Black and White

I attended a “Black and White” high school – Odessa Permian – the school of Friday Night Lights.


The book was accurate enough to piss off a few Odessan’s. The movie has been called the greatest sports movie ever made. I haven’t seen the TV show, but I doubt it has any relationship to reality. But, the only “Black and White” at PHS were the school colors, not the student body. Odessa, Texas through the 1960s was as segregated as a black line on a white piece of paper. People of “color” lived South of the RR tracks. The “white” high schools were North of the RR tracks.
In 1954 school desegregation became the law of the land after the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education. But little changed until 1969, when a federal judge ordered a North Carolina school district to use busing to speed integration. This led to a reaction to preserve Federal funding in school districts across the country. In Odessa the reaction was to put one black teen on a bus every day to Permian High School. The John Birch ideology in Odessa, TX didn’t like it, but the students at PHS didn’t seem to mind. By 1980 the (unwritten) RR track law was history. People of color moved North. Their kids went to all of the Odessa schools. Some of the them were star players, as the movie based on a real 1988 PHS team, depicted.
By the way, when the book was released in 1990, Odessa was in a steep economic depression. All of the $30/barrel oil wells were dry. And the Permian Panthers descended from a thirty year winning tradition to a streak of losing seasons. In 2007 oil prices hit $145 per barrel and the Permian Basin boom was back. And the Permian Panthers returned to the State Playoffs.

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