Letters and Other Documents Relating to the Desegregation of FCPS
The following records have been transcribed from the original source documents and are presented in chronological order. Photographs of the original documents can be seen in the slideshow at the bottom of the page.
- 1955: NAACP Letter to the Fairfax County School Board
- 1956: Letter, Fairfax County Federation of PTAs
- 1958: The Crisis Facing Virginians
- 1958: Fairfax County Council on Human Relations Newsletter
- 1959: Statement, Superintendent Woodson Opposes Desegregation
- 1959: Position Letter, Robert F. Davis (School Board Member)
- 1961: The “Musts” of Local Assignment
- 1961: Fairfax County School Board Resolution
- 1961: Board of Supervisors Pupil Placement Ordinance
- 1961: Letter to Otto L. Tucker from Superintendent Woodson
- 1961: Letter, Belvedere Elementary Re-Segregated
- Original Documents
NAACP Letter to the Fairfax County School Board
Fairfax County Branch – National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
November 19, 1955
Mr. Robert Davis, President
Fairfax County School Board
Dear Mr. Davis:
Recent actions of the Fairfax County School Board have been very disturbing to colored citizens of Fairfax County. We submit the following.
Early this year the School Board interpreted the Public Assembly law to require segregation of races in school buildings when the public meetings were to be held. An order was sent to principals of schools notifying them that permits for use of the schools would be issued subject to segregation of races in accordance with your interpretation of the Public Assembly statues.
This interpretation is at wide variance with the practices of school boards all over the state. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People have held public meetings unsegregated in Richmond, Norfolk, Petersburg, Martinsville, Roanoke, Fredericksburg, Charlottesville, Alexandria, Arlington, and elsewhere.
Since the promulgation of the order from the School Board, the Republican party nominating convention meeting was held unsegregated in the Falls Church High School following an inquiry of its sponsors if the meeting was to be a segregated meeting.
In 1951 both State Attorney Almond and the city attorney of the city of Richmond in Federal Court stated that in their opinion the law did not apply “to membership meetings even if non-members attended.”
In the suit instituted by the NAACP against the city of Richmond to secure an injunction against the enforcement of segregation in the use of the Mosque for the NAACP, Judge Bryan dismissed the suit on the grounds, first that the merits of the case did not warrant a declaratory judgment since recourse to State courts had not been tried, and second, because the defendants (city officials) did not intend to enforce the statutes because of their “disputed relevancy.” Judge Bryan also posed a question as to whether the laws would apply, to a “church service non-denominational and open to all who may choose to enter; or the mourners assembled indoors or outdoors to pay their respects publicly as citizens at the funeral of an esteemed townsman; or to an outdoor gathering on public grounds as the audience of a public official speaking on public matters.”
This action of the Board of Education will do much to disturb the present good-will and working relations between individuals and groups of our racial composition engaged in work for the betterment of the community. Self-respecting Negroes no longer in voluntary projects where they will be subject to the humiliation of segregation. Hence many movements like Community Chest, Red Cross, Recreation, political and general citizens meetings, etc., to be held in public schools where segregation is to be enforced will not be attended by many self-respecting colored citizens.
We regret the School Board under pressure changed the name of a committee to study de-segregation and its problems to one named “Committee on Segregation.” If it was the purpose to enlist the thinking of colored citizens on such a committee we are sure none will agree to work on a committee so named.
The Officers of the NAACP would like to confer with the Board on these matters at its convenience. Will you let us know when this can be done?
Very truly yours,
For the Fairfax County Branch, NAACP
Claudius A. Brown, President
William A. West, Secretary
Letter, Fairfax County Federation of PTAs
January 25, 1956
Supt’s Desk, Feb. 8, 1956
Fairfax County School Board
The Fairfax County Federation of P-TA’s, whose members come from all Fairfax County schools, plans to sponsor a free Chamber Music concert for Fairfax County school children in April at the Annandale High School. The Federation does not wish to place any restrictions on seating at this concert, and requests the School Board’s assurance that this will not be necessary.
Dorothy C. Gray, President
Fairfax County Federation of P-TA’s
The Crisis Facing Virginians
THE CRISIS FACING VIRGINIANS
Recently the United States Supreme Court, as the legally constituted body empowered to determine the constitutionality of state laws, affirmed the 1954 school desegregation decision. Virginia’s official response is not only in fundamental conflict with any constructive progress in human relations, but also strikes recklessly at the very core of our democracy.
The official position of our state is unmistakable. Any public school which integrates will be shut down. The abolition of the entire public education system is seriously contemplated. It is state law, and no other source, which has automatically closed public schools in Warren County, Charlottesville and Norfolk. The public schools of Arlington County are next in line for closing under existing state law. The interruption of the education of hundreds of students threatens to destroy their opportunity for further education.
Democracy disintegrates without a responsive and educated citizenry. Each depends on the other. Education is the foundation upon which progress flourishes, be it spiritual, social, cultural, political, economic or in the field of human relations. History attests that ignorance breeds tyranny, injustice, bigotry, hate and chaos, and deters progress of any form except for the selected few. The State’s irresponsible attack on public education is doomed, not only in Courts of law, but also in the arena of enlightened public opinion. It is tragic, however, that in the interim the consequences to all Virginians resulting from this unwarranted attack on public education, will be devastating and unnecessary.
Virginia’s official policy also is to discredit the Supreme Court of the United States and all individuals and bodies public or private advocating compliance with that Court’s decrees. Such policy necessarily encourages disrespect for all law and order in a democracy which is founded on such respect. State refusal to comply with the decrees of the courts established under our Constitution as the final arbitrators of such matters means simply that the State will abide solely by the judicial decrees with which the state is in sympathy. In so doing, the state performs illegally the functions and duties delegated by the Constitution to the courts. By such intolerable state action the entire judicial process, traditionally one of the three check and balance safeguards of democracy, is jeopardized.
“Massive resistance” and public school closings make for bitterness in human relations. This precludes an understanding between the races so essential for a reasonable, lasting solution of a problem difficult to solve in some areas of our Commonwealth.
The solution lies not in the extreme position of “massive resistance” with attendant school closings and adverse consequences resulting therefrom.
The current crisis must be the concern of all Virginians interested in the welfare of our Commonwealth. We must have renewed progress in human relations. We must have available to all of Virginia’s children the opportunity for a continued public education. In a democratic society we must abide by the decrees of our courts.
We invite full discussion and constructive private and group action to accomplish these aims.
Fairfax County Council on Human Relations
THE CRISIS FACING VIRGINIANS -- A CALL FOR CONSTRUCTIVE COMMUNITY ACTION
The above statement on The Crisis Facing Virginians was approved on October 22, 1958 by a group of citizens of Fairfax County, Virginia, who are members of the Board of Directors of the Fairfax County Council on Human Relations.
The Council is a democratic association of people who share the concern that those of different races, colors, and creeds come to a better understanding of one another, based on a respect for the inherent worth and dignity of every human being.
Its members, drawn from Fairfax County and Falls Church, support a reasonable and positive approach to prevent and correct human relations problems, through a program of education, persuasion and other constructive action.
As pointed out in the above statement, the concern of the Council for improved human relations demands that it be concerned with the dangers to free public education and constructive racial relations in the current school crisis. We believe that the vast majority of people in Fairfax County and Falls Church desire free public education and good human relations.
Accordingly, we urgently and prayerfully invite individual and community action to resolve the current crisis in Virginia through unqualified support of our free public education system in compliance with the law of the land.
Carl E. Auvil, President
Fairfax County Council on Human Relations
Received December 1, 1958, Fairfax County School Board
Fairfax County Council on Human Relations Newsletter
Fairfax County Council on Human Relations Newsletter #8
October 28, 1958
THE CRISIS FACING VIRGINIANS
The crisis facing Virginians in the shape of the closing of public schools and the possible abandonment of our system of free public education is the topic of a statement approved by the Board of Directors on October 22nd.
Copies of the enclosed statement are being sent to County and State leaders and organizations, in the hope of arousing additional constructive efforts to reopen schools and keep them open.
Council members are urged to:
- Arrange additional distribution of the statement to churches, PTAs, and others (a limited supply of copies may be obtained by calling Carl Auvil on JE 4-4085).
- Write the Governor immediately.
- Urge all their friends and neighbors to register, in the event of a “snap” referendum to abolish the public school system throughout the state.
The crisis is already with us. Public schools have been closed for weeks in three sections of the State. More or even all schools may be closed soon. The time to act is NOW!
CAR POOLS TO BE FORMED FOR TRIP TO CHARLOTTESVILLE NOVEMBER 12TH
Several members of the Board of Directors of our Council are planning to attend the annual membership meeting of the Virginia Council at Charlottesville on Wednesday 12 November. As large a delegation as possible is desired from our area in order to give maximum encouragement to our chapters in areas where schools are closed, as well as to demonstrate positive support of the Council’s program.
Members who can attend should:
- FIRST – Send in their reservation immediately for the dinner. A form was furnished earlier, but if you have misplaced yours, simply drop a note to the state office, Room 216C, Broad-Grace Arcade, Richmond 19, Virginia.
- SECOND – Call Al Kassabian’s office, CL 6-2525, to offer to drive others or to request transportation as available.
MEETING ON CIVIL RIGHTS SET FOR NOVEMBER 19TH AT ST. MICHAEL’S
Program Committee Chairman Worrall has announced that the next general meeting of members and friends of the Council will be on the Civil Rights Commission. The meeting will be at 8:15 p.m. Wednesday, November 19th at St. Michael’s Church, Annandale.
A panel of staff members of the Commission and others familiar with its work will discuss the aims and methods of the Commission. An informative session is anticipated. Details will be announced in the local press or otherwise.
STONE, WALKER AND RILLING URGE ACTION TO PREVENT SCHOOL CLOSINGS
Prompt and urgent action to prevent additional school closings, re-open closed schools, and to work against complete destruction of the public school system in Virginia were urged by the panel at our membership meeting on October 9.
Delegate Kathryn Stone asserted that the Virginia situation can possibly develop into the closing of all schools unless there is an overwhelming public opinion in favor of public education.
Mr. Paul Rilling, executive director of the Virginia Council on Human Relations, stated that the future of public education depended upon an outpouring of public sentiment.
Dr. Harry Walker of Howard University said that the moderates must be heard. If they are, he continued, he saw hope for progress in Virginia.
Over 100 people at the Annandale Methodist Church heard the panel and the choir of the Mt. Calvary Baptist Church of Fairfax, led by Director Paul Collins.
Members of the audience stressed the necessity for both action and understanding. Letters to the governor were emphasized as one means of making public opinion felt at this time.
WOMEN VOTERS CALL FOR ACTION TO PRESERVE PUBLIC EDUCATION
The Virginia League of Women Voters, headed by Mrs. Betty Farwell of Fairfax County, has released a statement calling for defense of public education. The League said in part:
“You should express your concern to your own PTAs and your teachers. Can you now remain silent while the very existence of those schools is threatened?”
The Board of Directors of the Council has authorized the President and other Council officials to seek a conference with the Governor to express the Council’s concern for public education and human relations in our State.
Memberships in the Council have been returned to an “anniversary” basis. All memberships will be for the twelve-month period following original date or anniversary of membership. Prompt payment of dues and renewals are essential for the support of the work of the Council and of our state organization.
Time will be reserved at the November 19 meeting for discussion of Council policy and action in view of the Virginia school situation as it may exist at that time.
Statement, Superintendent Woodson Opposes Desegregation
July 6, 1959
Copy to Bob Davis, July, W. T.
[Copy to Robert F. Davis, School Board Member]
The order to desegregate schools is highly improper and infringes on human rights. To force integration of schools is to force social mixing, since attendance in public schools is usually compulsory. Next to the home the public school brings people into closest social relationship. Association in hotels, restaurants, buses, trains, airplanes, and churches is less serious since relationship among people in these situations is not so close or intimate and people have a choice with whom they wish to associate, it not being required by law, as pupils in a classrooms and in school activities.
To force desegregation in schools is most unfair. It takes advantage of the immaturity of children in that it tends to use it to force upon both parents and children social adjustments to which so many parents strongly object. What part should parents play in choosing their children’s associates?
Desegregation, instead of helping Negro children, is proving and will continue, at least for sometime, to prove hurtful to both Negroes and whites because (1) widespread public support of the public school is being lost, (2) political support is becoming much more difficult, (3) financial support of those most able to pay is being lost with their opposition to being taxed for public schools.
Schools are basically social institutions requiring close relationships if the educative process is to function properly. In order to have a learning situation in a primary, elementary, or secondary school or classroom there must be an atmosphere of general acceptability by parents and pupils of other pupils and their parents. Failure to secure and maintain this atmosphere is most damaging to the results or outcomes the school should attain. Integration in the school and classroom will do much to undermine the good work of our schools.
In a school and classroom pupils must associate with one another. To force this association by law is contrary to the principles which our founding fathers sought when they came to America--the pilgrims in order that their children not be brought up under the religious and social conditions prevailing in England and Holland, and others of the founding fathers for other and similar reasons. We have come to think of these things as basic to the American way of life – to be free to choose our associates and those of our children.
It is my impression that our people generally do not wish to be in social groups where their presence is not generally acceptable.
Position Letter, Robert F. Davis (School Board Member)
Law Offices of Stevens, Davis, Miller & Mosher
Munsey Building-National Theatre Building
Washington 4, D.C.
August 28, 1959
Handed W.T.W. by (?) noon September 11, 1959
Mr. Samuel S. Solomon
Fairfax County School Board
3405 Emily’s Lane
Falls Church, Virginia
I am writing this letter to you and enclosing copies which you may, if you choose, furnish to the other members of the School Board and to Mr. Woodson and to the attorneys representing the School Board in the desegregation litigation.
I was concerned at our meeting Tuesday evening by the fact that at least some persons present considered that it could be ethical and proper for the School Board or its attorneys to accept the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court of the United States as the law of the land, but still do everything in their power to impede or delay or prevent the implementation of that law.
My feeling is that as a member of the School Board I have been justified up to the present time in taking no action to desegregate the schools of Fairfax County, despite the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States, because the Fairfax County School Board is an arm of the government of the Commonwealth of Virginia and the power to assign pupils to particular schools has been taken from us by the Commonwealth and placed in the hands of the State Pupil Placement Board. Until or unless the power to assign pupils is again vested in the Fairfax County School Board, either by the voluntary action of the Commonwealth of Virginia through an act of the legislature (such as the one to take effect in March 1960), or through an action of a state or a federal court of last resort, I do not believe the School Board should attempt to do so, for this would go contrary to the laws of the State of Virginia, or the actions of the State Pupil Placement Board. Furthermore, until very recently, there was no request from any Negro citizen or child to have a Negro child placed in a white school or vice versa. Thus, since I do not interpret the Supreme Court decision as demanding enforced integration, or prohibiting voluntary segregation where both races are satisfied, I could see no reason for action up to the present time.
Now we come to the place where we are called into court and it is demanded that we either completely integrate our schools at once or immediately present a plan for desegregation or integration of our schools. I feel that it is definitely wrong that we should be called upon to do either of these things until and unless it is established that we have the authority as the School Board of Fairfax County to proceed to implement the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court of the United States. Then, and only then I think it is our duty to decide, as the School Board of Fairfax County, whether we wish to accept the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court of the United States, or whether we want to demand our own day in court to re-litigate the subject of desegregation or integration of schools particularly as it applies to the situation in Fairfax County.
I believe at that time we have the absolute right, if we choose to exercise it, of presenting a full and complete case to the District Court, with all the evidence and all of the reasons that we can assemble that will tend to show that desegregation of the schools of Fairfax County should not be ordered by the federal courts for any reason or reasons that we can give.
In particular, I think we may argue strongly that all of the pertinent facts were not before the Supreme Court of the United States when it made the 1954 decision, and that many practical considerations of temperament, majority desires, social mores, intelligence levels, long established customs, and other things make desegregation impractical or undesirable from a sociological or psychological point of view. I think we may also present rather strong arguments based on such things as the declarations of thirty-six chief justices of the Supreme Courts of the various states and others to the effect that the Supreme Court of the United States went far beyond its authority in reconstruing the constitutional amendment involved, and actually misconstrued the constitutional amendment in view of the facts that surrounded the adoption of the amendment.
I have only touched on the highlights of the things that might be presented, but I feel that all of these things and many more might well be presented to the District Court and I believe that the District Court would be under every legal compulsion to receive and consider such evidence and such arguments.
I agree that it is doubtful that the District Court would decide our case in a way that would appear to be contra to what the Supreme Court decided in 1954, and probably the Court of Appeals would not, either. In any event, however, our facts and arguments should be heard and honestly considered by both these courts, as a matter of absolute right on the part of our School Board. If the decision of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals was then contra to the position taken by the School Board, the matter could be brought to the attention of the Supreme Court of the United States and its consideration asked by writ of certiorari, which might or might not be granted. Much has happened since 1954 including replacement on the bench of four out of nine of the justices.
The result of proceeding in the manner I have set forth above would undoubtedly result in a delay of a final order to desegregate the schools in Fairfax County. This, to my mind, should not be allowed to influence our decision one way or the other. If we believe that the approach should be as I have stated above, it should be made. If not, no attempt should be made to avoid or delay application of the ruling of the Supreme Court at all.
If and when, either by legal decision or by the operation of state law, the authority comes into the hands of the School Board to desegregate the schools of Fairfax County, then, if the School Board decides to accept what is laid down as law in the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court of the United States, without contesting the propriety of that decision, it is the duty of the School Board to attempt to formulate an entirely honest plan for giving effect to that 1954 decision in all honesty, and without any attempt to hedge or delay in any way. We, as members of the School Board, and as good citizens, cannot countenance a dodge or evasion or undue and unreasonable postponement of the implementation of the decision when the time comes. Furthermore, the lawyers who represent the School Board, and we on the School Board who are lawyers cannot, if we are to be properly ethical, countenance delaying or evasive tactics.
Certainly, we can offer a concrete plan that will accomplish what is called for by the Supreme Court decision with what I believe the Supreme Court called “all deliberate speed” but we cannot ethically delay beyond that.
The purpose of this letter is to be certain that my thinking is on the record.
Robert F. Davis
The “Musts” of Local Assignment
Fairfax County School Board
February 17, 1961
The “Musts” of Local Assignment
(Steps to be taken as viewed by staff and its understanding of law and regulations).
- The State Board of Education must adopt rules and regulations for the guidance of local school boards. (This was done on February 3, 1961).
- The Fairfax County School Board will need to transmit to the Board of County Supervisors an appropriate resolution requesting the enactment of an ordinance to the effect that the County School Board wishes to move away from the jurisdiction of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board and assume the functions of pupil assignment within the public schools of Fairfax County, and the Board of County Supervisors must so enact the said ordinance. Copies of the School Board’s resolution and the Board of County Supervisors’ ordinance shall be transmitted to the State Board of Education.
- The School Board must adopt rules, regulations, and procedures which are not inconsistent with State Board of Education regulations for the administration of the local assignment functions.
- The School Board must fix attendance areas for the respective schools by appropriate action.
- The School Board will need to designate an agent or agents to make initial assignment.
- For local assignment to be effective for the 1961-62 session, all procedures must be approved by Board and all necessary forms procured for assignment requests to be submitted by April 5, 1961, and written notice of assignment sent to parents by April 15, 1961.
Fairfax County School Board Resolution
February 23, 1961
Mr. Carlton C. Massey
Dear Mr. Massey:
Resolution, as follows, was adopted by the Fairfax County School Board in session February 21, 1961, in response to your memorandum of February 16, 1961, to the Superintendent of Schools:
“WHEREAS, the State Board of Education has promulgated rules and regulations governing placement of pupils by local school jurisdictions and has requested advice of the election of a local School Board to be bound by the provisions of the Article of the Code of Virginia governing local enrollment or placement of pupils, and advice that appropriate Ordinance has been adopted by the governing body of the County electing to be bound by the provisions of such Article; and
“WHEREAS, the Board of County Supervisors of Fairfax County has requested recommendation of the School Board with respect to adoption of Ordinance permitting election of the Fairfax County School Board to be bound by the provisions of Article 1.2, Chapter 12, of Title 22 of the 1950 Code of Virginia, as amended; and
“WHEREAS, the Fairfax County School Board desires to assume the functions of pupil assignment within the public schools of Fairfax County.
“NOW, THEREFORE, the Fairfax County School Board recommends and requests that the Board of County Supervisors of Fairfax County adopt Ordinance signifying an election to be bound by the provisions of said Article, to be implemented in accordance with rules and regulations promulgated by the State Board of Education and such other regulations, not inconsistent with the criteria set forth therein, as the Fairfax County School Board may determine are necessary to provide orderly administration of its schools and competent instruction of the pupils enrolled, in the interest of their health, safety, best interests, and general welfare.”
Copies of this resolution and Ordinance adopted by the Board of Supervisors shall be submitted to the State Board of Education after action of the Board of Supervisors.
Very truly yours,
George H. Pope, Assistant Superintendent
Board of Supervisors Pupil Placement Ordinance
Adoption of an Ordinance Providing for the Local Enrollment or Placement of Pupils in Fairfax County, Virginia
At a regular meeting of the Board of County Supervisors of Fairfax County, Virginia, held in the Board Room in the County Office Building, at Fairfax, Virginia, on Wednesday, April 5, 1961, the Board, after having given notice of its intention so to do, in the manner prescribed by law, adopted an Ordinance Providing for the Local Enrollment or Placement of Pupils in Fairfax County, Virginia, said ordinance so adopted being in the words and figures following, to-wit:
BE IT HEREBY ORDAINED AND ENACTED by the Board of County Supervisors of Fairfax County, Virginia, that upon the recommendation of the School Board of Fairfax County, Virginia, the County of Fairfax, Virginia, hereby elects to be bound by the provisions of Article 1.2, Chapter 12, of Title 22 of the 1950 Code of Virginia as amended.
BE IT FURTHER ORDAINED AND ENACTED that this ordinance be, and the same hereby is, made effective on and after May 15, 1961.
GIVEN under my hand this 5th day of April, 1961.
Edna A. Bicksler
Clerk of said Board
Letter to Otto L. Tucker from Superintendent Woodson
April 6, 1961
Mr. Otto L. Tucker
Attorney at Law
901 Princess Street
Dear Mr. Tucker:
I acknowledge your letter of April 3 addressed to the Fairfax County School Board and to the Division Superintendent. Together with this letter you enclosed requests for transfers and applications for enrollment of a number of children.
I regret to say that the applications have not been made on proper forms. Further, applications for many of these children have already been received by us from their parents on the proper forms. We are forwarding proper forms immediately to parents of the other children on your list.
Very truly yours,
W. T. Woodson
cc: Mr. George Pope
Letter, Belvedere Elementary Re-Segregated
August 18, 1961
(Dictated August 17)
Mr. Overton Jones
Southern Education Reporting Service
P.O. Box 6156 Acklen Station
Nashville 12, Tennessee
Dear Mr. Jones:
Reference is made to your August 16 letter to our Superintendent, Mr. Funderburk.
The report which I submitted to Mr. James Baker on school desegregation in Fairfax County for the coming school year had properly omitted the name of the Belvedere School which past school session was desegregated. The school community from which last year Belvedere’s Negro pupils came has been transferred for the coming session to a new elementary school. Accordingly, Belvedere will not be desegregated during the 1961-62 school session.
G. H. Pope
Assistant Superintendent for Administration and Finance
Letter actually mailed in a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Mr. Jones at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Richmond, Va.