After nearly two decades of legal challenges against racial segregation in public schools and higher education, on May 17, 1954, the United States Supreme Court ruled in court case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka that school segregation was unconstitutional. Their decision paved the way for desegregation of educational institutions. Before Brown v. Board of Education, legal segregation had existed under the "separate but equal" doctrine, but for the most part, the separate educational facilities and opportunities the Southern states offered to African Americans were inferior, not equal, to those for white Americans. In 1956, Virginia's General Assembly adopted a policy of "Massive Resistance," using the law and courts to obstruct desegregation.
In this audio clip, Governor Thomas Stanley addresses Virginia’s first steps toward making the changes demanded by the Brown v. Board decision.
It soon became clear that Governor Thomas Stanley, along with many other white politicians in Southside Virginia (where the powerful Byrd Organization’s political base resided) would not accept desegregation under any circumstance. Stanley created a committee to respond to the Brown decision, composed primarily of Southside politicians. This resulted in the “Gray Plan,” named after the committee’s chairman, segregationist Garland Gray, which gave the localities the choice to desegregate their schools and additionally provided legislation that would allow the localities to skirt integration if they wished.
Citation: Governor Thomas B. Stanley Response to the United States Supreme Court Decision in Brown v. Board of Education. May 17, 1954 (WRVA–386). WRVA Radio Collection, Accession 38210, Library of Virginia.
Analyze: How would you rate Governor Stanley's statements on school integration. Does he make his point clearly?
Social Media Spin: Create a series of tweets and hashtags that you would have used in favor of school integration as if you were a grassroots leader.
In Their Shoes: Imagine you are a reporter covering Governor Stanley’s response. What are some questions you would ask him?