From the Back of the Pews to the Head of the Class documents the moving and sometimes dramatic stories of students, parents, teachers, sisters, and priests who were part of a segregated Catholic school, Most Pure Heart of Mary High School in Mobile, Alabama, during a period of revolutionary social change in both the United States and the Roman Catholic Church. Most Pure Heart of Mary High School was the only Catholic high school available to black children in southern Alabama and Mississippi from the early 1940s to the end of the 1960s.
From the Back of the Pews to the Head of the Class is based on hundreds of interviews with those who were connected with the school. The interviews were compiled and organized with introductions by Robert McClory, well-respected journalist and author, who points out both the negatives of segregation and the remarkable accomplishments of many of the graduates of this segregated Catholic high school, which closed in 1968. All profits from the sale of this book will go to the education of African American students, with priority to the Tuition Assistance Fund for students who attend Most Pure Heart of Mary elementary school.
Though the students were segregated with inferior resources, they were rich in talent, in community, and in the gifts of the Spirit. Like the tiny mustard seed, they were considered by law and treated by local customs as "the least of these." Despite the odds and with the support and commitment of their teachers and the love and faith of their families and community, many Heart of Mary students rose to unimaginable heights. Many have gone on to become leaders in business, government, medicine, education, church, the military, the arts, and politics. They continue to lead compelling and courageous lives as they work to bring about the "Beloved Community."