Separate But Unequal
In 1951, 16-year-old Barbara Johns led students in a rural Virginia county on an historic walkout to protest overcrowding at their all-black school. The resulting court case became part of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling 50 years ago in which the Supreme Court declared segregation unconstitutional.
NPR's Juan Williams has a two-part report on the legacy of events at Moton High School in Prince Edward County, Va. It's part of NPR's series on the 50th anniversary of the Brown ruling.
At the time of the protest, Moton High had 400 students in a building intended for about 150. Prince Edward County's black parents had unsuccessfully petitioned the all-white school board for a new, larger school. Eventually, tarpaper shacks were set up in the schoolyard to accommodate Moton's overflowing student body.
Johns and other students convinced the NAACP in Richmond to file suit against the county school board. The case ended up in the U.S. Supreme Court, where it became part of Brown. But despite the May 17, 1954, decision in Brown, Prince Edward County refused to integrate and in 1959, closed all its public schools. It took another Supreme Court ruling in 1964 to re-open them.
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