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The first black co-homecoming queen
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Sarah Cook smiles as she looked through her old 1973 yearbook. She turned through the pages and stopped at a homecoming court spread that showed her and five other girls.

"I had a fro then," she said as she pointed to her picture. "A lot has changed since then."

Almost forty years ago Cook was elected co-homecoming queen with Dawn Harris just two years after Newton County Schools integrated. At that time student positions were "co" and consisted of a black and white student, she said.

The county school system, like most in the U.S., had adopted a separate but equal philosophy. However, the co-queen positions ended in Newton the following year, according to previous Covington News reports.

Cook was in her sophomore year when the schools integrated, and she started to attend Newton High.

"There was a lot of tension and uncertainty stemming from both races," she said. "The racial divide within the student body was clearly visible."

Cook said she was often teased because of her "fro" hairstyle, however, through her faith and parents she coped.

"I never let the name calling and taunting bother me," she said. "My parents taught me that I was God's child, and even though I was being disrespected, I believed God saw....and He knew I had done nothing wrong."

Cook said although that initial year was tough for her and many other black students due to bullying, her junior year of high school was almost a complete 180.

"Everyone seemed to be more accepting," Cook said. "I think they finally started to realize that we were all human, regardless of the color of our skin."

Despite more acceptance of the change from students, Cook was still taunted due to her hairstyle.

"Occasionally I would get asked if I forgot to comb my hair that morning, and I would simply smile and say, ‘No, I always comb my hair," she said.

Nevertheless, her situation started looking up her senior year when she was nominated for homecoming queen.
"I was so excited," she said. "I was shocked too; I was so quiet then."

Traditionally, the day before the homecoming game, the football team voted on the queen, and word had leaked that she won.

"They choose me, and I could hardly wait for the announcement to be made in front of the entire school that I was the first black queen of Newton County High School," she said.

Cook said she didn't realize there were going to be two queens until the the night of the football game when she was told Harris would also be a queen.

"When I realized what happened I smiled and remembered that God was there," she said.

A solo black homecoming queen would not be crowned in Newton County until 1975 when Valencia Johnson was crowned.

Now, almost forty years later during Black History Month holds no regrets or grudges.

Cook still lives in Covington and has two children and two grandchildren.