Queens College Civil Rights Archives


Search using this query type:

Search only these record types:

Exhibit Page
Simple Page

Advanced Search (Items only)

American Friends Service Committee



American Friends Service Committee


A pamphlet describing the school closure situation in Prince Edward County as well as the previous action and goals of the civil rights workers who were currently there.


American Friends Service Committee
Student Help Project


American Friends Service Committee




Queens College Department of Special Collections and Archives (New York, N.Y.)



Date Created



This material may be protected by the U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.). We welcome you to make fair use of the content accessible on this website as defined by copyright law. Please note that you are responsible for determining whether your use is fair and for responding to any claims that may arise from your use.


2 Images


1878593 bytes
2039851 bytes





Spatial Coverage

Prince Edward County (VA)


School Situation in Prince Edward County, Virginia
Prince Edward County is a rural county of southside Virginia, with a population of about 13,000, about 50.-50 white and Negro. While the area is traditionally tobacco growing, local farmers are increasingly raising corn, wheat, and cattle. There are many small farm owners, both white and Negro. There are also large farms, owned by white people, where share-croppers and other tenant farmers are used.

The county has industries related to agriculture, such as tobacco processing and marketing, and light industry such as a veneer plant and a sawmill. New industry has not been coming to the county, and the population has declined in the past 10 years.

There are extremes of wealth and poverty in the county. New modern homes and large older houses are to be seen as well as sub-standard shacks. Outside of Farmville, a town of 4500, and a few areas of concentration, population is sparsely settled, with some families living well off the highways and literally inaccessible to motor traffic. A high percentage of homes do not have central heating. Many still cook on wood--burning stoves. Most families have radios and many have television sets, but a few do not have electricity. Most farm families have no plumbing.

In large sections of the county, telephone lines have not yet been extended and no telephone service is available. While there are many auto-mobiles there are considerable numbers of farm families who do not have them. Both transportation and communication are therefore problems of a proportion long forgotten by urban dwellers.

Negroes live in all parts of the county, with the pattern of housing not a highly segregated one. In many cases, white and Negro farmers have been near neighbors for many years. In the Negro community there are two physicians, a dentist, several morticians, some 70 school teachers, many of whom have left the county, others of whom commute to jobs nearby, and a number of people who own their own businesses such as stores, garages, and beauty parlors. There are a number of ministers with most having more than one church, with many active in the ministry only on a part, time basis, and with many of the clergy traveling in from outside the county. The bulk of the Negroes are farmers, service workers, (domestic workers in private white homes or service workers in the two white colleges and in other business establishments) and laborers in the sawmill and veneer plant, and in construction. There are also a number of skilled workers such as carpenters, brick layers, electricians, and mechanics.

There has been a steady stream of migration out of the county. Negro families have migrated especially to New Jersey and to a lesser extent to Philadelphia, Baltimore and New York. Consequently, many Negro residents in the county have relatives and friends in the New Jersey area and many have visited in these parts. On the other hand there are many Negro young people who have visited no further away than the neighboring areas and several have never been out of the county at all.

The struggle by Negroes to obtain adequate schools dates back to the 1920's when no high schools were available. By 1950 a complete high school was offered but housed primarily in tar paper shacks, which had inadequate protection against rain and cold. Adult groups had petitioned and protested and pled for better facilities but to no avail. In 1951 the high school students, 456 in number, went out on strike in protest. The outcome of their protest was the now famous Prince Edward school case, which, along with four cases from other parts of the country, culminated in the 1954 Supreme Court's decision against segregation in public education. The Supreme Court's implementing decision in 1955 returned to the lower courts the task of giving specific orders to the school boards who were defendants in these cases. Proceedings in the Prince Edward School case went through several legal steps inducing requests for .study and delay.

In the summer of 1959 the court finally gave a definite order to the Prince Edward school officials to proceed with desegregation at the high school level, and to present plans for later desegregation at the elementary level. The county Board of Supervisors who controlled funds promptly ceased raising taxes for school purposes, thus guaranteeing that no funds would be available for public schools in the year following.

The Prince Edward Foundation, a private group formed several years previously, had already begun collecting money for private schools for white children. With considerable energy and effort the Foundation made arrangements for school facilities for all the white children of the county, in churches, vacant business buildings, and other makeshift facilities. The white public school teachers were offered jobs with the Foundation and most of the regular school teachers accepted and served this year in the Foundation's schools.

Sometime during the winter of 1959 and '60, Southside Schools, Incorporated was set up. Members of the group were white persons who were closely connected with the Foundation group. They offered to raise money and assist Negroes in forming a private school system for Negroes. This offer was universally refused by Negroes on the grounds that what they wanted was not a private school system but a public school system operated within the law.

Over 60 Negro senior high school students were admitted to the high school department of Kittrel Junior College in North Carolina. There were other children who went to live with relatives for the year and had a year's schooling in public schools elsewhere. Most of these were elsewhere in Virginia. A few were in scattered places in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and New York. At mid-year two Prince Edward students entered Scatter-good, the Quaker school in Branch City, Iowa. A few Negro children were sent by their parents to private schools. A very few had some systematic instruction by other members in their families. Altogether about 250 Negro children received regular schooling during the past year. The bulk of the Negro children, about 1400 in number were totally without schooling.

The Prince Edward County Christian Association (PECCA) was formed to do all possible to aid the Negro children. In February, 1960, 10 training centers were organized and placed in different parts of the county, in churches, recreation halls and in private homes. Here children were given organized group experience from 10:00 to 1:00 each day. The program was organized around the theme of citizenship. Each center had a supervisor and an assistant, many of them experienced as teachers or in group work and character building agencies. About 650 children attended these centers.

The supervisors were conscientious and dedicated in doing a pioneering job. Here the children had opportunity for group experiences, regularity and discipline, and continuing use of reading and writing. The centers operated under the difficulties of inadequate facilities. Transportation to and from the centers was a continuing problem. In some parts of the county Negro families were too far from the centers to be able to attend.

If schools are not open in 1960-61 it is expected that the centers will be opened. PECCA hopes to provide more centers, to cover the county more thoroughly, and to improve the program. Most of the supervisors and assistants who served last year will again be available. There is an important job ahead to strengthen the work of the centers.

The Prince Edward Foundation is now raising $300,000 to build a school building for the private schools for white children. The county Board of Supervisors have recently enacted legislation making it possible for children attending the Foundation to receive tuition grants from the County which will supplement tuition grants available from the state. Legislation has also been enacted which will give property holders tax credit for contributions made to the Foundation. These efforts aim toward putting the Foundation schools on a permanent and financially sound basis. Publically the Foundation group are optimistic about the amount of money they have raised. There are, of course, many questions raised by people who know the law about the legality of the tuition grants and the tax credit system.

It is clear that there are in the county many white persons, including some of stature in the community and many of real leadership ability, who dissent vigorously from the action taken in closing the schools and establishing private schools for white children. This group, however, are not organized and they are not those who hold political power. Many who have spoken against the county action have been subjected to reprisals, such as boycotts by the segregationists, threats of loss of jobs, and social ostracism and whispering campaigns of a particularly insidious sort.

In June, 1960, Negro plaintiffs requested the District Court, which had given the desegregation order, for permission to file a supplementary brief and to add new defendants, including the County Board of Supervisors, the State Department of Education, and the Superintendent of Public Instruction of the State. The supplementary brief argued that these defendants together with the original defendants, (the Board of Education and the Superintendent of Schools in Prince Edward county) have acted in concert to frustrate the will of the court. On June 29, 1960 the court heard oral argument on the question of whether' this brief and the new defendants can be added to the original case. A decision has not yet been enacted. If permission is granted to enlarge the case in this manner, the court has still to hear arguments on the merits of the case. If this permission is denied a new case against the Board of Supervisors may very well be required. In either case the legal proceedings can be expected to take many months. It cannot be reasonably expected that legal action will be effective in .opening schools in September of 1960.

AFSC Consultant in Prince Edward County January, 1961
Prepared and Distributed by
South Ocean Avenue, Freeport, N. Y.

Original Format

8.5 x 11 inches (215.9 x 279.4 mm),


American Friends Service Committee, “American Friends Service Committee,” Queens College Civil Rights Archives, accessed May 29, 2022, http://archives.qc.cuny.edu/civilrights/items/show/191.