DAVIS et al. v. COUNTY SCHOOL
BOARD OF PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY, VA., et al.
Civ. A. No. 1333
United States District Court
Eastern District of Virginia, at Richmond
February 25-29, 1952, Heard
March 7, 1952, Decided
103 F. Supp. 337
Oliver W. Hill, Spottswood W. Robinson, 3rd
(Hill, Martin & Robinson), of Richmond, Va., and
Carter, of New York City, for plaintiffs. T. Justin Moore,
Archibald G. Robertson, and T. Justin Moore, Jr. (Hunton,
Williams, Anderson, Gay & Moore), all of Richmond, Va., for
defendant school board and superintendent. J. Lindsay Almond,
Jr., Atty. Gen. of Virginia, and Henry T. Wickham, Asst. Atty.
Gen. of Virginia, for the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Judges: Before DOBIE, Circuit Judge, and
HUTCHESON, and BRYAN, District Judges.
Opinion by: BRYAN
Prince Edward is a county of 15,000 people in
the southern part of Virginia. Slightly more than one-half of
its inhabitants are Negroes. They compose 59% of the county
school population. At the high school plane the average pupil
attendance is 386 colored, 346 white. For themselves and their
classmates, a large number of these Negro students, their
parents, or guardians now demand that their county school board
and school superintendent refrain from further observance of the
mandate of section 140 of the Constitution of Virginia and its
the former reading: 'White and colored children shall not be
taught in the same school.' Defendants' adherence to this
command, it is averred, creates a positive discrimination
against the colored child solely because of his race or color,
constituting both a deprivation of his privileges and immunities
as a citizen of the United States and a denial to him of the
equal protection of the laws. The prohibition is denounced as a
breach of the Civil Rights Act
and as inimical to section 1 of the 14th Amendment of the
Demandants pray a declaration of the
invalidity, and an injunction against the enforcement, of the
separation provisions. In the alternative, they ask a decree
noting and correcting certain specified inequalities between the
white and colored schools. That the schools are maintained with
public tax moneys, that the defendants are public officials, and
that they separate the children according to race in obedience
to the State law are concessa. The Commonwealth of Virginia
intervenes to defend.
Plaintiffs urge upon us that Virginia's
separation of the Negro youth from his white contemporary
stigmatizes the former as an unwanted, that the impress is alike
on the minds of the colored and the white, the parents as well
as the children, and indeed of the public generally, and that
the stamp is deeper and the more indelible because imposed by
law. Its necessary and natural effect, they say, is to prejudice
the colored child in the sight of his community, to implant
unjustly in him a sense of inferiority as a human being to other
human beings, and to seed his mind with hopeless frustration.
They argue that in spirit and in truth the colored youth is, by
the segregation law, barred from association with the white
child, not the white from the colored, that actually it is
ostracism for the Negro child, and that the exclusion deprives
him of the equal opportunity with the Caucasian of receiving an
education unmarked, an immunity and privilege protected by the
statutes and constitution of the United States.
Eminent educators, anthropologists,
psychologists and psychiatrists appeared for the plaintiffs,
unanimously expressed dispraise of segregation in schools, and
unequivocally testified the opinion that such separation
distorted the child's natural attitude, throttled his mental
development, especially the adolescent, and immeasurably
abridged his educational opportunities. For the defendants,
equally distinguished and qualified educationists and leaders in
the other fields emphatically vouched the view that, given
equivalent physical facilities, offerings and instruction, the
Negro would receive in a separate school the same educational
opportunity as he would obtain in the classroom and on the
campus of a mixed school. Each witness offered cogent and
appealing grounds for his conclusion.
On this fact issue the Court cannot say that
the plaintiffs' evidence over-balances the defendants'. But on
the same presentation by the plaintiffs as just recited, Federal
rejected the proposition, in respect to elementary and junior
high schools, that the required separation of the races is in
law offensive to the National statutes and constitution. They
have refused to decree that segregation be abolished
incontinently. We accept these decisions as apt and able
precedent. Indeed we might ground our conclusion on their
opinions alone. But the facts proved in our case, almost without
division and perhaps peculiar here, so potently demonstrate why
nullification of the cited sections of the statutes and
constitution of Virginia is not warranted, that they should
speak our conclusion.
Regulations by the State of the education of
persons within its marches is the exercise of its police power-
'the power to legislate with respect to the safety, morals,
health and general welfare.'
The only discipline of this power by the 14th Amendment and the
Civil Rights Acts of Congress is the requirement that the
regulation be reasonable and uniform. We will measure the
instant facts by that yardwand.
It indisputably appears from the evidence that
the separation provision rests neither upon prejudice, nor
caprice, nor upon any other measureless foundation. Rather the
proof is that it declares one of the ways of life in Virginia.
Separation of white and colored 'children' in the public schools
of Virginia has for generations been a part of the mores of her
people. To have separate schools has been their use and wont.
The school laws chronicle separation as an
unbroken usage in Virginia for more than eighty years. The
General Assembly of Virginia in its session of 1869-70, in
providing for public free schools, stipulated 'that white and
colored persons shall not be taught in the same school, but in
separate schools, under the same general regulations as to
management, usefulness and efficiency'.
It was repeated at the session 1871-2,
and carried into the Code of 1873.
As is well known, all this legislation occurred in the period of
readjustment following the Civil War when the interests of the
Negro in Virginia were scrupulously guarded. The same statute
was reenacted by the Legislature of 1877
and again in 1878,
still within the Reconstruction years of Virginia.
In almost the same words separation in the
schools was carried into the Acts of Assembly of 1881-2,
and similarly embodied in the Code of 1887,
in the Code of 1919,
and now it is placed in the Code of 1950, in a single section,
22-221, in the same words: 'White and colored persons shall not
be taught in the same school, but shall be taught in separate
schools, under the same general regulations as to management,
usefulness and efficiency.' The importance of the school
separation clause to the people of the State is signalized by
the fact that it is the only racial segregation direction
contained in the constitution of Virginia.
Maintenance of the separated systems in
Virginia has not been social despotism, the testimony points
out, and suggests that whatever its demerits in theory, in
practice it has begotten greater opportunities for the Negro.
Virginia alone employs as many Negro teachers in her public
schools, according to undenied testimony, as are employed in all
of the thirty-one non-segregating States. Likewise it was shown
that in 29 of the even hundred counties in Virginia, the schools
and facilities for the colored are equal to the white schools,
in 17 more they are now superior, and upon completion of work
authorized or in progress, another 5 will be superior. Of the
twenty-seven cities, 5 have Negro schools and facilities equal
to the white and 8 more have better Negro schools than white.
So ingrained and wrought in the texture of
their life is the principle of separate schools, that the
president of the University of Virginia expressed to the Court
his judgment that its involuntary elimination would severely
lessen the interest of the people of the State in the public
schools, lessen the financial support, and so injure both races.
His testimony, corroborated by others, was especially impressive
because of his candid and knowledgeable discussion of the
problem. A scholar and a former Governor and legislator of the
State, we believe him delicately sensible of the customs, the
mind, and the temper of both races in Virginia. With the whites
comprising more than three-quarters of the entire population of
the Commonwealth, the point he makes is a weighty practical
factor to be considered in determining whether a reasonable
basis has been shown to exist for the continuation of the school
In this milieu we cannot say that Virginia's
separation of white and colored children in the public schools
is without substance in fact or reason. We have found no hurt or
harm to either race. This ends our inquiry. It is not for us to
adjudge the policy as right or wrong- that, the Commonwealth of
Virginia 'shall determine for itself'.
On the second phase of this case, the
inequality in the Negro schools when compared with the white,
the defendants confess that the buildings and facilities
furnished for Negro high school education are below those of the
white school. We think the discrepancy extends further.
We find inequality also in the curricula of the schools and in
the provision for transportation of the students.
Undoubtedly frankness required admission by
the defendants of their dereliction in furnishing an adequate
school plant and facilities for the Negro. His high school is
the Robert R. Moton. It is composed of one permanent brick
building and three temporary, one-story, frame buildings. No
gymnasiums are provided, no shower or dressing rooms to
accompany physical education or athletics, no cafeteria, no
teachers' rest room and no infirmary, to give some of the items
absent in Moton but present in the white high school. Moton's
science facilities and equipment are lacking and inadequate. No
industrial art shop is provided, and in many other ways the
structures and facilities do not meet the level of the white
In offerings we find physics, world history,
Latin, advanced typing and stenography, wood, metal and machine
shop work, and drawing, not offered at Moton, but given in the
white schools. While the school authorities tender their
willingness to give any course in the Negro school now
obtainable in the white school, all courses in the latter should
be made more readily available to the students of Moton.
In supplying school buses the Negro students
have not been accorded their share of the newer vehicles. This
practice must cease. In the allocation of new conveyances, as
replacements or additional equipment, there must be no
preference in favor of the white students.
On the issue of actual inequality our decree
will declare its existence in respect to buildings, facilities,
curricula and buses. We will restrain immediately its
continuance in respect to the curricula and conveyances. We will
order the defendant to pursue with diligence and dispatch their
present program, now afoot and progressing, to replace the Moton
buildings and facilities with a new building and new equipment,
or otherwise remove the inequality in them.
The frame structures at Moton were erected in
1948 and 1949 as temporary expedients, upon the advice and
authority of the State Board of Education. Through the
activities of the school board and the division superintendent,
defendants here, $840,000.00 has been obtained, the land
acquired, and plans completed, for a new high school and
necessary facilities for the Negroes. Both local and State
authorities are moving with speed to complete the new program.
An injunction could accomplish no more.
A decree will be entered in accordance with
1. Constitution of
1902; Sec. 22-221, Code of Virginia 1950, q. v., post, p.
2. 8 U.S.C.A. §
3. Briggs v.
Elliott, D.C., 98 F.Supp. 529 and Carr v. Corning, 86
U.S.App.D.C. 173, 182 F.2d 14, citing Plessy v. Ferguson, 163
U.S. 537, 16 S.Ct. 1138, 41 L.Ed. 256, Gong Lum v. Rice, 275
U.S. 78, 48 S.Ct. 91, 72 L.Ed. 172, and Cumming v. County Board
of Education, 175 U.S. 528, 20 S.Ct. 197, 44 L.Ed. 262.
4. Briggs v.
Elliott, supra, D.C., 98 F.Supp. 529, 532.
5. Acts of
1869-70, c. 259, p. 402.
6. Acts of 1871-2,
c. 370, p. 461.
7. Title 23, c.
78, sec. 58
8. Acts of General
Assembly 1876-7, c. 38, p. 28.
9. Acts of General
Assembly 1877-8, c. 14, p. 10.
10. C. 40, pp. 36,
12. Sec. 719.
Judge Parker in Briggs v. Elliott, supra,
D.C., 98 F.Supp. 529, 532
Chapter VI. "The Instruction of Negroes." In Edgar W.
A Documentary History of Education in the South before 1860. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina, 1953
Chapter 10 "Up From Slavery: Educational and
other Rights of Negroes." In Edgar W. Knight and Clifton L. Hall. Readings
in American Educational History. New York Appleton-Century-Crofts,
Many states had laws prohibiting
the education of blacks; here black youngsters are turned away at the
* * *
* * *
The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World
By Daniel Yergin
Renowned energy authority Daniel Yergin continues the riveting story begun in his Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Prize, in this gripping account of the quest for the energy the world needs—and the power and riches that come with it. A master story teller as well as one of the world's great experts, Yergin proves that energy is truly the engine of global political and economic change, as well as central to the battle over climate change. From the jammed streets of Beijing, the shores of the Caspian Sea, and the conflicts in the Mideast, to Capitol Hill and Silicon Valley, Yergin takes us inside the decisions and choices that are shaping our future. Without understanding the realities of energy examined in The Quest, we may surrender our place at the helm of history. One of our great narrative writers, Yergin tells the inside stories—of the oil market, the rise of the "petrostate," the race to control the resources of the former Soviet empire, and the massive corporate mergers that transformed the oil landscape. He shows how the drama of oil—the struggle for access to it, the battle for control, the insecurity of supply, the consequences of its use, its impact on the global economy, and the geopolitics that dominate it—will continue to shape our world. He takes on the toughest questions—will we run out of oil, and are China and the United States destined to conflict over oil? Yergin also reveals the surprising and turbulent history of nuclear, coal, electricity, and natural gas. He investigates the "rebirth of renewables" —biofuels and wind, as well as solar energy, which venture capitalists are betting will be "the next big thing" for meeting the needs of a growing world economy. He makes clear why understanding this greening landscape and its future role are crucial.
* * * * *
Salvage the Bones
A Novel by Jesmyn Ward
On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.—WashingtonPost
* * * * *
The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
* * *
Ancient African Nations
* * * * *
If you like this page consider making a donation
* * * * *
Negro Digest /
Browse all issues
* * * * *
The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for
George Jackson /
* * *
The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
* * * * *
* * *
(Books, DVDs, Music, and more)
9 January 2012