Download as One Story About School Desegregation by Florence Coleman Bryant as a PDF.
This work was originally published as a strip-bound typescript book in 2004, and I know of only two copies that still exist. This is a phenomenal story about the the bravery of many residents of Charlottesville to assert their right to equal public resources. Despite several attempts, I was unable to get in contact with Ms. Bryant to get permission to reprint this, but after careful consideration, I think she would want her words and this story to be more widely available.
This work tells the complex story of desegregation in Charlottesville. A simplistic interpretation of events is that Charlottesville was on the forefront of integration, and therefore became one of 3 school divisions in Virginia to have schools closed by Gov. Almond as part of the “Massive Resistance” campaign against desegregation. A truthful account tells how brave Black parents and students fought against a united School Board and City Council (along with most white residents) to desegregate schools, gathering numerous Federal court orders to requiring Venable Elementary and Lane High School to admit Black students. This triggered Gov. Almond to close both schools for the fall of 1958, and after months of wrangling, reopening in February 1959 as the “Charlottesville Twelve” entered. Johnson Elementary desegregated in 1962, and all schools began 1966 with geographic attendance zones rather than racial. However, residential segregation still affects the composition of these schools to this day, and internal segregation through the gifted programs and tracking has only recently been started to be addressed.
I hope you find this story as interesting and meaningful as I do.
Mrs. Bryant also gave an interview in 1987 about her work in Charlottesville schools for the documentary The Road to Brown : the untold story of “the man who killed Jim Crow”, the uncut footage of which is here: