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1959

January 13, 1959

  • Mayor Duckworth and the City Council move to eliminate funding for all secondary schools, including all black secondary schools. Roy Martin casts the only dissenting vote. The plan is to cease all funding after February 1. (See oral history with Roy Martin - on pg 5-6he discusses the fight against the closing of black schools during the desegregation crisis.)

January 19, 1959

  • A three-judge federal court rules in James v. Almond that the Virginia school-closing statute is unconstitutional and illegal.
  • Also on this day, the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals made the same ruling in Harrison v. Day. The state's constitution requires maintenance of an "efficient" school system.
  • A second case is filed in state court: Ruth Pendleton James, a minor, etc., et al. v. W. Fred Duckworth, et al. to prevent closing all schools above the 6th grade. The daughter of Ellis and Ruth James is the litigant in both James cases. Archie L. Boswell and Edmund D. Campbell are the attorneys for the plaintiffs. (See an oral history with Ruth James where she discusses her family's involvement with the school desegregation crisis.

January 20, 1959

Governor Almond, 1959

  • Governor Almond denounces federal court rulings in a fiery speech.  (Library of Virginia, Radio in Virginia). 

January 21, 1959

  • CBS broadcasts ''The Lost Class of '59" with Edward R. Murrow, one of the nation's most respected journalists. Unwanted national attention is brought to the Norfolk school desegregation crisis. Margaret White, a teacher at Granby High School, is among those interviewed for the program. (See news clipping about the program.)

January 26, 1959

  • 100 prominent business leaders take out a full-page advertisement in The Virginian-Pilot urging the reopening of the schools. While it professed preference for segregation, it urged acceptance of the new reality.

January 29, 1959

  • A cross is burned in front of Norview High School.

February 2, 1959

  • The six schools reopen, and the 17 black students walk in. There are no federal troops, as in Arkansas. Reporters outnumber police. "Racial slurs are thrown, but not bricks." Massive resistance ends.
  • Although the news reports that "Norfolk Integration Comes Quietly," that President "Eisenhower Pleased With Norfolk," and that "Out-of-Town Newsmen Find Things Cool in Norfolk," the 17 students experience something totally different. They endure unspeakable discrimination and abuse. Yet, their determination and courage pave the way for educational opportunities for other African-American students. See Feature on The Norfolk 17.