The process of dismantling racial segregation and Jim Crow was a long process in the US. The formal movement for desegregation began years before the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education (1954). After the Second World War and the continued contributions of African American soldiers forced Harry S. Truman to desegregate the armed forces in 1948. But implementation of laws to desegregate, especially in the South, was met with brutal resistance. Not many from the mid-20th century can forget Theophilus Eugene Connor (aka Bull Connor)’s unleashing of police dogs on innocent civil rights protesters in Birmingham, Alabama.
Even after the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, schools in the South remained hostile to African American students. The item to the left is a series of letters between the Warren County NAACP (National Association of Colored People) and the State Board of Education in North Carolina. The Warren County of the NAACP wrote a letter complaining of the conditions in the John R. Hawkins High School, in particular its principal who would not appoint African American teachers to committees and who harassed African American students on a regular basis. Unfortunately, the answer provided by the State Board of Education merely stated that it was a “matter for local determination.”
The process of desegregation, in schools and other facilities, was facilitated by a series of publications from the Equal Education Opportunities Program of the Office of Education, from the US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. This 1966 pamphlet “Guidelines for School Desegregation” was meant to build on previous initiatives since the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The pamphlet was particularly focused on Free Choice Plans relating to school choice and desegregation.
As part of the Civil Rights movement, African American spiritual, intellectual and cultural leaders continued to push for desegregation throughout the 1960s. In particular, the movement relied on the work of college students to stage sit-ins and marches around the South. The photo to the left shows Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. meeting with administrators, students, and faculty at Virginia State University, a historically black college and university.