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Why Were the 28 Plaintiffs Left Behind By Arlington County Public Schools?

The John M. Langston Citizens Association will celebrate the 85th Anniversary of the organization with a series of events during the weekend of May 13th through 15th.

The Opening Program on Friday, May 13th at the Langston-Brown Community Center will feature recognition of the 28 plaintiffs from the Thompson v. Arlington School Board 1958 court case who were denied entrance to white schools, when the Stratford Four (Ronald Deskins, Michael Jones, Lance Newman, and Gloria Thompson) were admitted on February 2, 1959.

THE WHY

These students were allowed to enter the white schools in September 1959, so many people today may wonder, ‘What’s the big deal, and why are they being recognized 63 years later?” Well, it is a big deal because the Arlington County School Board not only denied them the right to equal education for the spring 1959 semester, BUT they also did everything in their power to embarrass and demean the students.

I’ve always wondered when the Arlington Public Schools would do the right thing and finally recognize these brave students and their families. I took the opportunity to ask Dr. Duran, Arlington School Superintendent about this issue about a year ago. I then began to work with his Chief of Staff, Brian Stockton, who was able to gain approval for Arlington Public Schools and the School Board to work with the John M. Langston Citizens Association to finally honor them during our opening event.

THE FACTS

The Federal court ruling in 1956 approved desegregation in Arlington, but the School Board fought that ruling, and it was never enforced. Five of the plaintiffs from that case along with 27 additional students became the plaintiffs in the 1958 Thompson v Arlington School Board case. The image below is a list of the plaintiffs from my book, My Halls Hill Family: More Than a Neighborhood, in the chapter titled The Stratford Four. I secured this list during research at the Library of Virginia.

Two of these plaintiffs dropped out during the process, Deloris Crutchfield and George Crutchfield.

The Arlington School Board had the students evaluated by Cyril Mill, a psychologist for the Virginia Department of Mental Hygiene. He recommended rejecting 12 of the students for psychological reasons or an inability to adjust. The School Board stated some students had academic deficiencies, but it was so blatantly racist that in one case, the NAACP lawyers pointed out that the “student was a year ahead of his grade according to the results of the California Achievement Tests in his school file.” There were five reasons for rejection by the School Board: Improper attendance areas, overcrowding at Washington-Lee High School, academic deficiency, psychological problems, and inability to adapt to a new situation.

Take a look at this Washington Post archive article describing “Arlington Board Defends Negro Rejections.”

CONTINUED DENIALS

Now, bear in mind that the Arlington School Board had already delayed the start of the school year because of their fear that Massive Resistance, the strategy for continuing segregation in public schools, would fall with yet another federal ruling to desegregate. The Washington Post documented that on September 3, 1958, in an article titled, Judge Bryan Hears Placement Body and Local Board.

THE SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS

Who were the five members of the Arlington School Board in 1958? Right-wing conservative, Robert A. Peck, Segregationist Mrs. Helen S. Lane, the longest serving member, Barnard Joy, then James Stockard, a native Texan and dedicated liberal, and finally L. Lee Beam, a conservative, but one who decided not to join either of the factions and “study each problem and vote by conviction.” See what the Washington Post reported on August 25, 1958 in the article titled, “Desegregation Spotlights Arlington School Board.”

JUDGE BRYAN’S ORDER

But as we all know, the School Board was unsuccessful in stopping desegregation. But Judge Bryan only allowed the four students to enter white schools in February. Here is a Washington Post article from September 18, 1958 with the highlights of his ruling, “Text of Bryan’s Arlington Desegregation Order.

YET THEY FOUGHT ON

The School Board wasn’t finished fighting yet. They sued to delay the desegregation until the Fall of 1959 for the four who were approved by the Court. Of course, Judge Bryan denied the request, which the Arlington School Board continued to appeal until finally, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren denied the request. The Bryan denial is documented in another Washington Post article on January 29, 1959, titled, “Delay Denied on Arlington Negro Pupils.”

THE STUDENTS FOUGHT BACK AND THEY WON!

Everyone knows about Arlington County being the first in Virginia to desegregate public schools. Every February we recognize the four students who bravely entered Stratford. But what about the other plaintiffs left behind?

Well, 22 of the students and their families decided to fight on. C’mon now, you didn’t think that Arlington let those students enroll in September 1959 because it was the right thing to do, did you???

The NAACP brought yet another case (were you aware that the NAACP filed more lawsuits in the Commonwealth of Virginia to desegregate schools than any other state in the union?!) The Washington Post describes the next chapter of the fight to desegregate in Arlington in an article titled, “NAACP Seeks Arlington Plan to Desegregate.”

Pic Washington Post Magazine, Feb 2, 2002. (Pic sent courtesy of Gloria Rowe Little)

Please join us as we recognize and honor these courageous former students at the Opening Program on Friday, May 13th at 6 PM (program begins at 6:30 PM) at the Langston-Brown Community Center, 2121 N. Culpeper St, Arlington, VA 22207

We hope to see you there!

Arlington High School Choices in 1957

Separate and So Unequal

Arlington High School Choices in 1957 – audio recording

Arlington in 2020 is a progressive community. I have frequent conversations about how far we have come as a society since the days of Jim Crow, Massive Resistance, and the inception of institutional racism. But what I have discovered is that many people don’t know the truth. The details. The day-to-day choices and challenges Black people dealt with every day.

In this season of our children returning to school, I went back to review the choices Arlington high school students had in the fall of 1957. The U.S Supreme Court ruled in 1954 that public schools should be desegregated, but the County and Commonwealth were engaged in lengthy, costly, and ultimately, unsuccessful efforts to continue the segregation of Black and white schoolchildren. Virginia intended to sustain separate, but equal schools, despite the federal government’s decision. But just a quick review of the course offerings at Washington-Lee versus Hoffman-Boston high schools made it clear how unequal the choices were for Black students. See below for the course listings for both schools from the archives of the Library of Virginia.

COURSES OFFERED AT WASHINGTON-LEE HIGH SCHOOL 
1957-58 SCHOOL YEAR


ART
Applied Design I
Applied Design II
General Art I
General Art II
General Art III

BUSINESS
Bookkeeping I
Bookkeeping II
Commercial Law
Shorthand I
Shorthand II
Typing I
Typing II
Business Machines
Commercial Arithmetic 
Vocational Office Training

DISTRIBUTIVE EDUCATION 

ENGLISH
English II
English III
English IV
Advanced Composition 
Speech
Drama
Journalism 

HEALTH & PHYSICAL EDUCATION 
Health and PE II
Health and PE III
Driver Training

HOME ECONOMICS
Home Ec. I
Home Ec. II
Home Ec. III
Home Ec. Special
Foods
Clothing


INDUSTRIAL ARTS
Electric Fundamentals 
Radio Theory and Repairs II
TV & Repairs
Auto Mechanics 
Transportation Shop
General Metals
Mechanic Drawing I
Mechanical Drawing II & III
Advanced Machine Woodworking
General Cabinet & Graphic Arts
Graphic Arts

LANGUAGE
Latin I
Latin II
Latin III & IV Combined 
French I
French II
French III & IV Separated
German I
German II
Spanish I
Spanish II
Spanish III & IV Combined 

MATHEMATICS 
General Math
Vocational Math
Algebra I
Algebra II
Plane Geometry 
Accelerated Algebra- Solid Geometry 
Solid Geometry- Trigonometry 
Trigonometry- College Algebra

MUSIC
Choir
Madrigals 
Mixed Chorus
Girls’ Chorus
Music Appreciation 
Music Theory 
Orchestra 
Band Workshop
Band

SCIENCE
Biology
Physics
Chemistry
 
SOCIAL STUDIES
Virginia & U.S. History
Virginia & U.S. Government
Psychology 
World History 
World Geography 
Economics

COURSES OFFERED AT HOFFMAN-BOSTON HIGH SCHOOL
1957-58 SCHOOL YEAR


ART
Basic Art I
Basic Art II

BUSINESS
Commercial Arithmetic 
Typing I
Typing II
Shorthand I
Commercial Practice & Business Machines

ENGLISH
English II
English III
English IV

FOREIGN LANGUAGES 
French I
French II

Health & Physical Education 

HOMEMAKING EDUCATION 
Homemaking I
Homemaking II
Homemaking III

INDUSTRIAL ARTS
General Cabinet Making & Graphic Arts
Industrial Arts Lab for Girls
Mechanical Drawing I
Transportation Auto Mechanics
Woodworking Laboratory 

MUSIC
Choral Music
Girls’ Choir
Mixed Chorus

INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC
Concert Band
Orchestra

SCIENCE
Biology
Chemistry 

SOCIAL STUDIES 
World History
U.S. & Virginia History

SPEECH
General SpeechTherapy in Speech is available

I read during my research that the only reason Hoffman-Boston offered any Foreign Language at this time was because one of the English teachers had the ability to teach both languages, so the course was made available to the students.

The fact that the government would continue to try to pursue in federal court that this treatment of Black students was fair just shows the extent of institutional racism. It’s very clear from these lists that Black students were not offered the same educational opportunities as white students.

Unfortunately, there are still unequal circumstances existing in Arlington County Public Schools. There are schools in North Arlington becoming even more segregated with the latest school boundary changes. A critical program for children with IEPs is offered at some Arlington elementary schools but not at Drew Elementary School, a school that serves a large contingent of Black and Brown children and has been consistently disenfranchised by the Arlington Public School leadership and the School Board for decades. We have much more work to do to achieve equity among students in our public schools.

My Halls Hill Family: More Than a Neighborhoood

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About Wilma Jones
About Wilma Jones

Wilma Jones is an author, speaker and the CEO of Wilma J, LLC, a business consulting company. Wilma teaches people the tools to develop a positive mindset in order to accomplish more both professionally and personally. She’s dynamic, funny, insightful and for real.

About HallsHill.com

HallsHill.com is a virtual space for people who want to reminisce, connect, collaborate, share and smile as they read, see and experience the magic of the Halls Hill neighborhood. The book, My Halls Hill Family centers on my family and our experience on Halls Hill from the early 1900’s through the 1960’s. Halls Hill really was more than a neighborhood.

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