HISTORICAL BACKGROUND 1

(1) Under continuous pressure from local Black professional men during the 1920s, the Prince Edward County School Board reluctantly added high school grades to the all-Black Mary E. Branch Elementary School in 1930. Even then, the professionals themselves initially paid the teachers’ salaries. The blame for such slow and inadequate effort was always placed on the lack of funds. Although it was true that financing problems existed, all-White schools tended to fare better. The financial problems faced by Southern school systems were in fact exacerbated by the policy of separating Black and White students, when integrated schools would have been more cost-effective.

During the 1930s, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) began a strategy of collecting information to prove that “separate” was not “equal.” In Virginia as elsewhere, curricula quality, bus transportation, buildings and equipment were being challenged as inadequate. Their goal was to win cases protesting the injustice of Plessy v. Ferguson in courts on the local level and than to take those cases on appeal to the nation’s highest court in the hopes of invalidating the ruling. Their legal strategy attacked racial discrimination in the public schools based on the unequal facilities provided for Black students.

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