April 12, 2004
Opportunity for Media to Photograph Brown v Board Supreme Court Decision
WHAT: This will be the only opportunity for the media to film/photograph the original Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka Supreme Court Decision before it goes on public display at the National Archives. Original photographs of two public high schools in Prince Edward County, Virginia, will also be on view. These photos were presented as evidence in the district court case Davis et al. v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, VA, et al. to illustrate the inequality of the all-black Robert Russa Moton High School and the all-white Farmville High School. The Davis case became part of the Brown case when it when it was appealed to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court Decision and the photographs will be on display in the West Gallery of the National Archives, April 16, 2004 through July 5, 2004. The exhibition is free and open to the public. The public should use the Constitution Avenue entrance to the building. Hours are: 10:00 A.M.–7:00 P.M. April 1 through the Friday before Memorial Day Weekend; 10:00 A.M.–9:00 P.M. Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day.
WHEN: 10 AM Wednesday, April 14, 2004.
WHERE: The Jefferson Room, The National Archives Building, 700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC.
PLEASE NOTE: Available light only. No flash photography will be permitted. The media should use the Pennsylvania Avenue entrance.
BACKGROUND: Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka was actually a consolidation of five separate cases that challenged the constitutionality of racial segregation in public schools. One of them, Davis et al. v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, VA, et al., originated in the rural Virginia community of Prince Edward County, 170 miles south of the nation’s capital. These photographs, presented as evidence in that case, illustrate the inequality of two of the county’s public high schools: the all-black Robert Russa Moton High School and the all-white Farmville High School.
On April 23, 1951, the students of Moton High School went on strike to protest the shabby conditions of their school. Intending to sue their county to obtain a new building, the student strike committee asked for help from the NAACP’s Richmond office. The NAACP agreed to help by suing the county—not just for an improved facility—but for the end of segregation. On May 23, 1951, Davis et al. v. The County School Board of Prince Edward County, VA, et al. was filed in the Federal District Court in Richmond demanding the immediate integration of the county’s schools. Photographs from all three of the county’s public high schools—Moton, Farmville, and the county’s second, less affluent, all-white school, Worsham—were submitted as evidence.
On March 7, 1952, a three-judge panel ruled in favor of the school board, upholding segregation. They found, however, that the school buildings and curricula of the African American students were inferior to those of the county’s white students, and ordered that the schools be equalized. In 1954, the Moton School moved into a newly constructed, modern school building that could accommodate 700 students.
The NAACP lawyers appealed the district court decision; the Davis case with its challenge to segregation became part of the Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, that found segregation in the nation’s public schools to be unconstitutional. Despite the Brown ruling, the schools of Prince Edward County remained strictly segregated as late as 1959. Rather than comply with the Court’s orders to integrate the schools, the county Board of Supervisors closed them. The schools of Prince Edward County remained closed for five years, reopening in 1964 by order of the Supreme Court.
For press information, contact the National Archives Public Affairs Staff at 202-501-5526 or 301-837-1700.