Indiana school named after Hammond's 1st African American teacher

HAMMOND, Ind. (WLS) -- It's been decades in the making and Thursday, one Indiana school has officially been named for the first African American teacher in Hammond: Ms. Annie Burns-Hicks.

"To see so many people who are interested in education, it just blows my mind," Hicks said.

In the fall of 1960, she was a young woman with a college degree who sued the school district for a fair shot at teaching.

"It was worth it -- was worth everything," she said.

Hicks was one of 13 children. One of her younger sisters recalls that everyone in the family was doing their part to support Hicks.

"The rest of us had to fall in line. People were looking at us looking for any excuse to not let her be a teacher," said Hick's sister, Eunice Burns Jarrett.

All their sacrifices paid off, Hicks was a teacher for over 40 years, influencing hundreds of students.

"I'm so glad and so proud that I could come and see her, and witness this," said Jacquelyn Bourgeois, a former student.

Burns-Hicks School is also a new beginning in Hammond. Three elementary schools consolidated into one, so with input from students about mascot and colors, they all forge ahead with a new name approved by the school board in January.

"Having something like this, so unifying, I think it's tremendous," said Councilman Barry Tyler Jr., 3rd District Hammond.

The renaming coincides with the premiere of a documentary about Hicks, who influenced other prominent firsts in Hammond.

"Never had to raise her voice but when she talked, people listened," said Roland Parrish, documentarian of "This Wall Must Come Down."

"This Wall Must Come Down" will be shown at 6:00 p.m. Thursday at Hammond Academy of the Performing Arts and Hicks will be there to witness yet another first in Hammond.
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