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“Let’s tell Russia about this.”
Massive Resistance and the Closing of the Schools
Under the leadership of U.S. Senator Harry F. Byrd Sr., Virginia chose to obstruct the Brown v. Board of Education decision by enacting a policy of Massive Resistance. Governor J. Lindsay Almond Jr. closed public schools in Warren County, Charlottesville, and Norfolk in the autumn of 1958 rather than integrate them, but two court decisions on January 19, 1959—one from a federal court, the other from the state supreme court—both overturned the Massive Resistance laws and demanded that the schools be reopened.
Prince Edward County officials continued to defy the court orders, however. On May 9, 1959, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals set September 1 as a deadline for integration. On June 26, the county board of supervisors voted instead to cut off revenues to the public schools. Encouraged by segregationists from across the state and the South, Prince Edward was the only locality in the nation to take such a step. The schools did not open on September 10 as scheduled and remained closed for the next five years.
While white students quickly moved into Prince Edward Academy—a new private school supported by state-approved tuition grants and donations from ardent segregationists—black students were left without any educational facilities. Some local churches provided a rudimentary substitute for the local schools, and some black students attended classes in nearby counties or, with the aid of the Quaker-affiliated American Friends Service Committee, relocated. Most black students, however, and especially children who were too young to move away from home, were denied access to any formal education. Similarly, most black teachers lost their jobs, forcing many to leave the community.