The Georgia Interscholastic Association was born in 1948. It dissolved in 1970; the last meeting was scheduled for August 30.
The GIA was not the first group in Georgia to organize black schools. Several conferences existed all over the state. The Big 7, for example, was the basis for Class AA. Georgia State - now known as Savannah State - began organizing state basketball tournaments in 1937 and continued to do so through 1948. These tournaments attracted teams from all over the state.
Football, though, was not organized beyond the small conferences. Every now and then a "state championship" game would be played. Washington of Atlanta beat Spencer of Columbus in 1939. Spencer itself claimed three state championships as of 1938. Brooks High of Quitman played in not one, but two mythical championship football games in 1948. This was very similar to the way things were in the GHSA. The GIAA had its own state championship, which was esssentially a conference title game. The NGFA and SGFA conferences had a "Class B" championship from 1937 until 1947 (minus a controversial 1938).
Georgia was not alone in having a black schools' statewide organization. Every southern state had its own league. In Texas, the Texas Interscholastic League was holding organized state football championships way back in the 1930s.
The biggest step forward was the biggest dagger for the GIA.
In 1964, the Freedom of Choice plan was announced. With only but a couple of exceptions, Georgia had ignored 1954's Brown vs. Board of Education. Ernest Vandiver even ran on a ticket of keeping schools segregated in 1960. To be perfectly honest, the 1964 ruling did not phase many local boards of education. The federal government applying some pressure did. Most counties began doing gradual integration in 1965 and 1966. Some kept resisting. Some had funds taken away by the feds for resisting.
It seems as if the GIA attempted to prepare for integration. Included in the box of GIA archives housed at the Georgia High School Association office in Thomaston are a handful of GHSA handbooks from the mid 1960s. The earliest I remember is 1964's.
In 1966, the GHSA formally opened itself to integration. Schools from Atlanta and Savannah were granted entry into the league. In basketball, they made an immediate impact. Beach and South Fulton, both former GIA teams, blasted their way through the state Class AAA tournament. Beach then won the final.
The immediate reaction from the Atlanta Journal was "Is Negro Domination Near?" Almost as an answer to the question, Atlanta's Carver High won Class AA soon thereafter. Coaches realized that the GIA athletes were as good as or better than what they had been fielding over the years.
Over the next couple of years, there was a slow trickle of big GIA schools leaving the league for the GHSA. Integration also meant that some of the smaller schools were disappearing. Even medium sized ones were not immune. Summer Hill had an average daily attendance over 200; it closed in 1968.
The loss of schools saw the GIA cut its championships. Football only crowned one champion in 1968 and 1969. Basketball held on to three titles until the 1969-70 season when only AA and A had winners. The league was prepared to continue in this fashion for the 1970-71 school year. Districts were drawn up and 92 schools were slated to continue. That was not to be and the league shut down in 1970.
I have a certain style in how I have organized GIA Heritage.
First, I want to state that you will see a few politically incorrect terms used to refer to schools. These are only used for the sake of historical accuracy. In Cochran, the local school was called Cochran Colored. Moultrie had Moultrie High School for Colored Youth. Newspaper headlines refer to Negro championships. The term "training school" was also a negative one, as evidenced by Thomaston Training begging the Upson County Board of Education to let them drop the "Training" part of it. Social mores have changed since these schools had names, but that is what they were then.
(And they could be even worse. I won't repeat a description of a Madison Street football game that was printed in the Albany Herald in the 1930s.)
OK. That out of the way, you will probably also see [town name] in state tournament listings. It means that I am lacking the proper name of the school. Names changed pretty often in the GIA, I do not want to assume that Douglasville, for example, was using R.L. Cousins when they might have been using Hutcheson. In the case of [Ochlochnee], the school was gone before the 1959 list of schools was assembled and I have never seen any official name for any time period.