The Junction: Stories From Ensley, Alabama – An Integration Pioneer

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Bradley Spears

The Ensley High School Grand Alumni Association recently established a new scholarship in honor of the school’s first African-American graduate – Carolyn Houston Crumbley Major, who passed away in 2009. Producer Mary Quintas spoke with Carolyn’s son, Rafaael Crumbley, and sister, Janice Houston Nixon, about Carolyn’s contributions as an integration pioneer – and what her legacy means today.


Carolyn Houston Crumbley Major

Carolyn Houston Crumbley Major

For the 50th anniversary of her graduation from Ensley High School, Carolyn’s family held an event in her honor, and performed songs that represented both her hardships and triumphs.

Carolyn’s son, Rafaael Crumbley, says, “Music was an important part of my mother’s life. And I think singing was a part of that whole (Civil Rights) era where people connected through music, and that sense of community.”

Carolyn’s sister, Janice Houston Nixon, and Janice’s daughter Kimberly sang one of Carolyn’s favorite songs: “I Can See So Much.”


Carolyn’s brother-in-law, Reverend Donald Nixon, performed with his singing group, The Birmingham Male Chorus (Clifton Mayfield, James Davis, Marcello Frazier, and Jeffrey Cotter).

Carolyn Houston Crumbley Major's son, Rafaael Crumbley.
Bradley Spears,WBHM

Carolyn Houston Crumbley Major’s son, Rafaael Crumbley.

More photos from the anniversary celebration are available on The Junction.

The Junction is produced by Mary Quintas and brought to you by WBHM and Finding America, a national initiative produced by AIR, the Association of Independents in Radio, Incorporated. Financial support comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Wyncote Foundation, the John D and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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