Equity & Diversity

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

By Karla Scoon Reid — February 19, 2003 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

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:


Budget & Finance Webinar Leverage New Funding Sources with Data-Informed Practices
Address the whole child using data-informed practices, gain valuable insights, and learn strategies that can benefit your district.
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.
Classroom Technology Webinar
ChatGPT & Education: 8 Ways AI Improves Student Outcomes
Revolutionize student success! Don't miss our expert-led webinar demonstrating practical ways AI tools will elevate learning experiences.
Content provided by Inzata
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum Tech Is Everywhere. But Is It Making Schools Better?
Join us for a lively discussion about the ways that technology is being used to improve schools and how it is falling short.

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 When Graduation Dress Codes Clash With Students' Cultural Expression
Students have sued to wear culturally significant items at graduation, and some states have also passed legislation protecting the practice.
5 min read
A teen boy in a red graduation cap and gown wears an eagle feather on his neck. He stands outside among classmates.
Elijah Wiggins wears an eagle feather, a gift from his grandfather, at his graduation from Cedar City High School on May 25, 2022, in Cedar City, Utah. Utah is one of a growing number of states that have passed laws to allow students to wear items of cultural or religious significance during graduation ceremonies.
Rick Bowmer/AP
Equity & Diversity Laws on Trans, Nonbinary Student Pronouns Put Teachers in a Bind
Under laws passed in nine states, teachers don't have to use students’ pronouns and names if they don’t align with their assigned sex.
8 min read
A crowd gathers at the outside of the Indiana House chamber as the House Education Committee discuss House Bill 1608 at the Statehouse on Feb. 20, 2023, in Indianapolis.
A crowd gathers at the outside of the Indiana House chamber on Feb. 20, 2023, as the House Education Committee discussed the legislation that became a state law that requires teachers to inform parents if their children identify as transgender. Indiana is one of at least nine states that have passed laws targeting transgender students' pronouns.
Darron Cummings/AP
Equity & Diversity Schools Are Part of the Biden Administration's Plan for Combating Antisemitism
The call to action for schools is part of a first-of-its-kind federal strategy.
4 min read
A hand-drawn swastika is seen on the front of Union Station near the Capitol in Washington.
A hand-drawn swastika is seen on the front of Union Station near the Capitol in Washington, Jan. 28, 2022. Such vandalism is part of a nationwide rise in antisemitic incidents the White House wants to address.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Equity & Diversity State Chief Targets DEI Initiatives. Here's How District Leaders Are Responding
Some Oklahoma superintendents are concerned about the state's reporting requirement on DEI spending.
7 min read
Lessons on the dry-erase board in history teacher Kala Hester's classroom at Millwood High School on April 20, 2022 in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma schools will have to report all DEI-related spending, per a new rule.
Lessons on the dry-erase board in history teacher Kala Hester's classroom at Millwood High School on April 20, 2022 in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma schools will have to report all DEI-related spending, per a new rule.
Brett Deering for Education Week