Primary Resource

"NAACP Carries Teacher Salary Fight into VA." (1938)

In 1938, the NAACP filed a petition on behalf of Aline Elizabeth Black with the Norfolk Board of Education for equal pay for black teachers. The petition was reproduced on November 5 in the Afro American and Richmond Planet.

Transcription from Original

Va. Equal Pay War Launched

High School Teacher in Norfolk Files Petition

Richmond – The first step in the fight towards equalization of teachers' salaries in Virginia was launched on Thursday on behalf of Miss Aline Elizabeth Black by J. Thomas Hewin, Richmond attorney for the NAACP, who filed a petition with the Norfolk board of education, seeking a new salary schedule.

According to Hewin, C. W. Mason, superintendent of Norfolk schools, has agreed to furnish the NAACP with a salary schedule showing differentials, and the board has further agreed to set a date for the hearing.

Working on Doctorate

Miss Black is a chemistry teacher in the Booker T. Washington High School in Norfolk. She holds a bachelor of science degree from Virginia State College, an M.S. from the University of Pennsylvania. She is working toward a doctor of philosophy degree at New York University.

Miss Black, who has been in the Norfolk school system for ten years and earns $1045 annually, while white teachers in the high schools teaching the same subject receive $2,100 and thereabouts.

Conferred Two Days

Hewin and Thurgood Marshall, national counsel for the NAACP, conferred with members of the school board, Monday and Tuesday, and when no agreement

— page 2 —

could be reached, the Richmond attorney filed the petition.

Contentions set forth in the petition follow:

"That the aforementioned salary schedule provides for a maximum salary for female white high school teachers of $1900, and a maximum salary for female colored teachers of $1105;

"The said salary schedule provides a minimum salary for female white high school teachers of $970 and the minimum salary for female colored high school teachers of $699. (The figures in this paragraph are quoted from the annual report of the superintendent of public instruction of Virginia 1936–7.)

"That said schedule provides a higher salary for white teachers and principals than for colored teachers and principals with similar qualifications and experience in performing essentially the same duties; the said differentials are based solely on the ground of race or color.

"That pursuant to said schedule petitioner is paid less salary than white female high school teachers with similar qualifications and experience in performing the same duties.

"That petitioner and others of her race acting as teachers and principals in the public schools of Norfolk are paid less salary than white teachers and principals with similar qualifications and experience: and performing essentially the same duties as the aforementioned.

Enforcing Discrimination

"That the school board of the city of Norfolk in enforcing the said schedule has by means of the unjust discrimination above, according to the annual report of the superintendent of public instruction of Virginia, 1936–7, paid white female high school teachers and average annual salary of $1627;

"And at the same time has paid colored female high school teachers an average annual salary of $950 despite the fact that colored teachers in the high schools of Norfolk have the same qualifications and experience.

Calls Action Wrong

"The school board of the city of Norfolk in adopting and enforcing the salary schedule of teachers referred to above, and in administering the said schedule, and in paying teachers salaries there-under as mentioned.

"Has discriminated unjustly against the petitioner and others of her race similarly employed in the school system of the City of Norfolk solely because of their race or color in violation of the constitution and laws of the State of Virginia;

"And has denied the petitioner and others of her race similarly employed in the school system of the city of Norfolk the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

"Wherefore:

"Your petitioner prays:

"That the school board of the city of Norfolk adopt and enforce a new salary schedule equal as to all teachers and principals with the same qualifications and experience without any distinction being made as to race or color of teachers or schools.

Demands Equality

"That the petitioner and others of her race similarly employed in the school system of the city of Norfolk be paid salaries equal to that paid white teachers with the same qualifications and experience."