Massive Resistance Oral History Project at VCU

Huzzah for VCU, and not for their basketball…

Virginia Commonwealth University is launching an oral history project on the subject of Massive Resistance. It will go beyond the high level history of the period and discover the stories of those children-now 60 something adults-whose lives and education were disrupted by the misguided anti-integration policies of the Byrd Machine.

Perhaps you are not familiar with Massive Resistance?  Virginia mostly avoided the large-scale racial violence that seen deep in Dixie.  Federal troops never had to be called out, and the Klan never got a foothold in Virginia.  However, Virginia had a less violent and potentially more destructive path in mind…

The state-supported Massive Resistance policies — initiated in the late 1950s by U.S. Sen. Harry F. Byrd Sr.— urged localities not to integrate their schools, as mandated by the 1954 Brown v. Board decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. Public schools of Arlington County, Charlottesville, Norfolk, Prince Edward County, and Warren County closed as a result of the policy. In some localities, white leaders founded academies for white children. Some black children moved to live with family members out-of-state so they could attend school, but many stopped their education altogether.

Essentially, the powers that be in the mid-late 1950’s authorized and encouraged a policy that deprived children of an education-for as long as five years in some areas-but blighted the lives of those children and their communities for generations.

It is a black mark on the history of our Commonwealth and those who encouraged the policy, and one from which some communities are still recovering.

Huzzah for VCU for a project that is long overdue.


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