Special Collections & University Archives
Search Special Collections
Monday - Friday:
The Special Collections is located on the east side of the Library at the front of the 3rd floor.
Patricia W. & J. Douglas Perry Library
Desegregation - Introduction
On May 17, 1954, the United States Supreme Court declared segregated schools contrary to the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution and thus, unconstitutional. Virginia, along with other southern states, mobilized for action against what they perceived as a violation of states’ rights guaranteed to them in the United States Constitution. To offset the court’s decision Virginia’s General Assembly embarked on a program of "Massive Resistance." Massive Resistance, a term coined by Harry F. Byrd, Sr., the leader of Virginia’s Democratic Organization and a leader among southern Congressmen and Senators, was a series of legislative enactments designed to "defend" Virginia’s public school system from integration. The major provision decreed that integrated schools would not be entitled to or receive any funds from the State Treasury to operate. In 1958, Federal District Courts in Virginia ordered schools in Arlington, Charlottesville, Norfolk, and Warren County to desegregate. To circumvent the courts’ orders and prevent integration, Governor J. Lindsay Almond, Jr. of Virginia, on September 8, 1958, closed the schools in Warren County. Meanwhile, in the hopes of finding a solution, Charlottesville and Norfolk postponed the opening of their schools. But, on September 19, Almond closed two schools in Charlottesville, and on September 27, he closed another six schools in Norfolk. The localities of Warren County and Charlottesville, given the size of their school system, were able to provide adequate schooling, either private or otherwise, during the crisis. In Norfolk, however, the citizens were not prepared for the displacement of 10,000 students.
The collections that follow document school desegregation of Virginia and elsewhere in the country, starting with the Massive Resistance crisis, continuing into the busing lawsuits of the late 1980s. These collections are rich in material, covering the activities of the Norfolk School administration and Board, the Norfolk Committee on Public Schools, an attorney representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuits initiated to reopen the schools, and an expert witness on the 1971 busing plan.
This guide describes the collections relating to the school desegregation crisis housed in the Special Collections and University Archives of Old Dominion University Libraries. The collections concern the events of the school closings in Norfolk and Prince Edward County, but also contain information on Virginia’s reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision as a whole. Included in these collections are correspondence, reports, legal papers, petitions, press releases, financial records, publications, newspapers, newspaper clippings, and photographs. Material of note includes an artificial collection of scrapbooks and newspaper clippings tracing the history of the desegregation crisis in Norfolk.
Highlights of these materials are now available in our digital collection, School Desegregation in Norfolk, Virginia.
The entries are arranged alphabetically, including the collection number, the inclusive dates of the collection and the collection's size. Links to existing finding aids are included.
MG 59 Archie L. Boswell Papers, 1958-1960. 2 Hollinger Document Cases.
Norfolk attorney who represented the plaintiffs in the two cases initiated to reopen the Norfolk schools closed to avoid integration, James v. Duckworth and James v. Almond. Includes correspondence, briefs, trial proceedings, court papers, background material, and newspaper clippings.
Interviews of the founder and active member of the Women’s Council for Interracial Cooperation. Includes audio cassettes and transcripts that document her family history, civil rights in Norfolk, establishment of the Women’s Council for Interracial Cooperation, the desegregation crisis in Norfolk, and the experiences of African-Americans in Norfolk.
MG 106 Allan G. Donn Papers, 1961 - 1970. 1 Hollinger Document Case.
Contains court documents and a research paper related to school desegregation in Prince Edward County, Norfolk and Richmond, Virginia and North Carolina. The court documents relate to Cocheyse J. Griffin v. County School Board of Prince Edward County and Swan v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg.
MG 45 William Frederick Duckworth, 1899-1972. 2 Hollinger Boxes and 9 Oversize Boxes.
Mayor of Norfolk 1950-1962. Father of the Douglas MacArthur Memorial in downtown Norfolk. Founder and President of the General Douglas MacArthur Foundation. Collection consists of artifacts, newspaper clippings and scrapbooks documenting his activities in politics and as a businessman, and civic leader. See guide to political papers for more detail.
MG 1 Henry E. Howell, Jr. Papers, 1948-1977. 266 Hollinger Document Cases and 35 Hollinger Boxes.
Ran for the House of Delegates in 1959, an election in which the issue of Massive Resistance played a key role. Includes material relating to the campaign. Also contains material relating to the resister ticket of McKendree-Bonney-Sutton.
MG 98 The Massive Resistance Printed Materials, 1958-1960. 2 Hollinger Document Cases.
Consists of 20 folders of regional and national newspaper clippings covering the “Massive Resistance” movement and public reaction to the de-segregation and subsequent closing of some of Norfolk’s public schools. Also discussed are state and local politicians such as Governor Lindsay Almond, Jr., who ordered the closing the Norfolk schools that enrolled African American students, and Mayor William Fred Duckworth, who opposed de-segregating the public schools. Some of the clippings discuss the fate of those students whose graduation was put in jeopardy by the school closing, known as "The Lost Class of '59."
MG 92 Norfolk Public Schools Desegregation Papers, 1922-2008. 34 Hollinger Document Cases and 2 Hollinger Oversized Boxes.
This collection primarily contains material related to the integration of the Norfolk public schools. The papers include correspondence, court cases, school board resolutions, inter-district memorandum, press releases, reports, news clippings and district maps. Subjects covered are the 1958 school closing to prevent integration, integration progress in the 1960s, busing to achieve integration in the 1970s and the end of busing in the mid-1980s. Among the most important historical materials is correspondence between Governor Lindsay Almond and the School Administration, beginning with the letter ordering the closing of six Norfolk schools in as mandated by the "Massive Resistance" law. Other letters during this time period discuss allowing groups to meet in those schools as long as the schools would not be used for educational purposes. The donated material also includes school directories from 1922 - 1990 and school calendars from 1952 - 2008.
Norfolk Women's History, 8 Interviews.
Includes interviews with Ruth James, lead litigant in the court cases initiated to reopen Norfolk's closed schools, and Edith White, the wife of Forrest P. White. Recounts the experiences and prejudices encountered during the efforts to reopen the schools.
Oral History Collection, 140+ interviews.
Includes interviews with A. Rufus Tonelson, principal of Maury High School during the crisis, and Mark Schweitzer, the son of Paul Schweitzer, that describe the events of the school closings in 1958-1959.
MG 16 Paul T. Schweitzer Papers, 1957-1976. 3 Hollinger Document Cases.
A member of the Norfolk School Board (1952-1960) during the desegregation crisis and the Norfolk City Council (1960-1968). Collection includes correspondence and publications documenting the attitudes of Norfolk and the activities of the School Board during the school closings of 1958. Of note are the files of correspondence from people throughout the United States either supporting or criticizing his efforts to reopen the schools.
MG 19 A.E.S Stephens Papers, 1949-1961. 6 Hollinger Document Cases.
Lieutenant Governor of the Commonwealth (1952-1961) during the Supreme Court’s decision and the passing of the Massive Resistance legislation. Collection primarily relates to his campaign for the Democratic Party’s nomination for Governor in the 1961 Democratic primary, but contains correspondence files dating to 1955 that document his attitude and the attitudes of Virginians across the commonwealth on the subject of segregated schools. Of interest is the text of a speech Stephen’s delivered in Alexandria, Virginia in 1955, in which he advocated a rational approach to the Supreme Court decision and letters reflecting Virginia’s reaction to this speech, which prompted many people to accuse him of being an integrationist.
MG 102 Michael J. Stolee Papers, ca 1952 - 1993. 8 Cartons.
Contains material related to Stolee’s work as an expert witness in 68 school desegregation cases in the US including Norfolk. Stolee helped to design Norfolk 1971 school busing plan.The material includes the court proceedings, testimony, newspaper clippings, photographs, invoices and correspondence as well as his narrative of some of the cases.
MG 5 Forrest P. White Papers, 1952-1963. 3 Hollinger Documents Cases.
President and active member of the Norfolk Committee for Public Schools. Actively involved in efforts to preserve the public school system of Norfolk and reopen the closed schools. Material includes both personal papers and the institutional records of the committee, including financial and legal records. Collection primarily relates to his activities on the Norfolk Committee for Public Schools and the efforts of this committee during Norfolk’s desegregation crisis. Includes correspondence, speeches, statements of purpose, position reports, background material, pamphlets, booklets, form letters, membership lists, letters to the editor, articles and newspaper clippings. Noteworthy is material relating to the Gray Commission and the Perrow Commission, state government commissions organized to formulate plans to implement court ordered integration.
MG 96 Forrest R. ``Hap'' White Tapes 1975-1991. 14 Cassette Tapes.
Former Budget Director for the Norfolk Public Schools. Fourteen untranscribed cassette tapes contain interviews White conducted with politicians, journalists, police and other city officials from 1975 – 1991 as background for his ODU doctoral dissertation, "School desegregation and urban renewal" and 1992 book, “Pride and Prejudice: School Desegregation and Urban Renewal in Norfolk, 1950-1959”.
MG 20 Margaret White Papers, 1953-1976. 1 Hollinger Document Case.
A teacher in the Norfolk school system during the desegregation crisis who was active in the effort to reopen the schools. Collection primarily relates to the CBS documentary, The Lost Class of ’59, of which Norfolk was the focus and the follow-up documentary by CBS, The Other Face of Dixie, a report on the situation of newly integrated schools. Includes correspondence, newspapers clippings, and magazine articles. Noteworthy is a flyer titled, Vote For Public Schools, Vote For Petitioning the Governor, notifying the citizens of a drive to petition the Governor to reopen the closed schools.
MG 54 Women’s Council for Interracial Cooperation, 1945-1960. 1 Hollinger Document Cases.
Founded in 1945 as an interracial organization designed to address concerns with education, health, and housing among the Afro-American community. Includes correspondence, the organization’s constitution, annual reports, minutes, speeches, programs, membership lists, pamphlets and booklets, magazine articles, newspaper clippings and photographs. Of note is a transcribed panel report titled, "How Norfolk’s Closed Schools Were Reopened" and Susan Slaughter’s personal account of "The First Fifteen Years of the WCIC."