Fear of a Brown Planet

On this day in 1958, Richmond Times-Dispatch editor Virginius Dabney published an article in Life magazine explaining, on behalf of Virginia, why the state closed public schools in several communities—including here in Charlottesville—rather than allow them to integrate. Here’s how it began:

Why has Virginia, with its Jeffersonian traditions, its heritage from Chief Justice John Marshall and other Founding Fathers, chosen to try to get around the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 and to close some of its schools rather than admit one Negro child to any white school?
The answer is not simple. Part of it lies in the feeling of most white Virginians—buttressed by the view of important northern legal scholars—that the Supreme Court, for all its unanimity in that epochal decision of four years ago, sought improperly to legislate by judicial decree and flagrantly misconstrued the 14th Amendment, which guarantees equal protection of the laws. Opposition to that decision has become a matter of principle.
Another part of the answer is to be found in the widespread conviction that mixed schools are well-nigh certain, in time, to bring a mixed race through more and more intermarriage. This is especially feared in Virginia and other southern states where the number of Negroes is large and the schools, particularly in the rural areas, are quite definitely social institutions.
And part of the answer lies in the belief that in much of Virginia integrated schools would cause such turmoil, conflict and even chaos that the efficiency of the educational system in those areas would be gravely impaired, if not destroyed.

Dabney had been something of a liberal reformer earlier in the career, but by the end … well, he was squarely on the wrong side of history. After the jump, find a couple more images from the magazine.



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