Civil Action 3579
The milestone court case that resulted in school desegregation in King George County, Virginia
In 1962, thirty-eight African-American students and their parents filed suit against the County School Board of King George County, Virginia, hoping to gain admittance into the County’s all-white public schools. The School Board, Superintendent, and each of the school board members said that any placement issues ought to be brought up with the State’s Pupil Placement Board rather than the school board itself, alleging that each of the plaintiffs was simply not placed in their respective desired schools as a result of their distance from the institution or lack of academic qualifications.
During the case, it was made evident that all administrative options had been exhausted by the plaintiffs’ families. It was also shown that the school board operated six schools within the county, and only two of which were open to any more than a token number of African-American students.
An attendance boundary for each of the six schools was seen to be very flexible, and while the Pupil Placement Board had placed 29 black students into mostly white schools in the county already and without court order, it was further shown that this measure reasonably should have been carried farther. Typically, the School Board made “tentative assignments” for students in the county and forwarded them to the Placement Board, where they were accepted unless a student in question made a formal protest. White students, it was found, needed not even apply to gain admission to a predominately white school. They merely had to show up. However, this was not the case for black students, and it became clear in the case that the criteria by which white and black students were judged on was far from equal.
The Court found the dual system of schooling to be discriminatory and granted the plaintiffs admission to the school which they applied. Furthermore, a general injunction against racial discrimination in their admission process was awarded. Counsel fees were not awarded.
(Adapted from DOVE Research Resources Guide)
Civil Action 3579
The lawsuit was filed on November 28, 1962 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Richmond Division, by S.W. Tucker and Henry L. Marsh, III, Attorneys at Law. You can view the original civil action document in the viewer below.
A Living Legacy
Plaintiffs of Civil Action 3579 at a Heroes Among Us celebration, hosted by King George County Board Supervisor Ruby Brabo.
Watch The Road to School Desegregation Documentary
Produced by the Ralph Bunche Alumni Association and King George County School Board, The Road to School Desegregation is a documentary video detailing the struggle for educational equality in King George County, Virginia and across the United States. Deepen your knowledge of this part of our nation’s vital history and support the mission of the Ralph Bunche Alumni Association in the process!
Your contributions and involvement with the Ralph Bunche Alumni Association directly fund historic preservation, community education and the college scholarship award. Find out more about how you can get involved and make an important difference.