In this WSB newsfilm clip from May 23, 1961, Georgia attorney general Eugene Cook speaks in Atlanta, Georgia, about the United States Department of Justice petition against Prince Edward County, Virginia county government which had closed public schools in 1959 to avoid court-ordered integration.
The clip begins in the middle of a comment made by attorney general Eugene Cook, who sits at a desk. Cook explains that the Justice Department case against Prince Edward County attacks laws similar to those passed by the Georgia legislature in 1954 and 1961. He affirms that he will file a brief indicating Georgia's "support of the position taken by the attorney general of Virginia in opposition to the position taken by the Department of Justice."
The 1954 United States Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education brough together five cases from around the country; Prince Edward County, Virginia was one of the localities included in the case. In response to the Supreme Court decision, Virginia, Georgia, and several other Southern states began a program of "massive resistance" and passed laws designed to prevent school integration. In Virginia, Prince Edward County closed its public school system in 1959 instead of complying with court-ordered integration. The county set up a private school system for white students funded by state and county tuition grants. In April 1961, the United States Department of Justice filed a motion in Federal District Court to prevent Virginia from providing financial support to any public school in the state until the Prince Edward County public schools were reopened on a desegregated basis. There were two reasons Georgia officials were particularly interested in the outcome of the Justice Department case against Prince Edward County. First, federal courts had ordered the Atlanta school system to begin school integration that fall. Secondly, the Georgia legislature had passed similar legislation. They allowed communities to choose to close public school systems when faced with integration and provided tuition grants for white students displaced when schools closed. After several years of continuing legal cases, the Prince Edward County public schools were reopened in 1964, after denying the 1,700 African American students in the county a public education for nearly five years.
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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.
Local identification number: Clip number: wsbn43553