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Equalization, integration and Massive Resistance

By Ruby Walden

Editor’s note: This is the fifth in a series of six opinion pieces by Ruby Walden about the educational system in Suffolk for African-American students. The series will be published on Sundays.

 

In my last article of my series, I referred to the Equalization Suit filed against the Nansemond County School System and how reluctantly the system responded to anything in the interest of Negroes. Even under court orders, with spelled out requirements to be met to fulfill the agreement of the compromise, it did not change anything.

Even with plans and specifications in hand to follow to build a new school building, and the agreement of the compromise to be fulfilled in hand, those who ran the school system instead spent taxpayers’ money, time and resources trying to cut out, redesign, remove or just avoid doing what was right and long overdue. It was much like the slave mentality that continues to haunt the souls of some people today … listening to their hearts telling them to do what is right while still fighting the evils instilled in them for years by their slave masters.

In the midst of this fight, another fight entered the picture. The school system came up with the idea to send all Negro high school children to East Suffolk High School. At that time, the number of Negro students in Nansemond County was almost twice the number of white students. This meant that there would be only one high school for all Negro students to attend, while white students had a choice of three different high schools and locations to attend.

There is so much history of Negroes trying to get an education in Nansemond County that it is hard to get from one situation to the next. I had planned to write only four articles in this series, and now I am at the fifth. I must fast forward.

It was interesting yet disheartening to watch the school system drag its feet to avoid fulfilling the demands of the equalization suit. When the Supreme Court ruled for the integration of all public schools nationwide, the school system became extremely outraged. It was not a surprise to us that there would be opposition undreamed of to follow, beginning with the state of Virginia declaring to fight to the end with Massive Resistance.

All kinds of delaying tactics were devised to evade the law of the land such as rebelling with Massive Resistance, pupil assignment, freedom of choice and then the Pupil Placement Plan. This required parents to sign an agreement giving the system permission to place their child at the pleasure of the school system. My husband and I, along with other parents, refused to sign such an act. This resulted in one of my children and 10 other children, whose parents did not sign, being barred from enrollment in school.

With our children as plaintiffs, we resorted to the court. The judge of the court ruled that the Pupil Placement Act was unconstitutional. With this ruling, our children were able to enroll in school the next school day.

Negro children had been denied an equal education in Nansemond County. However, the administration, year after year, proudly published in the papers that the system had operated so efficiently that it was able to return unused funds to the state. It was obvious that these funds were monies that Negro schools were never allocated.

Ruby Walden, a lifetime resident of Nansemond County and Suffolk, can be reached at wbyrdnst@aol.com.