1959 May 1

Prince Edward County, Virginia, Closes Schools Rather Than Integrate

 

Ordered to integrate its schools under Brown v. Board of Education, Prince Edward County, Virginia, chose instead to close all public schools on this day. They remained closed until 1964, when the Supreme Court ordered the county to open them, in Griffin v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, on May 25, 1964.

While the schools were closed, the Prince Edward Foundation supported private academies to educate white students. There were no formal arrangements for African-American students; some were supported by private groups and others went to out-of-state schools. The “Lost Class of ’59” was one of the great tragedies of the struggle over school desegregation following Brown v. Board of Education. The Little Rock, Arkansas, schools were also closed for the academic year 1958–1959 because of resistance to racial integration.

The closing of the Prince Edward County schools was just one part of the program of “massive resistance” to school integration after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education, on May 17, 1954. Other actions included the Southern Manifesto, signed by 100 members of Congress on March 12, 1956; an Alabama law that would have required the disclosure of the names of NAACP members, but which the Supreme Court in NAACP v. Alabama declared unconstitutional on June 30, 1958; and a set of Virginia laws designed to restrict the activities of the NAACP (September 29, 1956; April 2, 1963).

The school closing episode left a lasting legacy for education and race in the county. The 2010 Census reported that the county population was 36 percent African-American. The public school population, however, was a majority African-American, while only 5 percent of the private schools, the legacy of the closing crisis, were African-American.

Watch a documentary on “the Lost Class of ‘59”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=

Read the 2015 book on the historic events: Kristen Green, Something Must be Done About Prince Edward County (2015)

Read: Jill Titus, Brown’s Battleground: Students, Segregationists, and the Struggle for Justice in Prince Edward County, Virginia (2011)

Learn more about the Prince Edward County struggle: http://nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu/content/african-americans-campaign-reopening-public-schools-prince-edward-county-farmville-va-1959-1

Learn more: George Lewis, Massive Resistance: The White Response to the Civil Rights Movement (2006)

Find a Day

Go
Abortion Rights ACLU african-americans Alice Paul anti-communism Anti-Communist Hysteria Birth Control Brown v. Board of Education Censorship CIA Civil Rights Civil Rights Act of 1964 Cold War Espionage Act FBI First Amendment Fourteenth Amendment freedom of speech Free Speech Gay Rights Hate Speech homosexuality Hoover, J. Edgar HUAC Japanese American Internment King, Dr. Martin Luther Ku Klux Klan Labor Unions Lesbian and Gay Rights Loyalty Oaths McCarthy, Sen. Joe New York Times Obscenity Police Misconduct Same-Sex Marriage Separation of Church and State Sex Discrimination Smith Act Spying Spying on Americans Vietnam War Voting Rights Voting Rights Act of 1965 War on Terror Watergate White House Women's Rights Women's Suffrage World War I World War II Relocation Camps

Topics

Tell Us What You Think

We want to hear your comments, criticisms and suggestions!