Timeline of Events
The Virginia State Board of Education is created, and it oversees the system of free segregated public schools in Norfolk, Virginia.
May 18, 1896:
The U.S. Supreme Court approves the doctrine of “separate but equal” in Plessy v. Ferguson
1896 to 1954:
The public schools in Norfolk, Virginia are divided by race and are unequal.
May 17, 1954:
The U.S. Supreme Court overturns the doctrine of “separate but equal” in Brown v. Board of Education.
June 25, 1954:
Virginia Governor Thomas Stanley vows to “use every legal means at [his] command to proclaim resistance to the [Brown] court order.”
Aug 30, 1954:
Governor Stanley creates the “Gray Commission,” a thirty-two member legislative committee, which is to suggest ways to “deal” with Brown.
May 31, 1955:
The U.S. Supreme Court declares, in Brown v. Board of Education II, that state governments must desegregate public schools “with all deliberate speed.”
Nov 11, 1955:
The Gray Commission issues its final report, which proposes: a) that local school boards have the power to place all pupils within their districts; and b) that parents be granted state funds to send their children to private schools rather than integrated ones.
Jan 9, 1956:
In a statewide referendum, Virginia voters approve the use of public monies for private non-sectarian schools.
Nov 1955 to Feb 1956:
James J. Kilpatrick, Editor of the Richmond News Leader, uses an editorial campaign to resurrect the old Constitutional doctrine of “interposition,” which holds that a state can protect its people from the Federal Government if the U.S. government attempts to violate the people's fundamental rights.
Feb 1, 1956:
Virginia General Assembly adopts an “Interposition Resolution,” which “pledged the assembly's intent to resist by every means available the federal government's encroachment upon Virginia 's sovereign powers, and urged its sister states to do likewise.”
Feb 24, 1956:
U.S. Senator Harry F. Byrd, the most powerful political boss in Virginia, declares a campaign of “massive resistance” against the Brown decision.
March 12, 1956:
Harry Byrd plays a key role in the creation of the “Southern Manifesto,” a document which is signed by 101 southern congressmen, including both Virginia senators and all 10 of the states representatives. The Manifesto declares that Brown is a “clear abuse of judicial power,” and its signers pledge “to use all lawful means to bring about a reversal of this decision.”
Aug 27, 1956:
In coordination with Harry Byrd, Governor Stanley issues the “Stanley Plan,” which is an attempt to halt integration in Virginia. The Stanley Plan establishes a three member, governor-appointed “Pupil Placement Board,” which will stall integration by separating whites and blacks in public schools. It also empowers the governor to close any integrated public schools in the state.
Jan 11, 1957:
In Beckett v. The School Board of the City of Norfolk, African American parents win their suit against the city's school board, which had followed the state's Pupil Placement Act in determining student assignments. U.S. District Court Judge Walter E. Hoffmann finds the Pupil Placement Act unconstitutional, since it encourages Board members to consider the race of students in determining school assignments. Hoffmann orders that the Norfolk school board must abolish its practice of assigning students to schools based on race -- to be effective on August 15, 1957.
Also on Jan 11, 1957 :
After a campaign in which he vowed that he would lose his right arm before seeing a single black child enrolled in a white public school in Virginia, Governor Lindsay Almond gives his inaugural address as Governor of Virginia. He focuses on “the sovereignty of the states . . . with particular reference to the problems of our public schools.”
Summer and Fall, 1957:
Beckett v. The School Board of the City of Norfolk is on appeal. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upholds Hoffmann's decision, and then the Supreme Court of the United States denies certiorari on October 21, 1957 . Still, integration is put off until 1958, since the case had been on appeal.
Little Rock, Arkansas. Governor Orval Faubus defies a federal court order to admit nine black students to the all-white Central High School. President Dwight Eisenhower sends federal troops to make certain that the black students are allowed to attend the school.
151 African American students petition the Norfolk School Board seeking to transfers into several of the all-white public schools in the city.
June 27, 1958:
From his bench, U.S. District Court Judge Walter E. Hoffman announces that Norfolk must act upon the transfer request with speed and without regard to race.
July 17, 1958:
Norfolk's School Board issues a resolution listing the criteria that the Board will use to determine a student's suitability for transfer.
August 18, 1958:
The Virginia State Supreme Court of Appeals issues an injunction restraining the Norfolk School Board from “performing any act of enrollment,” which was under the purview of the state's Pupil Placement Board.
August 19, 1958:
Judge Hoffman orders the Norfolk School Board to reconsider the transfer applications made by 151 African American students -- all of which the Board rejected on August 18. Hoffman ordered that a new transfer report on the 151 applications must be filed with him by August 29.
August 29, 1958:
The Norfolk School Board reported to Judge Hoffman that it would reluctantly admit seventeen African American students to six of the city's formerly all white schools, which had a combined total enrollment of over 10,000.
September 27, 1958:
Governor Lindsay Almond ordered that six of Norfolk's formerly all-white secondary schools be closed to avoid integration.
September 29, 1958:
Six of Norfolk's formerly all-white secondary schools were closed to avoid integration. 9,930 white students and 17 black students were displaced. Meanwhile, Norfolk's two black junior highs, its only black high school, one of its white junior highs, and all of its segregated elementary schools were open.
Fall and Winter, 1958-59:
A great fight brews in Norfolk over the school closings.
January 19, 1959:
The Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals declares in Harrison v. Day that the school closings violate section 129 of Virginia 's State Constitution, which requires the state to "maintain an efficient system of public free schools throughout the State."
January 19, 1959:
Norfolk federal court rules in James v. Almond that Virginia 's school-closing statute violates the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution and is therefore illegal.
February 2, 1959:
In Norfolk, Virginia, seventeen African American students enter previously all-white schools. Virginia 's era of massive resistance ends.