In 1964, New Kent County, located just east of Richmond, remained a largely rural and undeveloped county. Many residents worked in the pulp wood industry while others found employment at the paper mill or outside the county. The racial makeup in the community was almost 50 percent black and 50 percent white. While there was very little interaction among the races, there was also little of the violence that marked the civil rights era in other southern locales. Ten years after the U.S. Supreme Court declared "separate but equal" unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education, both public schools in New Kent County—the George W. Watkins School for blacks and the New Kent School for whites—remained completely segregated, a policy the county and its school board deliberately maintained. This began to change, however, with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which, in part, threatened to curtail federal funding to localities refusing to integrate their schools.
The Lawsuit and "Freedom of Choice"
The NAACP responded by appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court in October 1967. Attorneys argued that the school board's "freedom of choice" plan unlawfully placed the burden of integration on black students, and that such plans rarely led to significant school desegregation. They also contended that the school board intended to preserve the twofold school systems by continuing to bus some black students up to twenty miles to attend the all-black George W. Watkins School even though the white school was much closer.
May 17, 1954 - The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, that segregation in schools is unconstitutional, but fails to explain how quickly and in what manner desegregation is to be achieved. The decision leads to the Massive Resistance movement in Virginia.
May 31, 1955 - The U.S. Supreme Court issues a vague ruling outlining the implementation of desegregation to occur "with all deliberate speed," a ruling now commonly known as Brown II.
July 2, 1964 - The Civil Rights Act becomes law, allowing the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare to threaten southern localities with the loss of federal funding if they do not integrate their schools.
June–August 1965 - Facing the lawsuit filed by Calvin C. Green and the potential loss of federal funds from the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the New Kent County School Board adopts a "freedom of choice" plan that allows parents to petition for their children to attend a school different from the one they are already attending.
1966 - The U.S. District Court rules against Charles C. Green et al. v. County School Board of New Kent County, Virginia. The court accepts the school board's "freedom of choice" plan as a satisfactory effort to integrate the New Kent County schools.
1967 - The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upholds the U.S. District Court ruling against Charles C. Green et al. v. County School Board of New Kent County, Virginia.
April 3, 1968 - NAACP attorneys argue before the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Charles C. Green et al. v. County School Board of New Kent County. They assert that the school board's "freedom of choice" plan unlawfully places the burden of integration on African Americans, and that the plan fails to produce significant school desegregation.
August 7, 2001 - The Secretary of the Interior designates both the New Kent School and the George W. Watkins School National Historic Landmarks because of their involvement in the school desegregation case of Charles C. Green et al. v. County School Board of New Kent County, Virginia.
Cite This Entry
- APA Citation:
Allen, J., & Daugherity, B. J. Charles C. Green et al. v. County School Board of New Kent County, Virginia. (2014, May 22). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Green_Charles_C_et_al_v_County_School_Board_of_New_Kent_County_Virginia.
- MLA Citation:
Allen, Jody and Brian J. Daugherity. "Charles C. Green et al. v. County School Board of New Kent County, Virginia." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 22 May. 2014. Web. READ_DATE.
First published: March 13, 2009 | Last modified: May 22, 2014
Contributed by Jody Allen and Brian J. Daugherity. Jody Allen is a visiting assistant professor in the department of history at the College of William and Mary. Brian J. Daugherity is assistant professor of history at Virginia Commonwealth University.