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ODU Libraries Online Exhibitions

1958

January 11, 1958

  • J. Lindsay Almond Jr. inaugurated as Governor of Virginia. He was elected in November 1957 on a massive resistance platform.

June 7, 1958

  • Judge Hoffman orders that all applications from Negro children for transfer must be acted upon with "all reasonable dispatch". (see Order)

July 17, 1958

  • Norfolk School Board adopts a resolution that sets forth the criteria to be used in placing students in schools. Criteria included distance from the applicant's home to the schools, the scholastic aptitude of the student, the availability of seats and room in the schools, and the character of the student as determined in an interview. (see Resolution)
  • Applicants undergo a week of intensive testing and interviews. (see Interview Form with information required by the Interviewing Committee)

August 18, 1958

  • The School Board rejects 151 applications from black students, citing the health and safety of the students, their inability to adapt, or their place of residence. (See Resolution setting out reasons why the Norfolk School Board refused 151 African-American children who applied for transfer or initial enrollment.)

August 25, 1958

  • Judge Hoffman refers all 151 applications back to the School Board for further consideration, reminding them of their oath to carry out the law and the other responsibilities of their positions. (See news clipping of complete text.)

August 29, 1958

  • After the School Board reviews its options, it agrees to admit 17 ("Norfolk 17") of the 151 black applicants to white schools. The Board asks to defer admissions until September 1959. (See news clipping.)

September 3, 1958

  • The Norfolk School Board delays opening of school from September 8 to September 22. Other localities also postpone school openings, presumably awaiting a Supreme Court decision regarding the Little Rock 9 case. (See news clipping.)

September 22, 1958

  • Norfolk elementary schools open.

September 27, 1958

  • The School Board orders the schools to be opened, with the 17 Negroes admitted. See Letter from School Board to Governor Almond announcing resolution of the school board to place 17 students thereby integrating Norfolk schools. Includes "Copy of Letter Sent to Parents of the Seventeen Pupils Assigned by the School Board at a Meeting on September 27, 1958."
  • Governor Almond seizes Norfolk's schools, as he had done in Warren County and Charlottesville, and orders them closed, leaving 10,000 children out of school (largest number of any VA school system). Closed schools were Granby, Maury, and Norview high schools, and Blair, Northside, and Norview junior high schools. (See Almond's Letter to the School Board)

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While the schools are closed:

  • Many parents seek alternate venues for their children. Churches and other organizations offer classes. Teachers form tutorial groups. "Parlor schools" open in private homes. Norfolk Division of the College of William & Mary (now ODU) provides classes for some children (see p. [11] of an oral history with Dr. T. Ross Fink, Chairman of the ODU Department of Education, discussing a private school for children of faculty & staff during Massive Resistance.)
  • Some students attend neighboring schools in South Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Portsmouth.
  • Some students move out of state to live with relatives.
  • The Defenders of State Sovereignty and Individual Liberties sets up Tidewater Educational Foundation to create private classes for white students. The Tidewater Academy opened October 22, 1958, with 250 students taught by mostly retired teachers.
  • Black schools remain open. Rather than sending the "Norfolk 17" to a segregated school and weakening their case, Hugo Madison, an NAACP lawyer, sets up a makeshift school for them in First Baptist Church on Bute Street. Vivian Carter-Mason was an administrator and teacher there -- in an interview on October 19, 1978 she discusses civil rights in Norfolk, establishment of the Women's Council for Interracial Cooperation, the desegregation crisis in Norfolk, and the experiences of Afro-Americans in Norfolk.

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  • The Committee for Public Schools is formed by Norfolk citizens and business people to re-open the schools. In letters and petitions, they file a lawsuit against Governor Almond and call for the schools to reopen. Ruth Pendleton James, a minor, etc., et al. v. J. Lindsay Almond, Jr., Governor of Virginia, et al.

October 21, 1958

  • Governor Almond declares "the present Governor of Virginia will not assign white and colored pupils to be together in the same school."

November 18, 1958

  • Special Informational Election is held in Norfolk to petition the governor to open the public schools. Flier
    • Less than one-half of all eligible voters vote -- poll tax keeps many black voters from the polls; Mayor Duckworth deters many blacks from voting.
    • 12,340 votes against; 8,712 votes for. Petition is not filed.
  • The Norfolk Education Association, the Women's Council for Interracial Cooperation, numerous ministers and others voice their support for reopening the schools. Watch a video of James Brewer, Minister of the Unitarian Church, discussing the failure of the referendum petitioning Governor Almond to reopen schools in Norfolk.