In this WSB newsfilm clip from September 1959, an unidentified man comments on the progress of school desegregation in the South and on the closing of schools in Prince Edward County, Virginia.
The clip begins with the man sitting at a desk with flags behind him. He indicates that there is progress in school desegregation in the current school year compared with the previous year. He reports that thirteen schools that were closed during the 1958 to 1959 school year are now open and that fifteen more school districts are operating on an integrated basis. He adds that schools in Florida are desegregating for the first time. He cites the Prince Edward County's school closures as a step backwards and says that "this action repudiated our tradition of providing free education for all." He mentions that the Prince Edward School Foundation is providing education for the 1,500 white students in the county. After a break in the clip, he notes that there are 1,700 African American students in the county, and no arrangements have been made for their education for the upcoming year, a situation he deplores.
On May 17, 1954, the United States Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education ruled against segregation in public school systems, a move that effected seventeen states in the South and border region. While some of the effected states began desegregating schools that fall, most waited until the court issued its implementation decision the following year. By the fall of 1959, five states--Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina--had not integrated any public school. All of the other states effected by the Supreme Court ruling had at least some token desegregation, with Florida schools integrating for the first time that fall. Although some states had vigorously opposed integration through such programs as the "massive resistance" movement in Virginia, most recognized the importance of maintaining public education and the inevitability of desegregation. As mentioned in the clip, Prince Edward County, Virginia remained a stronghold for segregationists. White leaders in the county closed all twenty-one public schools rather than allow integration. Instead, they established a all-white private school system funded by tax cuts, donations, state and county tuition grants, and funds from the white families. While some African American students went outside of the county to be educated, most did not attend classes until the schools reopened in the fall of 1964.
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 an unidentified man commenting on the progress of school desegregation in the South and the closing of schools in Prince Edward County, Virginia, 1959 September, WSB-TV newsfilm collection, reel 0790, 51:36/52:55, Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection, The University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, Ga, as presented in the Digital Library of Georgia.