The Desegregation of Southampton County, Virginia Schools 1954-1970

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Virginia Tech

The struggle to achieve integration of public schools in Southampton County, Virginia, has been an ongoing process that has occurred through the years since the Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483, 493, 74 S.Ct. 686, 691 (1954) and Brown v. Board of Education, 349 U.S. 294, 75 S.Ciit. 753 (1955), and Green v. County School Board of New Kent County, Virginia, 391 U.S. 430, 88 S.Ct. 1689, 20 L.Ed.2d 716 (1968). The time frame of 1954 until 1970 is particularly significant because of happenings that took place prior to the time that Judge Robert R. Merhige, federal judge of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, ruled that all school divisions which operated dual school systems for Black and White students must fully integrate. Through the use of acceptable methods of historical research including personal interviews to record the oral history, school board minutes, personal correspondence, newspaper articles, books, and other such materials available to the writer, this dissertation records information regarding the desegregation of Southampton County Schools. The purpose of this study is to examine the roles of individuals and groups in the desegregation process that took place in the public schools of this rural, southside Virginia county during the years of 1954 to 1969. This study will provide a greater understanding of leadership, local governance, racial, and social class concerns of Southampton County citizens, as well as, a documentation of an important part of the history of Southampton County, Virginia.

segregation, massive resistance, desegregation