In 1955, when Fred Bailey got called out of class at Abilene High School to participate in a television interview with African-American Nobel laureate Ralph Bunche, he really didn't think much about it.
"It was a point in time I didn't realize the significance of it," he said. "I was just going through my senior year of high school, and I knew everything," he added, chuckling.
Now, the broadcast — hosted by legendary television and radio journalist Edward R. Murrow — will be the centerpiece of a Feb. 18 celebration of Black History Month at the Dwight Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene.
The broadcast featured Bunche, then Eisenhower's United Nations undersecretary for special political affairs, discussing issues of the day with students from the high school.
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Bunche won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1950 for his efforts in mediating the Arab-Israeli conflict. He also was the first African-American to earn a doctorate at Harvard.
Bailey was one of two African-American students who participated in the broadcast, said Samantha Kenner, spokeswoman for the Eisenhower Library.
As one of only a few African-Americans in Abilene schools, Bailey recalled that he felt isolated by his fellow students.
"I was left alone," he said. "I wasn't invited to anything. I went to school and came home."
Since then, Bailey has run a successful trucking business for 50 years in Abilene.
His observation with regards to race relations today is: "Some things changed. Some things are still the same."
Among the changes, his daughter, Nesha Bailey-Mason, is mayor of Abilene — Kansas' second African-American female mayor. And his son, Garren, now 25, was a popular student when he attended high school a few years ago, Bailey said.
But on the downside, he said he couldn't move or expand his business out of Abilene, where he is well-known, because of lingering prejudices against African-American businesspeople.
With a much broader grasp of history than he had 55 years ago, Bailey said he understands now that Eisenhower was quietly working to move the nation toward racial equality.
"Eisenhower did more than people realized, than I realized, for civil rights," Bailey said.
While Eisenhower was not known for soaring rhetoric on the issue, scholars say his actions, including appointing pro-integration Supreme Court justices and sending federal troops to enforce desegregation of Southern schools, were significant milestones for civil rights.
Kenner said the museum's event will begin with the showing of the students' interview with Bunche, which will be followed by a discussion of issues raised by the broadcast.
Although Bailey will be out of town, several of the other students in the broadcast still live in Abilene. Kenner said museum officials are hoping that one or more will participate in the event.
The event is being co-sponsored by the Abilene Public Library, she said.