Massive Resistance

Although Brown v. Board of Education made school segregation unconstitutional, the decision took almost two decades to be implemented. By directing that desegration occur with "all deliberate speed," the Supreme Court provided the southern states with a pretext for delaying desegregation as long as possible. The South's strategy for maintaining school segregation was known as massive resistance.


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In an attempt to block implementation of Brown, Prince Edward County simply shut down its public schools.  The Supreme Court ruled in Griffin v. County School Board of Prince Edward County (1964) that the county had violated the rights of students to an education, and it ordered the Prince Edward County Schools to reopen. Justice Black held, "There has been entirely too much deliberation and not enough speed in enforcing the constitutional rights which we held in Brown v. Board of Education, supra, had been denied Prince Edward County Negro children."

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The School Board of New Kent County asserted that its “freedom of choice” plans, which gave students the option to attend any school in the county, complied with the requirement to determine school attendance "on a nonracial basis." At the time, New Kent County had only two public schools--a white school and a black school. Over a decade after the Brown decision, New Kent schools continued to be completely segregated.  In Charles Green et al. v. County School Board of New Kent County, et al. (1968), the Supreme Court  held "freedom of choice" plans to be unconstitutional and required local school districts to desegregate. Justice Brennan ordered the school board to “fashion steps which promise realistically to convert promptly to a system without a ‘white’ school and a ‘Negro’ school, but just schools.”


Related Links:

Massive Resistance in Virginia

Charles Green v. County School Board of New Kent County