In this WSB newsfilm clip from July 27, 1962, a reporter speaks to two unidentified men, one white and one African American, about the educational situation in Prince Edward County, Virginia, where local officials closed the schools rather than integrate and established a private school system for white children.
The clip begins with a silent portion, showing a sign with the slogan, "Welcome to Farmville;" the sign has symbols for several community organizations including Rotary Club and the Lions Club. Next, the camera shows a chain attached to a post in front of the Robert R. Moton High School, previously the African American high school in Prince Edward County. Several school buses sit parked behind a barbed wire fence with "no trespassing" signs on it. Later, a man walks under an awning near a building with the sign "Prince Edward Academy." Prince Edward Academy was a private, whites-only school.
After the initial silent portion of the clip, a reporter is seen interviewing an unidentified white man. The man explains that he is not sure how the African American students in the county are being educated with the public schools closed. He suggests that some are educated outside of the county, some are being educated at home, and that some may be working. Following these comments, the camera shows scenes from downtown Farmville, with cars parked on the side of the road and three African Americans approaching a store. Outside, in front of a church building, two people speak as they stand in the shade. A sign indicates that this is the First Baptist Church; it also shows church meeting times. An African American man, possibly Reverend L. Francis Griffin, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Farmville, speaking to the reporter explains that not having a public school system is a strain on African American families. Reverend Griffin, head of the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and petitioner in the Griffin v. School Board case says those mothers who do send their children outside of the county for education, "are never completely satisfied until they are returned for summer vacation."
On May 17, 1954, the United States Supreme Court in the Brown v. Board of Education case ruled against segregation in public schools. That case included a case against segregated education that was brought against Prince Edward County in 1951. After the Brown ruling, Virginia state officials instituted a plan of "massive resistance" to court-ordered integration, passing laws to close integrated schools and provide tuition grants to displaced white students. After both state and federal courts overturned the school closing law in January 1959, governor J. Lindsay Almond called a special legislative session and announced the end to the state's policy of massive resistance. That fall, leaders in Prince Edward County chose to close the public school system rather than allow integration. White citizens established the Prince Edward School Foundation as a private school system for the 1,500 white school children in the county. The 1,700 African American school children were left without educational opportunities in the county. Some were sent to live with relatives in other parts of Virginia and attend classes there, some began college early, and some accepted arrangements to attend school in other states; most remained out of school until the fall of 1964 when federal courts ordered Prince Edward County to reopen its public school system.
Title supplied by cataloger.
The Civil Rights Digital Library received support from a National Leadership Grant for Libraries awarded to the University of Georgia by the Institute of Museum and Library Services for digital conversion and description of the WSB-TV Newsfilm Collection.
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Cite as: WSB-TV newsfilm clip of citizens commenting on the closure of public schools and education for African Americans in Prince Edward County, Virginia, 1962 July 27, WSB-TV newsfilm collection, reel 0770, 29:55/31:33, Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Award Collection, The University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, Ga, as presented in the Digital Library of Georgia.