese of Raleigh. The pastors are charged with the carrying out of this teaching and shall tolerate nothing to the contrary. Equal rights are accorded, therefore, to every race ... and within the church building itself. Everyone is given the privilege to sit or kneel wherever he desires.'"



Humanities Project documents integration

Photo of students gathering outside on the first day of school in 1955.

The Humanities Project, a student-led group, documented the racial integration history of our school through alumni interviews and research.

The group is committed to erasing prejudice and fostering growth through education, in hopes that the present and future students of Cardinal Gibbons gain a comprehensive understanding of the foundation of our school’s unique culture and values.

Additional resources

Read Bishop Waters’ full letter →

Listen to an audio retelling →