Applaud Initiative to Grant High School Diploma


Target: Owen Muelder and Lowell Peterson

Goal: Applaud efforts to give diploma to man denied his due to institutional racism

Recently, a retired attorney received his high school diploma at the age of 73 after two of his fellow former classmates asked his high school to grant him the diploma which had previously been denied to him. Alva Early received his diploma nearly five decades after he attended high school.

Early was about to graduate from Galesburg High School in 1959 when he and his friends had a picnic in a park that was off-limits for African Americans, and he was then denied his diploma for this defiant action. The school counselor had warned Alva Early at the time that there would be severe consequences if he had a picnic at the “whites-only” park, but he went anyways. On the reasoning behind his action, Early says, “We were just trying to send a message that we are people, too…We just had lunch. For that, I didn’t graduate.”

Although Early was able to attend and graduate from college, despite not having a high school diploma, the thought that he never received his diploma haunted him throughout the rest of his life. Early did not tell anyone that he had not received his high school diploma until his recent high school reunion, at which he told some of his former classmates. After his former classmates found out, two of them, Owen Muelder and Lowell Peterson, sought out Galesburg High School officials to get Early the diploma that he deserved. The superintendent of the school managed to find Early’s old transcript, which indicated that he had enough credits to graduate.

Alva Early expressed his deep gratitude to his former classmates during his high school diploma ceremony.

Consequences of racial segregation, such as that which Early unfortunately faced, were not that uncommon in the 1950s. It was not until the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which ended all state laws requiring segregation, that the true effects of ending segregation were felt by Americans.

Please sign the petition below to applaud the efforts of the two former classmates who made the initiative to have their former classmate receive his rightful diploma. As we continue to live in the legacy of institutional racism, we must take bold steps to stand against this system of oppression and truly make racism a thing of the past.


Dear Owen Muelder and Lowell Peterson,

It was heartening to read about Alva Early receiving his high school diploma nearly five decades after he ended high school. Segregation is a thing of the past, and any traces of segregation left in present-day America should be corrected, much like you have done by working to provide Early with his rightfully-earned diploma.

Thank you for taking the initiative to not only have your friend receive his diploma, but also to show that you care about him receiving the diploma despite it not mattering for college entrance anymore. You serve as an inspiration to others in going out of your way to bring happiness to another individual and taking a stand against racism.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: tedeytan via Flickr

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