“A Gentlemen’s Fight”

Nobody was murdered or maimed, but nobody backed down for twenty years in the struggle over school integration in Prince Edward County, Virginia. Who finally won?

The Reverend L. Francis Griffin sat in a metal folding chair in the basement assembly hall of the First Baptist Church in Farmville, Virginia. His modified Afro, bushy eyebrows, and Vandyke beard were flecked with gray. Behind horn-rimmed glasses, his brown eyes seemed to suggest a mixture of attentiveness and fatigue, of serenity and sadness. Read more »

With All Deliberate Speed

Behind-the-scenes records reveal how the Supreme Court reached its fateful desegregation decisions

On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court of the United States destroyed the legal basis for racial segregation in public schools. As it almost had to be in a case that stirred elemental passions, the decision was unanimous. It was also, as Chief Justice Earl Warren had told the other justices ten days earlier it must be, “short, readable by the lay public, non-rhetorical, unemotional, and, above all, non-accusatory.” Read more »