19 years ago: Then-student Raevan Howard leads Central High School protest

By WVUA 23 News Student Reporter Gracie Johnson

While Hillcrest High School students in 2023 are protesting over their right to showcase Black history events, District 2 Tuscaloosa City Council Member Raevan Howard is remembering her own high school battle.

On Feb. 9, 2004, Howard, then a 10th grader at Central High School, led a protest over Tuscaloosa City School Board plan to rebuild Central High School alongside two other schools in the district.

At the time, Central had two campuses: Central High School West for 10th and 11th grade students and Central High School East for 11th and 12th graders.

Howard attended Central West, which is now the site of Westlawn Middle School.

On the day of the protest, Howard and about 200 classmates walked one and a half miles to Tuscaloosa City Schools’ Central Office.

In an article published at the time by the Tuscaloosa News, Howard was quoted as saying: “We want our school on 15th Street. That’s where they need to build our school. If we have to be in the streets like our fathers and grandfathers, then we will be. We want our property back. Don’t make us be your stepchildren.”

WVUA 23 caught up with Howard on the 19th anniversary of the protest, and she said it takes a lot of courage and community support for students to feel comfortable speaking out. But she’s encouraged by what she’s seen from students at Hillcrest this week.

“I am proud of the students at Hillcrest High School,” Howard said. “Even though they weren’t born then, I can relate to how they felt, and I’m sure they can relate to how we felt. At the time it was, hey, we’ve had enough discussion and it’s time to take more action.”

Following the 2004 protest, the unified Central High School was built at its current 15th Street location in the area Howard and her classmates desired.

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