Mapping Desegregation: Where are the records?
A century from now, will desegregation in Virginia be a forgotten story? If we don't do a better job of saving our records, it will be. Currently few of the records of school desegregation in Virginia are publicly available. Old Dominion University Libraries has formed a state wide organization, Desegregation Of Virginia Education (DOVE) Project, to identify, locate and preserve records that document Virginia’s school desegregation process.
This documentation encompasses public and private records from the early 1950s into the late 1980s. Public records of desegregation could include City Council/County Board minutes; School Board minutes and administrative papers; school district correspondence with parents, city and county officials, Virginia Department of Education and Pupil Placement Board, decisional papers, legal advice and policy statements. Private records might take the form of teachers’ diaries, oral histories, records of informal tutoring groups that existed when public school were closed, organization papers of ad hoc citizen groups for and against Massive Resistance, papers of associations such as Virginia Education Association, Virginia State Teachers Association, Virginia Association of School Superintendents, Virginia School Boards Association. Legal research may be necessary to determine the public access rights to some of these records. Individual student school and medical records would not be sought due to confidentiality laws.
Events to be documented include the early challenges to Jim Crow schools in mid-1940s; the Virginia court cases that were bundled with other suits to become Brown v. Board of Ed; the school closings in Prince Edward County, Charlottesville, Warren County and Norfolk; the school openings in those counties; the gradual integration of all public schools in Virginia and court ordered busing to end de facto segregation lasting into the late 1980s.
Regional taskforces are being created to identify records holders and inventory their records. Task force members knowledgeable in regional history and records will identify individuals and groups who could have records such as school superintendents, historical societies, teachers, civic leaders, curators of private collections, and civil rights organizations. School desegregation records already in libraries and archives are also being surveyed. The results of these surveys are being compiled into a publicly available online catalog at Old Dominion University (ODU).
Additional future plans:
- Obtain funding from granting agencies such as the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).
- Develop a guide to help teacher K-12 use material cataloged by the DOVE project.
The media attention given to the 50th anniversary of Massive Resistance’s school closings has increased public awareness of this important era. While the public is listening may be the best time to find documentation so that the 100th anniversary is not commemorated with silence.
syaco [at] odu.edu
Special Collections Librarian
Old Dominion University