Monday, July 07, 2008

We Shall Overcome

Because of the bravery shown by these students, known as the Norfolk 17, and others like the Little Rock 9, America is a better place today.

NORFOLK, Va. - The "Norfolk 17" were honored Sunday at the church that educated them 50 years ago when six of the city's all-white public schools closed under Virginia's defiant response to court-ordered desegregation...

The 17 were among thousands of black students denied a place in the classroom during "Massive Resistance," Virginia's state-sponsored answer to the Supreme Court's 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling that declared school segregation unconstitutional...

Schools were closed and private academies were created to educate white students who could afford the tuition. The policy primarily affected schools in Charlottesville, Norfolk and Prince Edward County, which continued its own homegrown version of school segregation until 1964.

In Norfolk, three all-white high schools and three junior high schools closed between September 1958 and February 1959 rather than accept black students.

The Norfolk 17 were turned away from those six schools. At First Baptist Church, the 17 said they found loving, attentive and demanding teachers.

In January 1959, state and federal courts declared that the school closings were unconstitutional. The Norfolk schools reopened in Feb. 2, 1959, and the 17 went on to attend the white schools, ending the era of Massive Resistance.

People like Jeremiah Wright still live in those times mentioned above, times before I was born. I see America as that shining city on a hill, getting shinier all the time.

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