The Oak Ridge 85: A Tennessee Civil Rights Story

November 6-10, 2023


Fifth grade teachers SAVE THE DATE to bring your students to the Kids Storytelling Institute at the International Storytelling Center this November.

This story-based learning initiative pairs the Tennessee State Board of Education Academic Standards with an immersive performing arts experience to create a unique educational opportunity for teachers and students. The Kids Institute is supported by private funding so that it may be offered to regional fifth graders AT NO COST to students. 

Reverend Robert B. Jones, Sr. is both an experienced storyteller and teaching artist who has worked extensively with students across the country. Whether he’s telling stories about growing up in his native Detroit, sharing tales about old blues musicians or sharing inspirational stories drawn from history or scripture, Robert loves telling stories that reach both the mind and the heart.

Teachers can choose between two (2) sessions each day beginning at 9am and 11:30am and there is space available at the Center for brown bag lunches if needed.


Meets Tennessee Academic Standards:

5th Grade Social Studies – 5.24; 5.41; 5.43; 5.45

5th Grade Fine Arts Education – 5.GM.R1.A; 5.GM.R1.B

5th Grade English Language Arts – 5.FL.VA.7a; 5.FL.VA.7b; 5.FL.VA.7c; 5.RL.KID.2; 5.RL.KID.3; 5.RL.IKI.7; 5.SL.CC.1; 5.SL.CC.2; 5.SL.CC.3


The Oak Ridge 85

In this year’s Kids Institute, students will hear the little-known story of 85 African American students from the Scarboro community of Oak Ridge, TN, who in 1955 were among the first students in the country to integrate formerly segregated schools. This program will focus on how these young people helped to peacefully change the face of American education.


  • Engage with the music and stories of an internationally-known storyteller/musician.
  • Explore an important piece of Tennessee history. 
  • Hear stories of the “Scarboro 85” that are drawn from oral histories and narratives.
  • Understand the iconic role artists played and continue to play in changing America’s cultural identity.
  • Recognize how personal courage can diffuse violence.

Storyteller Robert B. Jones, Sr.

An inspirational storyteller and musician, Reverend Robert B. Jones, Sr. has entertained and educated audiences of all ages in schools, colleges, libraries, prisons, churches, and civil rights organizations for over 30 years. At the heart of his message is the belief that our cultural diversity tells a story that should be celebrated. He is also co-founder of the non-profit organization, Common Chords, an educational organization designed to build bridges between communities through music and the arts.

A native of Detroit, Jones has performed throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. An award-winning multi-instrumentalist, he is accomplished on guitar, harmonica, mandolin, banjo, fiddle, and ukulele. He has been a featured artist at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum (Springfield, IL), Rutherford B. Hayes Library (Fremont, OH), and Gerald R. Ford Library (Grand Rapids, MI), and is also a frequent performer and presenter for The Henry Ford Museum (Dearborn, MI).  

Read more about Reverend Robert B. Jones, Sr. on his website

Space is limited and reservations are required. To register, fill out and submit the registration form below. For questions, contact Lilith Erbach at or call (423) 753-2171 X278.


Registration Form

Kids Storytelling Institute

Provide the following information and a registration coordinator will be in touch to schedule your classroom's visit to the International Storytelling Center's Kids Institute.