Black Quotidian: Everyday History in African-American Newspapers

November 7, 1964

Guest post by Canyon Teague, undergraduate student at University of Richmond.

An article published in the Norfolk Journal and Guide on November 7, 1964 described the Virginia Education Association (VEA)’s vote to launch limited desegregation in membership. The VEA was a white organization. When the vote occurred, the VEA board of directors discussed a proposal from members of the Virginia Teachers Association (VTA), a black teachers’ organization, to join the VEA. In previous annual meetings, the VEA board of directors “empathetically rejected” the VTA’s proposal for total merger with the VEA. However, the vote did not ultimately support a merger between the two organizations. The article also stated that tuition grants were available to parents who wished to send their children to private schools anywhere in the country; the VTA claimed that such grants promoted private segregated schools.

I selected this article because I am fascinated by the free public education provided to grades K–12 in the United States. Nearly ten years after Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the city of Richmond was still reluctant to implement truly equal school systems. Based on this article, I infer that the VEA’s decision to integrate a limited number of blacks into their organization would not have any major effects in creating equal curricula for “black” schools and “white” schools. Since the motion to integrate VTA members into the VEA had been denied previously, the social movements in 1964 may have pressured the VEA’s decision. However, I am not surprised to learn that the VEA board of directors rejected “any plan or merger of the VEA with the VTA.”

The “urban renewal movement” was an initiative led by the Richmond Housing Authority in 1940 to create segregated black neighborhoods that ultimately led to white suburbs with segregated schools. After the creation of public and private school systems due to segregated housing, blacks were subjected to poorer quality instruction. The creation of Richmond’s suburbs skews the quality of public and private education even today.

Richmond’s “massive resistance” to school integration, mentioned in Benjamin Campbell’s Richmond’s Unhealed History, is consistent with this newspaper article. “Massive resistance,” initiated in early February 1956, was a proposal from Virginia’s Senator Harry F. Byrd that all southern states combat the order for integration demanded in Brown. Byrd’s chief lieutenant, Mills E. Godwin, described the proposal’s rationale: “Integration is the key which opens the door to the inevitable destruction of our free public school. Integration, however slight, anywhere in Virginia would be a cancer eating at the very life blood of our public school system.”

​​​​​​​Virginia showed improvement for educational equality in its partial integration of teacher associations: “Virginia thus joins Florida as the only strictly southern state in which the teacher associations are integrated in membership fully or partly.” Although the limited desegregation of teacher associations showed progress, Richmond still found ways to undermine Brown.

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