Commentary Magazine

Desegregation's Tortuous Course: Breakthrough in Norfolk

As an editor of the daily and Sunday Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk and Portsmouth, Robert C. Smith has supervised his paper’s coverage of the school crisis in Virginia, and more especially in Norfolk.




When the Federal and state courts ended Virginia’s “massive resistance” to integration at the end of January, 10,000 Norfolk students, locked out since September, finally went back to school. A great sigh of relief went up in the city. It seemed almost incidental that seventeen Negro students would now be sitting with white students in class, thus making total segregation a thing of the past in Virginia.

Few people in Norfolk expected that there would be violence when the six junior and senior high schools opened on February 2, even though the city had carried out a state policy stopping just short of open defiance of the courts. At the staid old high school named after Commodore Matthew Fontaine Maury, one of Virginia’s favorite sons, a crowd of students, reporters, and parents parted to allow a fifteen-year-old Negro student to enter. A few moments later, the voice of the school’s principal, Rufus Tonelson, was heard over the public address system: “We trust that the winter of our discontent . . . is over.”

Norfolk’s long “winter” of five months had, indeed, been one of discontent. In no other city in the South had the entire secondary school system been shut down, and in none other had as many as one-fourth of the public school students been out of school. The legions of newsmen who rushed down to Norfolk to witness the opening of the integrated schools may have been wondering what sort of place they would find. How could any normal American city continue to live its daily life without having its high schools in operation—and not once voice a mass protest? How could its citizens, when their views were solicited by referendum, have failed to avail themselves of their opportunity to reopen the schools? If all this was any indication of how strongly Norfolk’s citizens opposed integration, it was only reasonable to expect trouble on February 2.

The visitors coming from Washington and New York drove to Norfolk along Route 17, following the curving boot of Chesapeake Bay. Others came east along Route 60, following the James River from the capital at Richmond, where Governor Almond was trying to remonstrate with wrathful segregationists in the legislature. To reach Norfolk, situated at the southern end of Hampton Roads, one ordinarily crosses the imposing new bridge-tunnel from the Virginia Peninsula. From the bridge’s peak can be seen the great sprawling United States Naval Base, the foundation of Norfolk’s economic well-being and the hub of the greatest concentration of permanent naval commands in the world. (Over 200 ships, with an annual payroll of nearly $60 million, call Norfolk their home port, and 130,000 servicemen and dependents reside in the city.)

From the eastern terminus of the bridge-tunnel, the visitor drives through Ocean View, the city’s garish beach playground, its roller coaster gray and solitary in the winter, and turns south on Norfolk’s main thoroughfare, Granby Street. Neat middle-and upper-class residences radiate out from either side of Granby Street. To the east are the many new housing developments in Princess Anne County, the city’s once rural, but now heavily residential, suburb. To the west lies the waterfront.

The first permanent settlement of English colonists in the New World landed at Cape Henry, only a few miles away from Norfolk, in 1607. The city was shelled in the Revolutionary War by Lord Dunmore, pillaged by the British in the War of 1812, occupied by Federal troops during the Civil War. A block away from a modern school administration building stands St. Paul’s Church, which possesses a cannon ball fired by one of Lord Dunmore’s warships. In Main Street, where thousands of sailors now travel the circuit of neon-lighted bars, the Marquis de Lafayette once lodged.



The modern era began in Norfolk with World War I. In 1920, the population reached 115,000, twice what it had been ten years earlier. There was a second war boom under Roosevelt; the population soared from 155,000 in 1940 to 305,000 in 1943, as the city became a chief base for the North Atlantic fleet. When the war was over the navy continued to do business in the port, and many of the newcomers became permanent Norfolk settlers.

The war and postwar expansion had brought dramatic civic changes. A “new Norfolk” was gradually superimposed on the downtown section now known as “Old Norfolk.” In the last decade, ancient, lurid slums gave way to rows of trim, low-cost apartment houses—a multi-million dollar project sponsored by the Federal government and the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority. Still standing, hardly a stone’s throw away, are the narrow, run-down, airless houses—once red-brick, now black—which extend five blocks east from Granby Street into the heart of Norfolk’s Negro community. Nearby, a 15-story ramp-garage and office building, costing $5 million, is rising on the site of the old City Market, where until two years ago county truck farmers brought their produce and peddled it from carts on littered sidewalks. One senses the new Norfolk in the dusty, acrid odor of the coal docks—here ships bound for foreign ports load the city’s main export. The older city can be felt in the fish houses and on the streets among the peanut vendors.

Notwithstanding the imposing new construction and the steady growth of the population, Norfolk still has the transient psychology associated with a sailors’ town. Local businessmen have been loath to invest their money at home ever since the navy drastically curtailed its activities in Norfolk after World War I: “You never know when they’ll do that again.” The core of Norfolk is a small town which outsiders have spurred to sudden, uncalculated growth. Not only are nearly half its 300,000 residents connected with the military; a goodly proportion of the rest are “immigrants,” mostly from the nearby rural flatlands of North Carolina. Their presence has led other Virginians to call Norfolk, derisively, “the capital of North Carolina.”

The servicemen who lend the city its superficially cosmopolitan air are not easily assimilated by the dominant Old Virginia social structure. A navy commander, for example, may live in the same apartment house as a Norfolk businessman, but he probably does not share the latter’s church and civic affiliations, and he is more likely to vote in his home state than in Norfolk. The newcomers from North Carolina are outsiders in much the same way.

The 75,000 Negroes of Norfolk are perhaps most estranged from the city’s affairs—but in their case exclusion is of course enforced rather than self-imposed. Hardly 4,000 of them vote, and there are no Negroes on any major community political body, which is unusual even for Virginia (there are several in Richmond). In short, the white and Negro communities are about as compartmentalized as is humanly possible, and a frequent complaint heard from Negroes is, “We don’t feel that we have any say at all.” The Negro community fans out along Church Street, several blocks east of Granby Street, and fills the gaps in the older residential areas left by the whites who had moved away to the suburbs. Church Street serves as the Negro’s Granby Street. It is a measure of the Negro’s condition in the 1950’s that Negroes often do shop along Granby Street, even though they spend far more time in the stores on Church Street, where there are no white shoppers.

Because the Negro, the serviceman, and the “immigrant” play a small part in civic affairs, “Old Norfolk” still wields decisive power in the city government. It is run by solid businessmen who, however advanced they are in their business methods, are deeply conservative still in their social thinking. The city’s leaders, almost without exception, support the state Democratic organization which is led by Senator Byrd; this gentlemanly, self-perpetuating political brotherhood has dominated Virginia since the 1930’s.



Nevertheless, even before the Supreme Court’s decision to desegregate the schools, Norfolk had been regarded as somewhat atypical by Virginia political observers. In 1948, for instance, a “reform” ticket was elected to head the city administration for a brief period. In 1953, the city voted for the Republican Ted Dalton against Byrd’s choice for Governor, the colorless Tom Stanley—who was elected, notwithstanding. These lapses from orthodoxy, as well as Norfolk’s relatively lower percentage of “real Virginians,” caused politicians to view the city suspiciously when the Supreme Court decision was handed down. For it seemed obvious that, of all the state’s communities, integration was most likely to take hold in Norfolk, or in Alexandria and Arlington, the northern Virginia suburbs influenced by Washington. Segregationist politicians from Southside Virginia, the southern strip of the state where the Negro population is quite high, were dismayed when Norfolk’s Superintendent of Schools, J. J. Brewbaker, described the relative ease with which integration could be accomplished in his city: because of the tight residential segregation, only a few Negro students would have to be admitted to white schools. Even this was too much for extreme segregationists.

The decisive turn in state policy, which was to lead to closed schools in Norfolk two years later, came in the early months of 1956. The so-called Gray plan, devised by a legislative commission, had previously been approved in a state-wide referendum. But segregationists regarded it as dangerous because it would have permitted a degree of integration at local option. By the time the General Assembly met in 1956, the cry of the Southside legislators was: “A little integration will open the floodgates to race amalgamation.” Despite opposition from Norfolk and northern Virginia, the legislature abandoned the Gray plan and enacted in its place a whole package of “massive resistance” laws aimed at blocking integration anywhere in the state, even at the cost of closing the schools.

The change in state policy may be explained as the result of national as well as state politics. There is little doubt that Senator Byrd firmly believed in total segregation. Even token integration in a few Virginia communities would have involved loss of prestige for Byrd among his fellow Southern Senators, who looked to Virginia for leadership in blocking implementation of the Supreme Court decisions. Massive resistance also seemed to be the better part of political wisdom for the Byrd organization in Virginia itself. There was, furthermore, a kind of intellectual ferment among segregationists in Virginia. In a series of editorials which attracted national attention, J. J. Kilpatrick, the editor of the Richmond News Leader, had expounded the doctrine of “interposition,” and urged the state of Virginia to set its authority against the application of the “illegal” decisions of the Supreme Court.

All these factors, which enabled the Southside politicians to triumph in the General Assembly of 1956, led in 1957 to the election of J. Lindsay Almond as Governor, to replace Stanley. Almond campaigned on the platform of massive resistance, and was elected easily. The Byrd machine, which had been sputtering when Stanley barely won election four years before, now seemed smoothly oiled. Byrd and Almond were embarked on the course which led them, this winter, to a dramatic crossroads—and, perhaps, to a parting of the ways.



It was obvious that “massive resistance” could not long go unchallenged. Desegregation suits were filed by Negroes in Prince Edward County, Norfolk, Charlottesville, Arlington, and later, Warren County. By the time these test cases had reached the higher courts, only one section of the resistance package had any significance. Under its provisions, the Governor could close any school when a court ordered the admission of a single Negro child. The Governor could, upon the petition of the city council and school board of the community affected, then permit the school to re-open as an integrated institution. But, if he did so, state funds for all the community’s schools of that level (primary or secondary, as the case might be) were automatically suspended.

By the middle of last summer, it was apparent that Norfolk would be a test case for “massive resistance” in September. Arlington had gained a delay until February; the case in Prince Edward lagged. As the opening day of school approached in Norfolk, 151 Negro students applied to the six white junior and senior high schools. The Norfolk school board rejected all the Negro applicants. Upon appeal, Federal Judge Walter E. Hoffman of Norfolk sent the cases back to the board with orders to reconsider. He was willing to accept some of the criteria for rejecting the Negro pupils—low academic standing, for one—but he rejected the others, among them the contention, made famous in Little Rock, that integration might pose a threat of disorder. “If this obtains,” Judge Hoffman said, “what is left of the Supreme Court decision?” The school board then assigned 17 Negro children to the six schools.

Until the last moment, most Norfolkians hoped that a showdown would be averted. Some believed that the state would retreat once it came to closing the schools. Others thought that the court would grant a stay of its order of integration, as it had done once before, in 1957. Finally, however, the day came when the elementary schools opened, segregated, and the white junior and senior high schools remained closed.

The initial reaction of a stunned silence was followed by a trickle of protests. There were some angry letters to the newspapers, and a few scattered PTA actions. Students at two of the closed high schools mounted placards and signed petitions in favor of opening the schools. “We take an unbiased stand on the issue of public school integration,” one of the placards read. Some visiting reporters were surprised by the city’s relative calm; but vociferous protests are uncommon in Virginia, where there is a habit of letting the state government have its way. Moreover, most parents still believed that, somehow or other, the schools would reopen within a few days. “After all, it’s not as though this was Little Rock, violence and all,” one parent said.

It was not, indeed, Little Rock. More schools were closed and fewer preparations had been made. The only organization which had been lining up substitute facilities for closed schools was the Tidewater Educational Foundation, an offshoot of the segregationist Defenders of State Sovereignty and Individual Liberties.1 The TEF claimed at one point that it had the physical facilities to accommodate 5,000 students, but it did not have the teachers: the Norfolk teachers organization refused to serve this all-out segregationist group.

The neighborhood tutoring groups which soon sprang up did, on the other hand, have the support of teachers from the closed schools. Telephone networks were created, almost overnight, in every subdivision of Norfolk. Parents spread the word that classes would be meeting in the nearest church—from fastidious Ghent to flamboyant Ocean View. The general air of excitement was suggested by a parent who said he and his wife felt like “conspirators” when they received a call that a group was being set up in their neighborhood. “When we got to the address, a lady came out and we asked ‘Is this where the group meets?’” These parents enrolled their sixteen-year-old son in a Methodist Church tutoring school, a few meetings later. The boy could study only those subjects for which teachers had been found—in his case social studies, Latin, mathematics, and English. His father was billed $20 a month, which served to pay the teachers, as well as provide janitorial services and utilities which the church lacked. Without any planned coordination among them, the dozens of tutoring groups that sprang up all operated much the same way.

Altogether, about 4,200 students were accommodated by the tutoring system. Another 900 enrolled in a special night school established in South Norfolk. Five hundred more were scattered about in public schools on the outskirts of the city. The TEF’s program, delayed for weeks, finally took care of 270 students, taught by 12 teachers, most of whom had been retired. About 4,000 students remained who had not availed themselves of these facilities in the Norfolk area. Some of those were sent to private schools, scattered over 28 states from Connecticut to California. A number of the children were boarded out with relatives to attend public schools in other communities. It was estimated that a total of 2,500 white students stayed away from any school.



Meanwhile, the Negro schools remained open. The 17 Negro applicants to white schools could not, even if they had wished, enroll in them. To do so would have meant requesting reassignment from the school board—a reassignment which might seriously have impaired their legal standing. A special tutoring school was established for the seventeen by an indefatigable educator, Mrs. Vivian Carter Mason, who provided the moral counseling, in addition to the three R’s, which she thought necessary for her pupils against the moment when integration “finally came.”

Estimates differ as to how well the various tutoring groups did the required job. Some parents seemed pleased with the possible advantages their children got from the smaller classes—others were uneasy at the limited number of courses, and the absence of normal extra-curricular activities. Superintendent Brewbaker has since ruled that normal credits would be granted for the tutoring schoolwork. During the fall, parents had feared this would not be so, and they became even more restive when, shortly before the denouement, the Norfolk Education Association, as spokesman for the teachers, voted to discontinue tutoring in February. The teachers had sensed that the community was becoming complacent about the padlocked public schools, and growing accustomed to the idea of the substitute tutorial services.

Inconvenience, worry, and what the teachers themselves characterized as slapdash education, were not the only disadvantages of the makeshift arrangements. Many parents felt a serious financial strain. One mother was forced to take a full-time job in order to help send her daughter to a private school at Virginia Beach and her son to a military school in Florida. The total expenses caused the parents to reflect, sadly, that they were spending on school what they had planned for college. Or there was the case of the naval commander who was laying out $250 a month to send his two sons to a private academy in North Carolina. Such instances were not uncommon.

In the circumstances, it was easy to understand why many students simply stayed home. Parents who mistrusted the tutoring groups and could afford private education preferred to believe that the schools would open any day. Once they had waited a few weeks, they found it impossible to enroll their children anywhere. As for the borderline academic cases, who might or might not have finished high school, they now had an excellent excuse to drop out permanently. “I’m going to go into the Air Force next year anyway,” said one student who would have been a senior this year. “I’ll finish my education there.”

Community life was relatively unaffected by the closings, and family activities tended to replace some of the social functions of the schools. The closed high schools still managed to compete enthusiastically on the football fields. Nor did juvenile delinquency show any increase, according to Lieutenant Ray P. Racine, head of the Norfolk Police Division’s Youth Bureau. “I think that the fact that many of them attended school at night and on Saturdays kept them out of trouble,” he said.



As the stalemate continued, tensions within the community heightened. The city council, led by Norfolk’s quick-tempered Mayor, W. Fred Duckworth, was flatly hostile to any idea of opening the schools. On one occasion the Mayor tried to get the teachers to abandon their boycott of the TEF, and demanded that they hear its president, James G. Martin, IV. The teachers consented, but treated Martin coolly, which led him to exclaim, “I just don’t understand those teachers!” Mayor Duckworth was even angrier at the rebuff.

In the struggle that developed over the re-opening of the schools, the Mayor and the city council were on one side, the school board on the other. The educators urged the council to join it in petitioning the Governor to re-open the schools, as the state resistance law required. In answer, the council called for a city-wide referendum on whether to petition or stand pat. “It would be well for the school board to stay out of politics on this issue,” Duckworth admonished the board members at a public meeting. To which one of the board, Benjamin Willis, replied afterward: “I’ll wear no man’s muzzle.”

Neither the council nor the board campaigned as such in the referendum. The task of urging the re-opening of the schools fell to the Norfolk Committee for Public Schools, an ad hoc group formed during the crisis; the Defenders led the fight to continue massive resistance. The Defenders matched the Committee’s speeches, disclaimed any part in the distribution of the violently racist literature which suddenly appeared in many residential sections of the city, worked skillfully at the polls on November 18, and took a major share of the credit for the outcome: a 3-2 victory for standing pat. Yet it is noteworthy that few prominent leaders of the Norfolk community were identified with either the Defenders or the opposing Committee. The two groups probably had less influence on the election result than did a general feeling of helplessness. “The courts will have to settle this,” was a common view.

It should be observed that in each of the last three elections in Norfolk—all of them connected in some way with massive resistance—the Byrd organization won by a 3-2 margin. In each, about 20,000 Norfolk voters went to the polls. This was the electorate that chose Governor Almond over Dalton in 1957 and Senator Byrd himself over the independent, Dr. Louise Wensel, earlier last year—and this was the electorate that chose resistance to integration in the city referendum.

By the normal calculations of American politics, in a city of 300,000 people, roughly 100,000 may be expected to vote—five times as many as customarily go to the polls in Norfolk. The “transient” psychology has resulted in voters’ apathy, but the poll tax has played the greater negative role. The poll tax must have been paid for three years prior to any election, and the final payment must have been made a full six months before election day.

Only 49,000 voters had paid their poll taxes early enough to be eligible to vote in the school referendum, and many of the ineligible were parents of children whose schools had been closed. Even so, less than half of those who had paid their tax voted. The only explanation for this is the general lassitude toward voting, which is infectious in a state which has long been dominated not only by one party but by a single political machine. Almost all the parents whom I interviewed after the referendum told me that they were in favor of re-opening the schools; yet less than half of them had voted in the referendum. “I knew it would be a waste of time,” seemed to be the general attitude, voiced by one respected professional man.

The Negro vote in the referendum—about 3,000—was considerably smaller than in some previous elections. P. B. Young, Sr., Negro newspaper publisher, ascribed this, too, to a “sense of futility” about state politics. “The only thing the Negro in Virginia has faith in is the courts,” he said. “He doesn’t have much to choose from in voting; one candidate is about as lily white as the next.”

A survey sponsored by the city four years ago indicates precisely who the 20,000 repeating voters are. It showed that only 2.7 per cent of registered voters who had paid the poll tax were less than thirty years of age. The typical Norfolk voter was almost fifty years old, economically comfortable, and a resident of Old Norfolk. “You can really count on these voters,” remarked Kenneth Harris, an artist and one of the leaders of the movement to open the schools. “If the administration proposed to put alligators in the Elizabeth River, they would approve it, 3-2.”

The referendum emboldened the city council in its program of resistance. First, Councilman Lewis Layton made several public attempts to persuade the Negro leaders and parents to have the 17 school applicants withdraw. When this failed, the council adopted a 1959 school budget providing that only the council—not the school board—could appropriate funds. On January 13 the council adopted another resolution threatening to cut off funds for all school grades between seven and twelve. (This involved some elementary school classes which had not previously been affected by junior high closings.) If this plan had been executed, an additional 7,000 students—5,000 of them in the Negro schools which had previously been immune—would have been locked out in February.

The council may have gone too far in announcing this action; Mayor Duckworth had once declared that “17 Negro children are keeping 10,000 whites out of school,” and so there was a distinct odor of revenge about his new threat. Even worse, it seemed to foreshadow the closing of all the schools, and PTA’s which had up to then remained silent now denounced the move. Letters to the editor in the Virginian-Pilot ran heavily against the city council.



There were other signs appearing throughout the state that resistance had run its course. A suit in Federal court was aimed at compelling the state to re-open its schools; the state itself was testing the entire “resistance” package in the Virginia Supreme Court; in Norfolk, the city council’s plan to withhold funds from the school board was being challenged in court by white parents. Meanwhile, such respected economists as Dr. Lorin Thompson, of the University of Virginia, were warning that extended school closings would drive potential business and industry out of Virginia. Underwriters reported that the market for Southern school bonds was “sticky,” and that the bonds were selling at lower prices than comparable issues from other school districts. Furthermore, taxpayers soon became aware that it was costing the state $172,000 a month (chiefly to pay 450 idle teachers) just to keep the schools closed in Norfolk.

This combination of legal and economic perils had shaken the segregationists. Even J. J. Kilpatrick, the advocate of “interposition,” was calling for a change of tactics: “I especially object to being defeated by our own bullheadedness . . . if we cling much longer to the futile and ineffective tactics on which we now rely.” There was, in particular, fear of one very grave economic reprisal. Navy officials repeatedly—and ominously–declared that they had neither the authority nor the inclination to set up their own school system for servicemen’s children. Businessmen, realizing that the military is responsible for 80 per cent of basic employment in the Norfolk area, well knew it would be catastrophic for them if the school situation hastened a deployment of naval forces elsewhere.

At this juncture an advertisement appeared in the Virginian-Pilot and Ledger Dispatch which urged the city council to open the schools. This was not in itself significant. In this case, however, the statement bore the signatures of 100 top-drawer business leaders, the bluechip names of Norfolk—and the very men whose previous silence had created such a void of opinion. The Reverend James Brewer, the Unitarian minister who headed the Committee for Public Schools, had tried to get some of them to speak out before the referendum, but had been able to elicit only the dubious support of “I’m with you but don’t use my name!” Most of these men were loyal Byrd supporters who had been willing enough to give the Almond administration a chance to carry out its policies. Now they had rebelled openly, and Almond would have to re-assess his course. What happened in Norfolk was also happening in high business echelons elsewhere. There were several “top secret” meetings of business leaders throughout the state, and the message that emerged from all of them was that Virginia could not be permitted to endanger its economic growth by civic disarray. Governor Almond knew about these meetings, and they obviously had a profound influence on the decision he had to make when the legal basis of “massive resistance” crumbled late in January.

Before the Norfolk city council could go through with its extremist plans, the courts intervened with a triple blow. Within a few days, Federal courts ordered Norfolk to re-open its schools, and they also blocked the city council’s effort to withhold funds from the school board. At the same time, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that the massive-resistance laws violated the state constitution, which since Reconstruction has guaranteed free public education.



As the Norfolk school board prepared to open its schools, Governor Almond addressed a session of the legislature which had been hastily convened in Richmond. There was no way, he announced, to prevent immediate integration in Norfolk and Arlington—thus acknowledging the collapse of massive resistance. He would appoint a commission to study future actions; but for the moment the legislators would have to settle for peripheral measures, such as laws to prevent any white child from being compelled to attend an integrated school against his will.

The Southside segregationists caucused and brought forth a battery of extremist measures; one of them would have closed the entire public school system in the state until a fire safety inspection could be made. But Governor Almond knew he had enough organization votes to block such measures and rejected them. In Washington, Senator Byrd, who had praised all of Almond’s fire-eating segregationist speeches in the past, was significantly silent. His son, Harry, Jr., voted with the last-ditch resistors in the legislature. The Senator apparently did not intend to comment until he saw the public reaction to the Governor’s new policy.

In Norfolk, the city council restored education to the authority of the school board. “We’re out of the school business,” announced Mayor Duckworth. Afterward, he seemed more relaxed than he had been in weeks. “We fought them right down to the last ditch, even in the ditch,” he told friends.

As “integration Monday” approached, there was some tension in the Negro community. “You never can be sure,” was the prevailing attitude. The families of the 17 students to be integrated received more calls than usual from well-wishers—though none at all from the whites who had previously asked them to withdraw their applications. As for the Negro children themselves, their tutor, Mrs. Mason, spoke for them: “They were ready. I had told them they had lost their childhood when they agreed to file the suit for desegregation, that they had to be adults now.”

Norfolk was as prepared for the end of segregated education as a Southern community could be. Five months without any public schools had numbed the emotional impact of the word “integration.” The important thing was that the schools were about to be opened again. Student leaders purchased an ad in the newspapers calling for calm and dignity when the schools opened. “That was the best thing anyone could have done,” Harold Anderson, the chief of police stated. Nevertheless, he put a heavy cordon of men, most of them in plain clothes, around the six schools.

Superintendent Brewbaker’s estimate that three-fourths of the white students would return proved reasonably accurate. To date, about 7,000 youngsters of the “lost class” have come back. About a fourth of these did not attend any classes during the crisis. Edwin Lamberth, the city’s Director of Instruction, fears that many of the brightest students were among those who did not return. “Many boys and girls who were clearly headed for college were sent to private schools and won’t be back,” he said. Many in the tutoring groups, Lamberth observed, lost considerable time because they were unable to take essential courses.

The actual process of school integration in Norfolk took place so quietly that reporters found little to write about. In Arlington, the process was described as “humdrum.” Since then, Alexandria schools have been integrated without disturbance. The 17 Negro students in what used to be the white school system of Norfolk have suffered no ill-treatment beyond an occasional schoolboy slur. Few Norfolkians had expected anything worse. “I would have been shocked if any violence had occurred in Norfolk,” a Negro leader told me. “At heart, it’s really a nice quiet town.”




1 See “Virginia Jewry in the School Crisis,” by Murray Friedman, COMMENTARY, January 1959.

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