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Troubled times: Desegregation of public schools in Chesterfield, South Carolina, 1965--1971

Dissertation
Author: Cheryl Jenkins Guy
Abstract:
This study traces the story of how one rural county in South Carolina transitioned from a segregated school system to a unitary one. Using archival and oral history sources, the study focuses on the troubled times experienced by citizens of Chesterfield County between 1965 and 1971. This case study examines one community to shed light of the desegregation process as it occurred in rural counties throughout the South. This study contributes to the documentation of the history of education in South Carolina and adds to a small, but growing body of case studies of desegregation experiences. Interviews with students, parents, teachers, and administrators and reviews of newspaper articles, letters, meeting minutes, and other documents were used to produce a narrative of Chesterfield County's consolidation and desegregation process. A decade after the historic Brown v. Board of Education (1954) decision to end the practice of "separate, but equal," the schools in Chesterfield County, South Carolina, like most schools in the South remained segregated by race. Chesterfield County was divided into six school districts. Like most other school districts in the South, pressure from the federal government forced five of the districts to adopt "freedom of choice" desegregation plans in 1965. That same year, however, one district (Chesterfield County School District No. 6) decided to combine all students - Black and White, in grades 1 through 12 - into the same schools. The schools in Ruby, SC, were the first district in the state to completely desegregate without being under court order. Three years later, in 1968, the six districts of the county were consolidated into a single school district and plans were made to move forward with school desegregation. However, White parents in some towns protested the plan and forced the county school board to close the schools and reconsider. The Board reversed their desegregation plans and returned to freedom of choice for most students. Black parents were outraged and staged a protest march, organized a school boycott, and filed for an injunction against the district. In 1969 the district was brought before federal district court (District of South Carolina, Florence Division) and ordered to desegregate. Finally, in the school year 1970-1971, the county achieved unitary status by consolidating a number of schools, closing others and opening some new schools.

TABLE OF CONTENTS DEDICATION...................................................................................................................iii ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS...............................................................................................iv ABSTRACT........................................................................................................................v I. INTRODUCTION...........................................................................................................1 Purpose of the Study.......................................................................................................2 Research Methodology...................................................................................................4 Setting.............................................................................................................................5 Research Goal.................................................................................................................6 Organization of the Study...............................................................................................6 II. REVIEW OF LITERATURE........................................................................................8 Establishment of “Separate, but Equal” Doctrine...........................................................8 Desegregation Cases and Legislation...........................................................................10 Themes of Case Studies................................................................................................14 Quality of Black Schools..............................................................................................16 White Resistance...........................................................................................................18 Freedom of Choice plans..............................................................................................20 Treatment of Black students who went to White schools under Freedom of Choice...21 Failure to include Black leaders in developing desegregation plans............................23 Role of the NAACP......................................................................................................24 Closure of Black schools..............................................................................................25 Loss of teaching and administrative jobs......................................................................28 III. METHODS.................................................................................................................30 Characteristics of Qualitative Research........................................................................30 Rationale for Qualitative Methods................................................................................32 Data Collection: Documents.........................................................................................32 Data Collection: Interviews..........................................................................................34 Data Analysis................................................................................................................36 Trustworthiness and Confirmability.............................................................................37 Subjectivity and Positionality.......................................................................................37 Limitations....................................................................................................................42 IV. SIX DISTRICTS DEAL WITH FEDERAL AND STATE DEMANDS...................43 Chesterfield County......................................................................................................43 Local Reaction to the Supreme Court Announcement.................................................46

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Chesterfield High and Gary High, Separate and Unequal............................................48 Governor Byrnes and the State Legislature..................................................................52 School District Consolidation.......................................................................................55 School Consolidation Considered.................................................................................56 Response from Ruby.....................................................................................................59 Controversy over Patrick Vote......................................................................................61 Fall 1955.......................................................................................................................63 The Ruby Deal..............................................................................................................64 Steps to End Segregation..............................................................................................70 Freedom of Choice........................................................................................................71 Chesterfield District No. 3 Attracts Federal Attention.................................................75 Chesterfield County School District No. 2...................................................................83 V. A CONSOLIDATED COUNTY DISTRICT DEALS WITH RACIAL CONFLICT 89 The County Consolidates Six Districts into One..........................................................89 Racial Tensions Flare....................................................................................................95 R.C. Campbell...............................................................................................................97 Desegregation Plans......................................................................................................98 New District Staff, but No Offices.............................................................................101 Desegregation Plans Develop.....................................................................................104 The Original Desegregation Plan................................................................................107 Reaction to the Plan....................................................................................................108 The Board Yields........................................................................................................113 Freedom of Choice Rally............................................................................................116 Closing the Schools.....................................................................................................120 Meetings and More Meetings.....................................................................................122 Reaction to the Decision.............................................................................................126 Black Protest...............................................................................................................130 Courts Involved...........................................................................................................135 Federal Authorities Take Notice.................................................................................137 Robert Smalls Elementary..........................................................................................139 School Board Election................................................................................................140 New Board..................................................................................................................142 Back to Court..............................................................................................................142 Schools Face Loss of Accreditation............................................................................144 Consolidated Chesterfield High Planned....................................................................147 Court Hearings............................................................................................................148 Loss of Jobs for Black Administrators and Teachers.................................................154 District is Back in Court.............................................................................................156 Unitary District...........................................................................................................158 Epilogue......................................................................................................................160 VI. ANALYSIS, THEMES REVISITED.......................................................................161 Quality of Black Schools............................................................................................161 White Resistance.........................................................................................................163 Freedom of Choice Plans............................................................................................164 Treatment of Black students who went to White schools under freedom of choice...165

ix Failure to include Black leaders in developing desegregation plans..........................166 Role of the NAACP....................................................................................................167 Closure of Black schools............................................................................................169 Loss of teaching and administrative jobs....................................................................170 Methods of Marginalization........................................................................................171 Personal Reflections....................................................................................................172 Summary.....................................................................................................................172 Recommendations for Further Research.....................................................................173 REFERENCES...............................................................................................................175 APPENDIX A.................................................................................................................191 Map A1 – Chesterfield County in South Carolina......................................................191 Map A2 – Chesterfield County...................................................................................192 Map A3 – Schools in the town of Chesterfield...........................................................193 APPENDIX B.................................................................................................................194 Photos of Selected Schools.........................................................................................194 Photo B1 - Chesterfield Colored School.....................................................................194 Photo B2 - Zoar School...............................................................................................195 Photo B3 - Chesterfield High School..........................................................................196 Photo B4 - Mt. Croghan..............................................................................................197 APPENDIX C.................................................................................................................198 Table of Schools in Chesterfield County with Summary of Original Desegregation Plans............................................................................................................................198 APPENDIX D.................................................................................................................201 Document D1 HEW Form 441...................................................................................202 Document D2 Guidelines for School Desegregation, 1966, page 1...........................203 Document D2 Guidelines for School Desegregation, 1966, page 2...........................204 Document D3 Policy for Initial Assignment, Enrollment, and Transfer of Pupils, Chesterfield County School District #1, 1965 (Freedom of Choice)..........................205 Document D4 Request for Assignment of Transfer, Chesterfield County School District #1 (Freedom of Choice Form).......................................................................206 Document D5 Press Release from the South Carolina Department of Education, March 4, 1968.............................................................................................................207 Document D6 Letter from Hayes Mizell, Director of American Friends Service Committee, to the Citizens of Chesterfield County, January 7, 1970, page 1............208 Document D6 Letter from Hayes Mizell, Director of American Friends Service Committee, to the Citizens of Chesterfield County, January 7, 1970, page 2............209

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CHAPTER I I NTRODUCTION “Listen… we haven’t had this strife and I don’t want this strife and I hope you people will keep your senses and let’s do it right.” Dr. William Perry, Chairman of Chesterfield County School Board (personal communication, 2010, recalling his statement at a school board meeting on September 9, 1968, as the controversy over desegregation plans erupted in public protest)

The late 1960s were troubled times in many parts of the South as districts grappled with the issues of school desegregation. The issue of desegregation intersected with a state trend to consolidate school districts. In 1950, Chesterfield County, South Carolina, contained at least 53 school districts; many consisted of one-room or two-room schools that were segregated by race. In 1952, the county consolidated the districts into four, but soon expanded to six districts in 1955. Additional change to the school system came as a result of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka Supreme Court case that ordered an end to segregated schools. In 1965, five of the county’s six districts adopted a freedom of choice plan. Freedom of choice plans were popular with many Whites throughout the South because they allowed districts to retain the segregated schools and students chose which schools

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to attend. In practice, White children always chose the White school and few Black students elected to leave their segregated schools. However, Chesterfield County School District No. 6, which included the small town of Ruby, SC, became the first school district in the state to fully desegregate all students in grades one through twelve without being under court order. In 1967, Life magazine mentioned the Ruby schools as an example of one of the unlikely places in the South that had completely desegregated its schools (Nevin, 1967, September 29, p. 99). In 1968, Chesterfield County finally consolidated its schools into a single county school district. In the fall of that year, plans to desegregate other county schools were derailed. A desegregation plan for the county had been approved by the federal Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW). School opened that August for less than two weeks before the school board was pressured by White parents to close the schools and return to a freedom of choice plan. Black parents were angered by the reversal, held a protest march, and instituted a school boycott. Failure to follow the desegregation plan that had been approved by HEW resulted in a 1969 court case to force the county to desegregate the schools. Finally, in the 1970-71 school year, the district was unified and schools were no longer segregated by race. Purpose of the Study My goal is to provide an in-depth portrait of the desegregation process in Chesterfield County within the context of the time and place in which it occurred. Although the de jure system of separate White and Black schools in South Carolina has been eliminated, the schools today are not truly integrated. Before schools can move forward with major reforms, it is important to understand how the current situation

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evolved. This study will contribute to the documentation of the history of education in the state and region. I also believe there are lessons to be learned by looking at how school and community leaders implemented a major change such as merging the Black and White schools systems into one. Chesterfield County is an important subject for a case study because while all counties in South Carolina were undergoing similar changes at that time, the fact that Chesterfield County District No. 6 (Ruby) was the first district to completely desegregate is unique. Also, the unrest that resulted in closing all county schools in the fall of 1968 and the subsequent protest march and school boycott show that the process was not entirely without conflict. This case is interesting because Chesterfield expresses a range of reactions from voluntary integration to various forms of consolidation, school choice and redistricting. Many of the complex dynamic characterizing desegregation across the South were present in this single county. Chesterfield County’s racial composition mirrors that of the state in this period. In the 1960 census, the total population of the largely rural Chesterfield County was 33,717. Of that, 63% were White and 37% were African American. At the same time, the total population of the state of South Carolina was 2,352,594, of which 66% was White and 35% was African American. The state population was 59% rural and 41% urban in 1960. At the same time, Chesterfield County was 85% rural and 15% urban, which is more representative of most of the counties in the state. The overall figures for the state’s urban and rural population are skewed by the inclusion of three metropolitan areas, Charleston, Columbia, and Greenville. Half of the state’s 46 counties had a rural population that exceeded 75%, similar to that of Chesterfield.

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Research Methodology This dissertation is a qualitative case study of desegregation in a small community in South Carolina. A case study approach was chosen because it allows a close understanding of the desegregation process and the experience of individuals and groups involved. According to Merriam: A case study design is employed to gain an in-depth understanding of the situation and meaning for those involved. The interest is in process, rather than outcomes, in context rather than specific variables, in discovery rather than confirmation. Insights gleaned from case studies can directly influence policy, practice, and future research (1998, p. 19). Stake (1978) says that “the case need not be a person or enterprise. It can be whatever ‘bounded system’ is of interest” (p. 7). The boundaries in this case are both geographic and temporal; I studied a particular place and time. A study of Chesterfield County between 1965 and 1971 may shed light on similar activities in southern communities of the same time. Stake also notes that in social science literature, case studies feature multifaceted descriptions and an informal writing style that is possibly a story with direct quotations (1978, p. 7). The result of this research is a rich narrative about individuals and groups within the Chesterfield community during the time of desegregation of schools. Willis (2008) adds that “the focus of a case study is a case, and that means you look at a phenomenon holistically and in its natural context” (p. 210). Willink (2009) observed “the drama of the quiet places has frequently been ignored in studies of desegregation” (p. 4). It is in these quiet places that individuals and groups have made small changes that ultimately reveal a larger regional or national

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transformation. In order to highlight one of these “quiet places,” I selected Chesterfield County as the setting for my research. Setting Chesterfield County is located in northeastern South Carolina (See Map A1, Appendix A). It is bounded on the north by the state border with North Carolina, on the east by the Great Pee Dee River, and on the west by the Lynches River. The counties around Chesterfield include Anson and Union counties of North Carolina to the north, Marlboro County on the east, Darlington County to the south, and Kershaw and Lancaster counties on the west. The earliest inhabitants in Chesterfield County were Cheraw and Pee Dee Indians who became part of the Catawba confederacy. European settlers moved to the area around 1730. By 1750 the town of Cheraw appeared on English maps and was seated on the northern point of the navigable Pee Dee waters, where freight and passengers could travel from the coastal town of Georgetown, SC, inland (Historical Society of Chesterfield County, 1997, p. 7). No major battles in the Revolutionary War occurred in the county. In 1783 Chesterfield County was established by the S.C. state legislature and the courthouse was placed in the approximate center of the county in the village that came to be known as Chesterfield. The village developed as a center for manufacturing farm implements, building furniture, and milling. Steamboat traffic from the coast brought prosperity and growth to the town of Cheraw. Despite having a relatively low number of slaves compared to the rest of the state, Chesterfield was the site of the first secession meeting in the South on November 19, 1860 (Historical Society of Chesterfield County, 2004, p. 5). General Sherman’s army burned the courthouse in Chesterfield and

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most of the town. In the late 1800s, after the Civil War, recovery was slow, but the expansion of railroads throughout the county spurred development. Modernization came to the county when an electric power generator was installed on Thompson Creek in 1910 (Historical Society of Chesterfield County, 2004, p. 12). Timber is a major agricultural product, as well as fruits, especially watermelons and peaches. The county comprises 793 square miles, or 507,520 acres. Of this, almost 100,000 acres of land have been set aside in the county as state or federal public lands. In recent decades county residents have worked to transition from a largely agricultural economy to a more diversified one. Research Goal The purpose of this qualitative case study is to examine the process by which the schools in Chesterfield were consolidated and desegregated. It is a story of troubled times as conflict occurred during the shift from a segregated system to a unitary school system. Organization of the Study The remainder of this study is organized into five chapters, a bibliography, and appendices. The second chapter presents a review of literature. I traced the history of court decisions and legislation regarding school segregation. I also examined several case studies of desegregation from communities in North Carolina, Georgia, and South Carolina and identified several themes that were common to the various stories. For example, other cases included examples of White resistance, the use of freedom of choice plans, and closure of Black schools.

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Chapter Three describes the research process. I give a rationale for using qualitative methodology and describe my data collection procedures. Because the researcher is the primary data collection instrument, I explain my positionality and subjectivity as they relate to this study. I also name some limitations of this project. My research began with a review of Chesterfield newspaper articles from 1965 to 1971, as well as documentary evidence from the South Caroliniana Library, Chesterfield County School District Office, and the South Carolina Department of Archives and History. I also interviewed a number of participants, including school administrators, teachers, parents, and students from the time of study. From the newspaper stories, documents, and interviews, I narrated the story of Chesterfield County’s consolidation and desegregation process. Chapters Four and Five are my re-telling of the story, using many direct quotations from documents and interviews. Chapter Four begins with the county’s initial reaction to the 1954 Supreme Court’s Brown decision and early communications between federal, state, and local officials in six different school districts. Chapter Five opens with the decision to consolidate the six districts into one and the county’s struggle to implement a desegregation plan. The story concludes with the 1970- 71 school year when the district achieved unitary status. Finally, in Chapter Six, I analyzed the story and compared it to the other case studies I reviewed previously. I recounted similarities and differences to the themes of other cases. I also presented a summary of the study and recommendations for further research. A bibliography and appendices round out the study.

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CHAPTER II R EVIEW OF LITERATURE This chapter is organized into two main sections. First, I trace the history of court decisions and legislation that established the doctrine of “separate, but equal” and those that brought about school desegregation. Secondly, I review several case studies of desegregation in southern communities and identify common themes. Establishment of “Separate, but Equal” Doctrine In 1892 Homer Plessy climbed aboard the Whites-only car of a train in New Orleans to test the law that permitted segregated facilities for Blacks and White. Plessy had one Black great-grandparent and by local law was relegated to the Blacks-only portion of the train. His legal challenge, Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), ultimately went to the United States Supreme Court where the justices affirmed the practice which commonly was referred to as “separate, but equal.” For the next half-century, Blacks were consigned to the backs of buses and balconies of theaters. Schools, churches, restaurants, railway cars, restrooms, water fountains, and other public facilities were separated by race. In seventeen Southern states, segregated educational facilities were required by law. According to Bagwell (1972), segregation was required in all state- supported institutions, such as orphanages, nursing homes, and hospitals in both North and South Carolina (p. 56). North Carolina even required that textbooks used by White

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and Black students be kept segregated when they were stored between school terms (Bagwell, 1972, p. 56). Pitts (2003) reported that “Plessy gave legal sanction to an increasing southern White contempt for intermingling of the races” (p. 59). Although the legal concept was “separate, but equal,” it was rare that the facilities provided were of equal quality. In South Carolina “discriminatory appropriations were legalized by an 1896 statute that allowed local school boards to appropriate funds ‘for the best interests of the school district, according to the judgment of the board of trustees’” (Baker, 2006, p. 3). Three additional cases solidified the idea of separate educational facilities for White and Blacks. In 1899, in Cumming v. County Board of Education, the Supreme Court ruled that the plaintiff’s rights had not been violated when the Richmond County, GA, School Board closed the African-American school due to lack of space and funds, even though they continued to maintain a White school (Pitts, 2003, pp. 72-73). In 1908, Berea College challenged a new law in the state of Kentucky that made it illegal to instruct Blacks and Whites at the same place and time. The private, integrated college lost their legal challenge as the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the law (Pitts, 2003, p. 73). Finally, in Mississippi, the parents of a Chinese child challenged the state’s law which assigned their daughter to a “colored” school. In Gong Lum v. Rice, the Supreme Court ruled that Mississippi had not violated the child’s rights because “separate, but equal” facilities were provided (Pitts, 2003, p. 73). The system of segregated schools and facilities continued for nearly half a century until new legal challenges were filed that would bring about a reversal to “separate, but equal.”

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Desegregation Cases and Legislation The primary desegregation case, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954) was a combination of four cases drawn from different parts of the United States. The title case, Brown, was a class action suit brought by Black parents in Topeka, KS, who sought to have their children admitted to the all-White neighborhood elementary schools. The case was named for one of the parents, Oliver L. Brown, who sued on behalf of his daughter. The local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) brought the suit in February of 1951. Additional cases were filed that same year in Delaware (Belton v. Gebhart), Virginia (Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County), and South Carolina (Briggs v. Elliott). A fifth case from Washington, DC (Bolling v. Sharpe, 1954) is often included with the Brown cases because the decision was handed down on the same day. The four Brown cases challenged “separate, but equal” under the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. Residents of the District of Columbia, however, were not covered under the Fourteenth Amendment as it applied to states only. The Bolling case challenged segregation using the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Briggs, et. al. v. Elliott, et. al. (1951) was brought by a group of parents in Clarendon County, SC, who with the assistance of the NAACP brought a class action suit to challenge the constitutionality of the “separate, but equal” doctrine. Twenty parents (including Briggs) sued the members of the Clarendon County School District No. 22 Board of Trustees (chaired by Elliott) and school administrators. The case was heard by a three judge panel in federal court in Charleston, SC. In a two-to-one split decision, the court upheld the doctrine, but ordered the school district to equalize the school facilities.

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The case was then appealed to the Supreme Court where it was combined with Brown and the other cases. The Briggs case is especially notable because it included expert testimony from psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark. During the 1940s they had conducted research on children’s attitudes about race using White and Black dolls. They found that children preferred the White dolls and associated white with “good” or “pretty,” while black was associated with “bad” or “ugly.” The Clarks’ testimony was instrumental in convincing the Supreme Court that segregation was harmful, and thus a violation of the plaintiffs’ Fourteenth Amendment rights. Chief Justice Earl Warren, in writing the decision for the unanimous ruling of the Supreme Court, said: Segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children. The impact is greater when it has the sanction of the law; for the policy of separating the races is usually interpreted as denoting the inferiority of the negro group. A sense of inferiority affects the motivation of a child to learn. Segregation with the sanction of law, therefore, has a tendency to [retard] the educational and mental development of negro children and to deprive them of some of the benefits they would receive in a racial[ly] integrated school system. (Brown v. Board of Education, 1954) It is important to note, however, that the allegation that Black schools engendered feelings of inferiority did not hold true for all Black schools. Fairclough (2007) noted: The failure of integrated schools to live up to their promise has led to a belated recognition that many segregated black schools of the pre-Brown era had been successful institutions. A few were as academically successful as the best white schools. Moreover, the central assertion of the Brown decision – that segregated

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schools generated feelings of inferiority in the black children who attended them – has never been proved. In fact, the more we learn about those segregated schools, the more dubious that assertion seems. Black teachers inspired and motivated generations of African American children, instilling values and knowledge that nourished racial pride and a desire for equality. (p. 6) The Supreme Court’s announcement in 1954, however, did not bring any immediate action. The following year, the courts heard arguments from participants on the matter of how to bring about school desegregation. The judgment for relief, known as Brown II, referred the matters back to federal district courts to “take such proceedings and enter such orders and decrees consistent with this opinion as are necessary and proper to admit to public schools on a racially nondiscriminatory basis with all deliberate speed the parties to these cases” (Brown v. Board of Education, 1955). South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond urged states to “fight each case…with every legal weapon at their disposal” (Bagwell, 1972, p 139). Some South Carolina leaders promised to close schools rather than have them desegregate. The late 1950s saw a resurgence of interest in the Ku Klux Klan and the formation of White Citizens Council chapters throughout the state. In 1956 all of South Carolina’s congressional delegation joined a group of over 100 congressmen who signed the “Southern Manifesto” to protest the school desegregation and to encourage states to “resist forced integration by any lawful means” (Bagwell, 1972, p. 143). Few educators dared to advocate for desegregation. Those who did faced ridicule and often lost their jobs, including Dean Chester Travelstead at the University of South Carolina’s School of Education (Bagwell, 1972, p. 150).

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Civil Rights protests accelerated in the 1960s with a growing student movement that included marches and sit-ins. In January 1963, South Carolina saw the first instance of desegregation when Clemson University, located in northwest SC near Greenville, admitted the first African American student. It was nearly nine years since the Supreme Court had issued the Brown ruling. In the summer of 1963, the University of South Carolina, located in the capital city Columbia, and the public schools in the city of Charleston, along the coast, were also ordered to accept Black students (Bagwell, 1972, p. 171). The passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 allowed the federal government to become more directly involved in the school desegregation issue. Title IV of the Civil Rights Act authorized the Justice Department to file suits to compel school districts to desegregate. Title VI required agencies that received federal funding to use non- discriminatory policies or risk loss of funding. The following year, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act authorized millions of dollars of federal aid for compensatory education programs. The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) under the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) was assigned responsibility for enforcement of Title VI. The federal government provided motivation for districts to move forward with desegregation plans by offering millions of dollars in funding combined with the threat of legal action. In order to continue receiving federal funds and avoid a suit, in 1965 many school districts across the South adopted freedom of choice plans. They would create a policy statement that declared that schools were open to all students regardless of race or national origin. Parents were given a form to select which school they would like for

Full document contains 220 pages
Abstract: This study traces the story of how one rural county in South Carolina transitioned from a segregated school system to a unitary one. Using archival and oral history sources, the study focuses on the troubled times experienced by citizens of Chesterfield County between 1965 and 1971. This case study examines one community to shed light of the desegregation process as it occurred in rural counties throughout the South. This study contributes to the documentation of the history of education in South Carolina and adds to a small, but growing body of case studies of desegregation experiences. Interviews with students, parents, teachers, and administrators and reviews of newspaper articles, letters, meeting minutes, and other documents were used to produce a narrative of Chesterfield County's consolidation and desegregation process. A decade after the historic Brown v. Board of Education (1954) decision to end the practice of "separate, but equal," the schools in Chesterfield County, South Carolina, like most schools in the South remained segregated by race. Chesterfield County was divided into six school districts. Like most other school districts in the South, pressure from the federal government forced five of the districts to adopt "freedom of choice" desegregation plans in 1965. That same year, however, one district (Chesterfield County School District No. 6) decided to combine all students - Black and White, in grades 1 through 12 - into the same schools. The schools in Ruby, SC, were the first district in the state to completely desegregate without being under court order. Three years later, in 1968, the six districts of the county were consolidated into a single school district and plans were made to move forward with school desegregation. However, White parents in some towns protested the plan and forced the county school board to close the schools and reconsider. The Board reversed their desegregation plans and returned to freedom of choice for most students. Black parents were outraged and staged a protest march, organized a school boycott, and filed for an injunction against the district. In 1969 the district was brought before federal district court (District of South Carolina, Florence Division) and ordered to desegregate. Finally, in the school year 1970-1971, the county achieved unitary status by consolidating a number of schools, closing others and opening some new schools.