The Norfolk 17

LaVera Forbes Olivia Driver James Turner, Jr. Lolita Portis Patricia Turner Claudia Wellington Geraldine Talley Delores Johnson Johnnie Rouse Edward Jordan Alveraze Frederick Gonsouland Reginald Young Carol Wellington Betty Jean Reed Patricia Godbolt Louis Cousins Andrew Heidelberg


Delores Johnson, one of seven children to integrate Norview High School, was 16 and a junior in February 1959.

She has been interviewed and has participated in some of the events honoring the Norfolk 17. She remembers that she wanted to take physical education classes, and she considered majoring in physical education.  But, she was not allowed to take PE at Norview High School.  They told her they were afraid she would dirty the showers for the other girls.

She recalls that when she sat down in her first class on her first day, everyone moved away from her. Her teachers were not welcoming either; they chose to ignore her. She also recounts how long it took her to get home from school on the first day.  NAACP lawyers were driving her home, as they did some of the other children, because they wanted them to get home safely and didn’t want anyone to know where the children lived.  After hours of driving around, she asked why they weren’t taking her home – they told her they were being followed.  She turned around and saw a car with 6 large white men following closely.  She did not get home until 9pm.

She also remembers that she carried all of her books, rather than taking a chance stopping at her locker.  She also would not dare use the restroom, for fear of being cornered. One day a boy walked into her and knocked all of her books down – she gathered them up as fast as she could, with no help from anyone. They all just stared. She realized she had been cut, but she said nothing, just picked up her books and moved on.

In spite of everything, she says she “wouldn’t trade the experience.  But, it was not easy.”

Johnson married and is now Delores Johnson Brown. She received her MA in Education in 1975 and a Certificate in Advanced Studies in 1981-82, both from Old Dominion University. In 1996, she retired as a reading teaching for Norfolk Public Schools. She keeps very busy as a volunteer, and she attends many of the events honoring the Norfolk 17. She gave an extensive interview for Norfolk State University's "Brown Decision in Norfolk, Virginia."

Link to NSU's
"Brown Decision in Norfolk, Virginia"
Web site for video interviews

Delores Johnson leaving Norview High School on her first day of school 2/2/1959. (Norfolk Ledger-Dispatch photo from a news clipping in the collection of Paul T. Schweitzer.)