Kinston dedicates trail marker to students who changed history 70 years ago


KINSTON, N.C. (WNCT) — The City of Kinston dedicated a new trail marker Saturday, 70 years after the historic Adkin High School walkout.

The daughter of Carolyn Coefield, the woman who decided it was time for change back in 1951, said this dedication was a reminder to today’s generation that we still have a long way to go, but standing up for your rights does make a difference.

Quoting an article she remembers from Delcia Dixon Ward, Olissa Clark said, “‘when your needs are not being met, and you are considered insignificant, then you have to get the attention of the ones in authority…’ and that’s what they did, no violence.”

In 1951, two high schools sat in Kinston, the all-white Grainger High School, and the all-black Adkin High School. It was before Brown vs. Board of Education and before Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous speech that the entire student body of Adkin High School walked out as they demanded modernized facilities.

When senior John Dudley announced the coded message: “Carolyn Coefield has lost her little red pocketbook,” every student in the school walked out of the building.

“She came up with a lot of the ideas, she came up with the phrase … you know, this is what we’re going to walk on, Carolyn Coefield lost her little red pocketbook … she was passionate about fighting the inequities,” explained Clark.

John Dudley remembers that day like it was yesterday.

“We had signs made up…everything ready to go. When I made the announcement … 720 students quietly got out of our seats, picked up the signs and were on our way,” said Dudley.

He explained they decided to fight for change after one day of class when their teacher, Ms. Davis, brought in a magazine of some of the things other schools had.

“We said we asked her, ‘Miss Davis, is there another school in this area, who have these things?’ She said yes, and we asked her … ‘will you leave the room’,” recalled Dudley.

Within a year-and-a-half of the walkout, the school made all the requested updates.

Dudley never stopped smiling throughout Saturday’s ceremony and said 70 years ago, he never dreamt of a dedication like this. He said he is so grateful to the city for the trail marker.

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