Desegregation in Virginia public schools began on February 2, 1959, they have been segregated since 1870. This is when African American’s consistently protested and filed law suits to get the government to force the state of Virginia and the public school districts to comply with the rulings from Brown v. Board to desegregate schools. The segregation in schools went beyond issues of black and white students but it also included Virginia Indian’s in the area. For the most part, state and local officials did all they can to resist the desegregation of schools by using their political power.

This was a three-year battle in the federal courts, starting in the spring of 1956. The federal courts overturned many of Virginia’s anti-desegregation laws and this allowed for a small number of African American student’s to be able to attend all white schools around Virginia. Since public officials were trying their hardest to minimize the amount of desegregation, they made students go through a complex selection process if they wanted to transfer schools. With that being said, most of the requests that were put in were rejected. Not only did public officials do that, but they also attempted to reduce the influence that the NAACP had on the laws and they made it harder to file additional lawsuits in the process. Leading up to 1965, less than 12,000 of the 235,000 African American student’s in Virginia went to desegregated schools, leaving the larger majority in segregation.

The affects of Brown v. Board and Plessy v. Ferguson will forever leave a lasting affect on some of the decisions made on the laws for desegregation that helped the education system.

Photo Courtesy: National Association of Government Employees

Brown v. Board and It’s Long Lasting Affects

Brown v. Board was a landmark decision that was made by the Supreme Court when they ruled laws that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. Part of their decision overruled the Court’s decision in the Plessy v. Ferguson case which said that said racial segregation laws did not violate the constitution. By the court unanimously deciding in the Brown v. Board case, it became a major victory in the civil rights movement and went on to forever impact the legal system today.

This case originated in 1951 when the public school system in Topeka, Kansas refused to allow a local black resident’s (Oliver Brown) daughter attend the school closest to their home and instead made her ride a bus to a school farther away that was segregated. This lead to the Brown’s and 12 other families to file lawsuits.

  • The affects of this case influenced the decisions made in Spotsylvania County.

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Plessy v. Ferguson and It’s Long Lasting Affects

Plessy v. Ferguson was the Supreme Court case that ruled that racial segregation laws did not violate the constitution. It was said that as long as the facilities for each race were equal in quality hence where the term “separate but equal” came from, then all would be good. This lead to the “Jim Crow” laws being re-established up until the Reconstruction Era in 1877 and allowed segregation until the 1960’s. This case began in 1892 when the man on the right (Homer Plessy) a mixed race man, boarded a whites only train. By doing this, Homer was arrested and charged, saying that he violated the Louisiana Separate Car Act. Plessy requested for an appeal but it was later rejected and this case is considered “one of the worst decisions in U.S. Supreme Court History” because it was never explicitly overruled.

Photo Courtesy: EOC of Nassau County

Here is a video found on YouTube that talks about the equality that came with the desegregation in public schools. This video shows the difficulties that many African Americans went through in Virginia all while showing real emotion. The video focuses on Prince Edward County, and explains the conditions in which African Americans had to attend school. It also gives insight into the teacher’s thoughts and feelings and about their strikes.
  • Introduction (0:00-0:46)
  • The Virginia Student Strike (0:47-5:52)
  • Buchanan’s Arguments (5:53-6:24)
  • Teacher’s Arguments (6:25-8:45)
  • Outro (8:46-9:42)