PRIMARY DOCUMENT

Letter from L.Francis Griffin to President Dwight D. Eisenhower (August 20, 1959)

CONTEXT

In this letter, dated August 20, 1959, the Reverend L. Francis Griffin writes, as the president of the Prince Edward County Christian Association, to President Dwight D. Eisenhower asking for his help in enforcing an end to segregated schools in Prince Edward County. The county Board of Supervisors was flouting the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas decision to desegregate public schools. The president’s deputy assistant sent a response to this letter on August 29, 1959.

 

 

FULL TEXT

August 20, 1959

“The President”

The White House

Washington, D. C.

My dear Mr. President:

As Americans who believe in the authority and dignity of the law, we the members of the Prince Edward County Christian Association, appeal to you for whatever help you can offer in a tragic situation involving our county, state and nation.

We are citizens of a county involved in the now famous May 17, 1954 United States Supreme Court decision declaring racial segregation in public education to be unconstitutional. Five years after this decision, and nine years after legal action was instituted, Federal Court orders remain unobeyed. We submit that in a Christian democracy this is deplorable.

When the Supreme Court declined to grant a stay of the lower court’s order requiring integration of the county public schools beginning September, 1959, the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors (the law-making body of the county) declined to appropriate funds to operate any public school. No tax was levied for public school purposes.

As a result of this defiant and undemocratic action by the Board of Supervisors, approximately 3,300 children of both races are confronted with educational malnutrition.

The segregationists of the county are proclaiming in strong terms, “There will be no racial mixing in the public schools, regardless of cost.” These benighted and confused people are attempting to operate private schools to circumvent the law encouched in our constitution. We do not believe this should be permitted.

We realize that in a representative democracy such as ours our governmental processes will become stagnant unless the education of citizens is broad enough to encourage maximum interest and participation according to one’s ability without being hampered by artificial barriers and restrictions. Our advocacy of public education is strengthened when we realize that we no longer live in a provincial society. Today, we are part and parcel of a space age society and being such, if we expect the youth of Prince Edward County to compete with the youth of this nation and of the world as equals, we must provide for them the strongest system of public education possible. To rely on private education to fill these modern day needs is utter folly.

We believe that segregation in any form is morally and legally wrong, therefore, we prayerfully request that you use the full extent of your good office in the alleviation of our conditions in Prince Edward County, Virginia.

Respectfully yours,

L. Francis Griffin

President

LFG: ea

Copies to

Vice President Richard Nixon

Attorney General William William Rogers


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CITE THIS ENTRY
APA Citation:
Griffin, L. Francis. Letter from L.Francis Griffin to President Dwight D. Eisenhower (August 20, 1959). (2023, May 12). In Encyclopedia Virginia. https://encyclopediavirginia.org/primary-documents/letter-from-l-francis-griffin-to-president-dwight-d-eisenhower-august-20-1959.
MLA Citation:
Griffin, L. Francis. "Letter from L.Francis Griffin to President Dwight D. Eisenhower (August 20, 1959)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (12 May. 2023). Web. 23 Apr. 2024
Last updated: 2023, May 12
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