Desegregation: Oral History
FCPS Alumni and Educators Share Memories of Desegregation
In September 1960, Judge Albert V. Bryan of the Federal District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, struck down the Fairfax County School Board’s grade-a-year desegregation plan. One of the students who was a party to the lawsuit against the School Board was Rayfield Barber. Mr. Barber grew up in the Spring Bank community of Fairfax County and had attended intermediate school at Luther Jackson High School. Shortly after Judge Bryan’s ruling was handed down, Rayfield Barber was enrolled in the freshman class at Groveton High School. In this interview, conducted in August 2019 at the Drew-Smith Elementary School Reunion, Mr. Barber shares his memories of being the first student to integrate a public high school in Fairfax County.
Joe and Sharon Parks
Sharon (Vincent) Parks and her husband, Joe Parks, attended intermediate school at Luther Jackson. Sharon Parks integrated the freshman class of Fort Hunt High School in 1963-64. Joe Parks integrated Bryant Intermediate School and enrolled in Groveton High School in 1963-64. Sharon and Joe share the challenges they faced during childhood and desegregation. Their powerful stories shed light on race relations in Fairfax County in the 1960s, and include moments of tragedy—the bombing of a friend’s car—and triumph—when Groveton’s basketball team took a stand against racism at the Dixie Pig restaurant.
Drew-Smith Elementary School, located in the Gum Springs community, was one of the all-African-American schools closed during desegregation. Jacqueline Burruss attended school at Drew-Smith and was integrated into Bucknell Elementary School as a young child. At the Drew-Smith Elementary School Reunion in August 2019, Ms. Burruss shared a few memories of her first year at Bucknell Elementary School.
Sheila Coates, daughter-in-law of Lutie Lewis Coates, integrated the teaching staff at Floris Elementary School. She describes the challenges educators faced during desegregation, and shares some of the struggles she faced against racism at Floris.
In Fairfax County’s white communities, the reaction to the desegregation of the public schools was mixed, running the gamut from very supportive to deeply resistant. Patricia Young was at Bucknell Elementary when the school integrated. She recalls meeting her first African-American classmate in elementary school and how, in high school, her eyes were opened to the struggles of African-Americans during the civil rights movement.