This site seeks to describe the journey the community of a small town undertook to integrate their schools during the 1960s. The project focuses on elementary and high schools in the town of Fredericksburg, Virginia. Virginia was one of the first states to integrate; however, the school system in Fredericksburg did not try to start integration until 1961, six years after the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education ruling. The Brown v. Board of Education case ruled that separate but equal spaces (schools included) were unconstitutional, but the outcry of African American students thereafter showed that integration was not going to happen anytime soon. Many in the community were opposed to desegregation, and tried to prevent it. Tensions rose as African American students started to band together in protest. The phrase “If God is for us, who can be against us” was the continuing refrain of African American students in Fredericksburg who pleaded for equal education, until Fredericksburg finally delivered that demand seven years later.
The site contains a timeline which grants a brief overview of the story, histories of specific schools, and narratives from contemporary student perspectives who experienced the integration. Full integration was eventually realized in 1965 with Stafford County in Fredericksburg. With Stafford County as the forerunner, the schools in the city of Fredericksburg, Caroline County, Spotsylvania County, King George County followed suit.
This online digital project intends to show how school desegregation impacted a small town like Fredericksburg on the local level, and how the story reiterates what was happening on a national level. Specifically, in Fredericksburg, there has been recent debate on how to preserve and remember some of the darker episodes of our history, including slavery and the Civil War. When we see these personal stories, it makes us feel closer to the history, and that will help us connect with the continuing story happening now in the United States. It shows that conflict resolution can pave the way for future generations to have open doors of opportunity that would not have happened if conflict did not occur.
This project site was made as a part of the course Conflict in America that is part of the COPLAC Digital Project that is sponsored by a grant from the Mellon Foundation.
Course Site: http://conflict.coplacdigital.org/