Equity & Diversity

Va. Expresses ‘Regret’ for Closures Aimed at Resisting Desegregation

By Karla Scoon Reid — February 19, 2003 2 min read

The Virginia Senate last week gave final passage to a resolution that expresses official “regret” for the shutdown of the Prince Edward County, Va., public schools from 1959 to 1964 to avoid orders to desegregate.

The resolution, which cleared the Senate on a voice vote on Feb. 13, may represent the first time a state has effectively said it was sorry for closing public schools to avoid desegregating them in the wake of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Educationof Topeka ruling, a leading desegregation expert said.

The state House of Delegates had approved the measure earlier this month and must approve it once more before it goes to the governor for his signature.

"[T]he closing of the Prince Edward County schools severely affected the education of African-American students, wounding the human spirit, and ultimately contributing to job and home losses, family displacements and separations, and a deep sense of despair within the African- American community,” the resolution states.

The resolution also acknowledges that the state passed legislation that cut public funding to integrated schools while giving state money to children attending nonsectarian private schools.

Prince Edward County gave rise to one of the lawsuits challenging separate schooling for black and white children that were decided with the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Brown striking down school segregation as unconstitutional.

History of Resistance

With the 50th anniversary of the Brown decision approaching, Virginia had never recognized its role in the closure of Prince Edward County’s schools, said Delegate Viola O. Baskerville, a Democrat from Richmond who sponsored the resolution. She noted, however, that the resolution is not an official apology because some lawmakers felt that could lead to a call for financial reparations.

Gary Orfield, a co-director of Harvard University’s Civil Rights Project, said he was not aware of any other state passing a similar resolution.

He added that Virginia’s resolution is of note because the state was a leader in the “massive resistance” to public school desegregation after the Brown decision. And while schools elsewhere in Virginia and other states temporarily closed during the desegregation struggle, Prince Edward County’s students were locked out for five years.

Inspired by the state resolution, Prince Edward County school officials also hope to recognize the struggle of those affected by the school closings.

The 2,700-student district, which is now hailed for its integrated schools, wants to award honorary high school diplomas to those students who had to earn their diplomas elsewhere because of the shutdown.

“I don’t think [the diplomas] make up for anything,” Superintendent Margaret V. Blackmon said, adding that they would be conferred either this June or in 2004, marking the Brown decision’s 50th anniversary. “I think it really does show an effort to help with the healing.”

Dorothy L. Holcomb, a Prince Edward County school board member, was in the 4th grade when the district closed its schools. Ms. Holcomb said she doesn’t display the high school diploma she received from a neighboring county, where her family moved.

But she said, “I’ll certainly hang this honorary one in my office.”

Related Tags:

Events

School & District Management Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: What Did We Learn About Schooling Models This Year?
After a year of living with the pandemic, what schooling models might we turn to as we look ahead to improve the student learning experience? Could year-round schooling be one of them? What about online
School & District Management Webinar What's Ahead for Hybrid Learning: Putting Best Practices in Motion
It’s safe to say hybrid learning—a mix of in-person and remote instruction that evolved quickly during the pandemic—is probably here to stay in K-12 education to some extent. That is the case even though increasing
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Mathematics Webinar
Building Equitable Systems: Moving Math From Gatekeeper to Opportunity Gateway
The importance of disrupting traditional American math practices and adopting high-quality math curriculum continues to be essential for changing the trajectory of historically under-resourced schools. Building systems around high-quality math curriculum also is necessary to
Content provided by Partnership for L.A. Schools

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Equity & Diversity Opinion Strategies for Supporting LGBTQ Students
Three educators share ways to help LGBTQ students.
10 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Equity & Diversity Opinion Trans Youth Are Under Attack. Educators Must Step Up
What can schools do in the face of the extreme hostility trans and gender-nonconforming young people now face across the country?
Harper B. Keenan & Z Nicolazzo
4 min read
A butterfly lands on balanced stones in front of tranquil waters and a sunset
Pict Rider/iStock/Getty images<br/>
Equity & Diversity Opinion When Does Educational Equity Become Educationally Unethical?
Equity stumbles into a truly gruesome place when educators are directed to shortchange students based on how they look or where they live.
3 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Equity & Diversity Opinion Why More Teachers Need to See the Beauty and Brilliance in Black Girls
Black girls are often accused of being loud or having an attitude. We need teachers to change that harmful perspective, because it matters.
Bola Delano-Oriaran
5 min read
Black Girls Misunderstood
Shutterstock