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School Desegregation in Virginia

A guide to published and digital resources related to the history of school desegregation in Virginia.


In 1951, Black students in Prince Edward County protested against substandard conditions at R.R. Moton High School. NAACP lawyers Spottswood Robinson and Oliver Hill filed a federal suit on behalf of the students. The case, Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, was appealed to the Supreme Court and became part of Brown v. Board of Education.

In 1959, Prince Edward County responded to a federal order to integrate by closing all public schools. Prince Edward County’s public schools reopened in 1964 after a second Supreme Court ruling, Griffin v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, found that closing public schools for the purpose of denying education based on race violated the Fourteenth Amendment.



Bonastia, Christopher. Southern Stalemate: Five Years without Public Education in Prince Edward County, Virginia. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2012.

Daugherity, Brian J., and Brian Grogan. A Little Child Shall Lead Them: A Documentary Account of the Struggle for School Desegregation in Prince Edward County, Virginia. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 2019.

Edds, Margaret. We Face the Dawn: Oliver Hill, Spottswood Robinson, and the Legal Team That Dismantled Jim Crow. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 2018.

Green, Kristen. Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County: A Family, A Virginia Town, A Civil Rights Battle. New York: Harper, 2015.

Hicks, Terence, and Abul Pitre. The Educational Lockout of African Americans in Prince Edward County, Virginia (1959-1964): Personal Accounts and Reflections. Lanham, Md: University Press of America, 2010.

Hill, Oliver W., and Jonathan K. Stubbs. The Big Bang: Brown v. Board of Education and Beyond: the Autobiography of Oliver W. Hill, Sr. Jonesboro, AR: GrantHouse, 2007.

Powell, Henry W. Witness to Civil Rights History: The Essays and Autobiography of Henry W. Powell. Hasting, NY: Patrick Cooney, 2000. 

Smith, Robert Collins. They Closed Their Schools: Prince Edward County, Virginia, 1951–1964. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1965.

Steck, John Charles. The Prince Edward County, Virginia, Story. Farmville, VA: Farmville Herald, 1960.

Sullivan, Neil Vincent. Bound for Freedom: An Educator’s Adventures in Prince Edward County, Virginia. Boston: Little, Brown, 1965.

Titus, Jill Ogline. Brown’s Battleground: Students, Segregationists, and the Struggle for Justice in Prince Edward County, Virginia. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2011.