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Integration History

NAACP planners in Lynchburg
Buses on the first day of integration in Lynchburg City public high schools
Dunbar High School
Segregated white elementary school students

School Integration

In 1954, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that separate but equal facilities violated the equal protection clause of the U. S. Constitution. A year later (1955), the Supreme Court issued a ruling in Brown II that school divisions should work with federal district courts and move with “deliberate speed” to eliminate vestiges of public school segregation.

Massive Resistance

After Brown v. Board, districts throughout the South resisted integration. In Virginia, Senator Harry Byrd led the opposition through Massive Resistance. 

A Pupil Placement Board was created with the power to assign specific students to particular schools. Tuition grants were to be provided to students who opposed integrated schools. The linchpin of Massive Resistance was a law that cut off state funds and closed any public school that attempted  to integrate.

By the 1960s, federal judges begin forcing districts to integrate. This begins a slow process, lasting another decade, until every district in Virginia is integrated.

Lynchburg

Like most small cities in the south, Lynchburg resisted social change and racial integration in the 1950’s and 60’s. Change came slowly to the Hill City—and only because of courage and determination of local leaders, citizens, and college students. The NAACP and other organizations were very active, leading sit-ins, jail-ins, and inviting Martin Luther King Jr. to visit and speak. While these events are in the past, we later discuss their continual influence on the present.

Lynchburg City Schools elementary school class in the 1960s

Lynchburg was one of the final six districts in Virginia to integrate. This really highlights their resistance since Virginia itself was so slow to integration. Continuously the news reported the city's resistance to integration.

 

In 1962, Lynchburg's superintendent supported and article titled "No White Child Here Seen Forced into Negro School." He responded publicly to the article saying he hopes it stays that way forever. The, in 1963, the editor of The News, in Lynchburg, explained on April 19, 1963, "We are opposed to integration in the public schools. We strongly support law and order. We will go along with only such integration as we feel is necessary."

Lynchburg City Schools elementary school class in the 1960s

These are just two articles. There were numerous that espoused the community's preference of segregation. The Civil Rights Movement in Lynchburg unofficially ended in 1970, when the city’s last segregated high school classes graduated.

Post card of downtown in Lynchburg

Post card of downtown in Lynchburg

Jackson v. School Board of City of Lynchburg

Lynchburg resisted school integration. In the decade after the1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, the city built seven new elementary schools in white communities. Residential segregation in the city meant that these schools remained all white while the four schools in Ward 2 remained Black.

 

In September 1961 the parents of Cecelia Jackson, Linda Woodruff, Owen Cardwell, and  Brenda  Hughes  filed  suit  against  the  School  Board  of Lynchburg  and  the  Pupil  Placement  Board  of the  Commonwealth  of Virginia in U.S. district court. The plaintiffs petitioned the court to have their  children  admitted  to  the  all­ white  E. C. Glass  High  School  in Lynchburg, alleging  that  the  school  board  was  not  complying  with  the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court rulings that called for school desegregation.

 

“The Lynchburg Superintendent of Schools testified that the practice of the school system was to recommend assignment of all white children to all-white schools and of all colored children to all-colored schools.” Jackson v. School Board of City of Lynchburg, Va.

In November 1961 Judge Thomas Michie ordered the School Board of Lynchburg to admit Lynda Woodruff and Owen Cardwell to E. C. Glass  High  School. However, he denied  admission  to  Cecelia  Jackson  and  Brenda Hughes, claiming  that  their  grades  and  low  scores  in  their  aptitude  tests made them academically unfit for admission to that school.

Judge Michie also  ordered  the  school  board  to "submit to the Court a plan to achieve a system of determining initial assignments, placements or enrollments of children to and in the public schools on a non-racial basis and be required to make periodical reports to the Court of their progress in effectuating a transition to a racially nondiscriminatory school system."

Owen Cardwell and Lynda Woodruff, the first students to integrate E. C. Glass 

Owen Cardwell and Lynda Woodruff, the first students to integrate E. C. Glass 

The school board submitted a plan in February 1962 calling for the desegregation of the Lynchburg school system at one grade  per  year. The  judge  approved  the  plan. The  plaintiffs  appealed  the decision to the Fourth Circuit Court and argued "that there is no administrative justification for permitting the school board to extend the process for perhaps as long as twelve years" (Jackson v. School Board of City of Lynchburg, 321 F. 2d 230, 233). 

 

In September 1963, the  court  of appeals  reversed  Michie’s  ruling  denying  admission  of Jackson and Hughes to the E. C. Glass School and approving the desegregation  plan. Jackson  and  Hughes  were  ordered  to  be  admitted  to  the  E. C. Glass High School, and the School Board of Lynchburg was ordered to submit a new plan for desegregation.

 

In 1963, mandatory busing was not a permissible tool for integration. However, in 1971, Supreme Court case Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg changed this.

Writing for the unanimous court, Chief Justice Warren Burger agreed that implementing Green often required new desegregation guidelines. The high court shied away from requiring a specific remedy, such as busing… In other cases, however, particularly in cities where there is residential segregation, busing represents a legitimate and necessary remedy to segregation (Daugherity, 2016).

First day of school on August 31, 1971. News and Advance archives

First day of school on August 31, 1971. News and Advance archives

For the next nine years the Jackson case was adjudicated with regard to handling the question as to how and when the Lynchburg school system would be desegregated. Lynchburg was one of the last six districts in Virginia to integrate. The city's perpetual delays after Jackson led to NAACP State Conference attorneys to sue the school system.

 

In 1971, when the district court ordered the city to integrate, the city's plan for a racially balanced system was approved. They used a combination of geographic attendance zones paired with inter city sub zones for elementary schools, busing, and magnet programs. For the plan to work, the city had to buy its first fleet of school buses.

 

While the city began busing, discrimination still existed in that initiative because the burden fell on Black families. When busing began a district administrator stated "no white children will be bussed to negro schools." 

 

This policy meant, and still means, that families who are reliant on public transportation or work away from their child's school are limited in how they can participate at the schools.

Perpetuation of Bias and Racism

We are not opposed to unitary status because of Lynchburg's history of discrimination and opposition to integration, but the current perpetuation of bias and racism. 

 

The school district has never overhauled their operating structure after they integrated. The influences of structural racism impact decisions, funding, experiences today. Even today, the only time diversity appears in school policies is when it is related to religion, not race, not economics, not background. We discuss this further on the 'Continued Inequities' page.

 

Our school board made a decision to close schools due to higher costs. Well, why do they have higher costs?

 

They have specific programs and funding to serve at-risk students and to address the achievement. This lack of awareness, understanding, and care about providing an equitable, not equal, education is a byproduct of continued implicit bias that is not corrected because it also is in the structure of the school district.

1930s redlinning map

All of this is prohibited and not changed because racism and discrimination is present in every aspect of Lynchburg City.

Lynchburg is still heavily residentially segregated by race, economics, background, and exposures. There are four wards in Lynchburg. Every ward except Ward 2, is 25-28% people of color. Ward 2 has 70% people of color, a median income that is an average 30,000 dollars lower than any other ward, has the lowest levels of individuals with exposure to higher education, and has the highest levels of exposure to lead pollution, proximity to landfills, proximity to brown fields, and exposure to air pollution.

If you search for the best neighborhoods in Lynchburg, maps dramatically mimic 1930s redlining maps. Communities mostly of color have a low desirability index while whiter, higher income areas have a high desirability.

1930s redlinning map

In Lynchburg, the southern white evangelical Protestant church has a large influence on the culture of the city.  Historically, these churches had a commitment to white supremacy as the divine order (Jones, 2020). This messaging was expansive in Lynchburg due to Jerry Falwell Sr's organization, the Moral Majority.

Using morality and color-blind conservatism as a shield, evangelicals' organizations, such as the Moral Majority, promoted their favored issues while continuing to embrace racist practices and strategies to consolidate economic and political power (Butler, 2020).

 

We must state that people can individually change and later in his life Falwell Sr. began transitioning towards a more racially inclusive mindset. However, southern evangelical Protestant churches are still under the influence of their discriminatory history. Research and national surveys of the Christian Right highlights they continue to have an underlying ideology of racism. As they center traditional values, anti-LGBTQIA+ rights, and pro-life policies they also denounce many notions of racism and calls for social justice. They pick and choose which conversations they're willing to include in politics and which they avoid.

The influence of religion coupled with the socialite culture contribute to biases in Lynchburg and its operating structures.

 

Another influence on Lynchburg's culture is the socialite elitism perpetuated by the country clubs and swim clubs in Lynchburg. These clubs also continue segregated social experiences.

 

Country and swim clubs in Lynchburg integrated years after school integration. While the clubs do not have discriminatory policies, their location, their cultures, and their cost are extremely limiting to communities of color and individuals that don't have a large expendable income. 

Again, while the existence of these clubs is not specifically discriminatory, their history is, and, similar to the school district, not much has been done to dismantle biased structures.

 

Families belonging to these country clubs tend to be wealthier and have more power in the  city. Being surrounded by a culture that has remnants of a segregated society influences implicit biases in people. Even without intending to be discriminatory, implicit biases can lead to individuals using their influence in discriminatory manners.

Postcard of Oakwood Country Club

Postcard of Oakwood Country Club

These discriminatory influences have shifted what racism looks like. In 2024, old-fashioned racism is unlikely to be socially accepted beyond a small fringe; however, racism has not disappeared and has transitioned to more subtle approaches (Clark, 2020)

This is relevant to Lynchburg, because even today, on our public Facebook posts, parents comment that they are leaving their zoned school because Black kids from the inter city are being bussed in. That equity is a marxist theory that has no place in the city. That equitable funding for schools serving at-risk students, not equal funding, isn't fair. All of this connects to a dominant culture that is comfortable with an underlying level of discrimination and racism in the city.

 

As city council member and Director of the Jubilee Center, Sterling Wilder, discusses, “We’ve had racial issues for years and years, and I think over the past couple of years, there’s been more of [them], even though [they've] been more hidden.”

There are at least six hate groups in Lynchburg and the neighboring communities (Southern Poverty Law Center). In recent years, white nationalist groups have actively posted their propaganda in the city. As white nationalist talking points infiltrate pieces of right wing conservative ideology, it is concerning that that is the major influence on Lynchburg's policies and decisions. 

Currently, city council members and community members want to remove all diversity, equity, and inclusion trainings and notions of sexism and racism.

Acting as if those biases do not exist and not educating individuals on discrimination and bias is a byproduct of individuals' own biases and racism.

For equitable change to happen, these legacies of discrimination have to be addressed, especially in education. We are seeing a repeating cycle of discriminatory statements made in the 1960s/70s being made in the 2000s and again today. This cycle will not change unless we all contribute to a culture change and structure change.

 

As long as the school district continues to trend towards resegregation and restricting funding for at-risk schools, we will continue to call for accountability and changes in the city.

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