The County That Closed Its Public Schools Rather Than Desegregate After Brown v. Board of Education

A crowd of about 1,000 attends an NAACP rally in Farmville, Va., marking the 7th anniversary of the Supreme Court's school desegregation ruling. The rally was at the courthouse of Prince Edward County, whose public schools were closed because of integration order.


When judicial nominee Wendi Vitter made headlines last month for evading a question at her confirmation hearing about whether or not she agreed with the 1954 landmark civil rights decision in Brown v. Board of Education, somepundits dismissed the idea that the question ought to be taken seriously. This line of questioning only served as a “gotcha” moment, the argument went, and Vitter’s remark that she preferred not to comment didn’t mean she wanted to see the case overturned. That may be true, but the idea that Brown could be challenged is not a ridiculous one. This landmark decision has been under attack since the day it became law.

In fact, the first wave of resistance lasted an entire decade, during which time Prince Edward County, Va., school officials closed public schools for five whole years rather than comply with the Supreme Court order to desegregate.

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