This week in Louisville history: Racial tension ends in violence at duPont Manual High School

On Nov. 10, 1976, violence broke out at duPont Manual High School, resulting in the suspension of more than 30 students, injuries to 16 students and the arrest of eight, according to a series of articles by Courier-Journal reporter Wanda Nichols.

The Board of Education and faculty referred to the incident as a “race riot,” according to The CJ. But the newspaper reported that it was unrelated to the “busing for desegregation” disturbances happening around the same time, such as at Durrett and Fairdale high schools, as Manual was exempt from court-ordered busing because its racial makeup already met federal guidelines. At the time, duPont Manual had about 1,600 white students and 800 black students.

Students told Nichols that the riot occurred in the cafeteria on the morning of Nov. 10 and included more than 100 students storming the hallways. About 20 police officers quelled the disturbance. An unnamed security guard told Nichols: “Those kids were really trying to kill each other.”

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Nichols found that two Manual girls were treated at area hospitals. For the rest of the week, Manual High School was surrounded by police cars and guarded by over a dozen officers. “The worst I’ve ever been hurt in 18 years I’ve been in the school system,” the principal told Nichols about the actions of his students. “I was ashamed. I was embarrassed.”

According to duPont Manual historian Mike McDaniel, in his 2005 book on the history of the school, Nov. 10, 1976 was “quite probably the worst day in the history of Manual.”

duPont Manual eventually moved past the incident, and in 1991 Manual was recognized as a Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education, the highest honor the department can bestow on a school.

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