Case 2 of “The Virginia Way of Life Must Be Preserved” Exhibit
Image by Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library
Shown here is an image of Case 2 from the exhibit "The Virginia Way of Life Must Be Preserved", on display in the Nancy Marshall Gallery on the 1st floor of Swem Library at the College of William & Mary. This exhibit is part of "From Fights to Rights: The Long Road to a More Perfect Union," Swem Library’s project to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement. The exhibit is on display from June 18-October 22, 2012.
The following is a transcription of the labels presented in this case:
This section includes many of the letters and resolutions in Swem’s collections from Virginians who favored the Brown decision. African Americans strongly supported the Supreme Court. NAACP chapters, ministers, and the Virginia Teachers Association, which represented teachers of color, advocated for integration. The NAACP pin belonged to one of the Ragsdale sisters, pictured here, whose sister Mabel was assistant principal at Farmville’s Moton High School. Among whites, support tended to be strongest among ministers and religious groups such as the Friends and the Mennonites and also among people who lived in areas such as southwestern and northern Virginia, where the black populations were smallest. The Virginia Council of Human Relations was an interracial group that supported integration in schools and other public facilities.
Few of the supporters of the Brown decision bothered to write to the white political leaders whose papers Swem Library owns. The likeliest white politician in Swem’s collections to receive pro-Brown letters was State Senator Ted Dalton (W&M ’24), a Republican who represented southwestern Virginia. He favored segregation but opposed closing schools, putting him at odds with the architect of massive resistance, Harry Byrd, with whom he is pictured in the other case.
The materials in this section represent a tiny fraction of the thousands of pro-segregation letters and documents in Swem’s collections. Those who favored segregation gave a variety of reasons, but the most emotional was a fear that integration of schools would lead to race mixing, including interracial marriages. U.S. Senator A. Willis Robertson, a Democrat and crony of Harry Byrd’s, received letters from all over the state. He is pictured here speaking at William & Mary’s commencement in 1957, when the College awarded him an honorary degree. State Senator (and later Governor) Mills Godwin, Jr. (W&M ’34), also pictured here, was a Democrat who served on the Gray Commission and received letters primarily from his Southside constituents. U.S. Representative William Tuck (W&M ’17), another Democrat, received letters not just from his Southside district but also from across the state, because he was a former governor and one of the leading segregationists in Virginia. He helped found the extremely pro-segregation Defenders of State Sovereignty and Individual Liberties. His correspondents included extremists who
advocated removal of the black population to Africa and the assassination of the president, vice president, and the entire Supreme Court.
From the Special Collections Research Center, Earl Gregg Swem Library at the College of William and Mary. See swem.wm.edu/scrc/ for further information and assistance.