Lesson Plans

1950 to Present

Massive Resistance and School Integration: Social Ramifications in Virginia

Author: Matthew Cookus

School: Banneker Elementary

Grade Level: 4th

Time Estimated: 2 days (60 minute periods)

Historical Background

The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson laid the foundation for segregation by establishing the "Separate but Equal" argument as a legal policy that would be enforced for over half a century in the United States. In the ruling, the judges approved of the separation of the races as long as equal facilities were provided to each. The Jim Crow Laws of the late 19th century and early 20th century had produced a clearly segregated society in Virginia by 1950. Furthermore, segregation had a devastating psychological effect on African-Americans. The intent of segregation, Jim Crow Laws, and the “Separate but Equal” policy was to make African-Americans feel inferior to whites. Segregation was a part of everyday life, but by the mid 20th century, some African Americans began to resist this separation of people based on their race.

As part of the overall Civil Rights Movement, African-Americans began to challenge the "Separate but Equal" policy that was in place in public school systems across the country. The "Separate but Equal" policy kept African Americans separate from whites in public schools. These schools would treat blacks "equally" but continue to be "separate" from whites. The schools set up for African American children were almost always inferior to those schools for white students. Often times African-American schools had inferior facilities, supplies, and other educational essentials. African-Americans sought to challenge the "Separate but Equal" policy and have both whites and blacks attend the same schools.

In the 1954 court case of Brown v. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that "separate but equal" public schools were unconstitutional. The Court's ruling instructed school systems across the country to integrate "with all deliberate speed." Southern states, like Virginia, looked for ways to get around the Court’s ruling. In 1956, U.S. Senator Harry F. Byrd, Sr., who was from Virginia, called for what became known as Massive Resistance. Massive Resistance was a group of laws that was passed in 1958 intended to prevent the integration of public schools in Virginia. There were several school systems in Virginia that were about to follow the Court's order and integrate, but they were seized by the state and subsequently closed in order to prevent integration. Many white families were able to send their children to private schools in order to continue their education. However, African-American families suffered the most as they could not afford to send their children to the expensive private schools. Once again, the races stood segregated by color and economics. However, many African-Americans resisted this policy of Massive Resistance and began to file numerous lawsuits in order to end it. Through a myriad of defeats in several court-cases, Massive Resistance eventually failed, the closed schools were re-opened, and Virginia's schools were finally integrated.


Objectives

Students will:

  1. Identify the term "Separate but Equal," where it began, and how it led to the Brown v. Board of Education U.S. Supreme Court case.
  2. Analyze the social ramifications on both whites and African Americans in Virginia and throughout the nation following the Brown v Board decision.
  3. Identify some of the problems faced by Virginia’s African American population during the period of Massive Resistance.
  4. Analyze primary source documents, including political cartoons and photographs, to gain a better understanding of the Massive Resistance movement.
  5. Determine cause and effect relationships.
  6. Sequence events in Virginia history.
  7. Write a short story regarding their feelings on a chosen historical perspective.

SOL Skills

VS.1: The student will develop skills for historical and geographical analysis including the ability to
a) identify and interpret artifacts and primary and secondary source documents to understand events in history;
b) determine cause and effect relationships;
c) compare and contrast historical events;
d) draw conclusions and make generalizations;
e) make connections between past and present;
f) sequence events in Virginia history;
g) interpret ideas and events from different historical perspectives;
h) evaluate and discuss issues orally and in writing;

SOL Content

VS.9: The student will demonstrate knowledge of twentieth century Virginia by
b) identifying the social and political events in Virginia linked to desegregation and Massive Resistance and their relationship to national history;
c) identifying the political, social, and/or economic contributions made by Maggie Walker, Harry F. Byrd, Sr., Arthur R. Ashe, Jr., and L. Douglas Wilder.


Materials


Procedures

Day 1

  1. Hook: Separate the class into two halves. One half of the class will be given a picture of a white school during the era of segregation. The other half of the class will be given a picture of a black school during the era of segregation. The students will then work in groups of 2-3 students to write down what they observe in the picture they are working with. Direct the students to examine the pictures and answer the following questions.
    • What do you see?
    • How would you describe the environment?
    • What is the mood of the people in the picture?
  2. After a few minutes, come back together as a class and discuss each picture one at a time. Have the students from the half of the class that worked on the displayed picture start out leading the discussion. The ask the other students who worked on the other picture to add their observations. Then switch the picture and follow the same instructions. Be sure to point out the differences and similarities between the two pictures and stay focused on the inequality of the environments. (facilities, class size, etc.) The stark realities of the time period are a great segue into discussing the Jim Crow Laws that contributed to these conditions.
  3. Ask the class what they remember about Jim Crow Laws – specifically about segregation and schools. Write down the students' answers on the board. This will enable the teacher to guide a review of key vocabulary and themes (segregation, "Seperate But Equal" policy, etc.) Tell students that they will be studying about how some schools were closed in areas of Virginia because of the beliefs of some who felt that whites and blacks should be educated seperately. (Massive Resistance).
  4. Explain to the students that they will be examining a political cartoon that will help them understand "white" Virginia's attitude following the Brown vs Board of Education decision. Remind students about how to analyze political cartoons. What is the artist trying to get the reader to think about? What is the artist's opinion? A lesson on analyzing political cartoons will have to be completed before this in order to ensure that students have the necessary skills to complete the objectives of the lesson.
  5. Pass out the image of the "Now What?" political cartoon to each student. Also, you may choose to display the image via an LCD projector as well. Next, have the students work in pairs or small groups to analyze the cartoon to focus their attention on "white" Virginia and the South's view of the Brown v. Board of Education decision. Direct them to examine the document and answer the following questions:
    • What do you see?
    • What do you notice about the boat?
    • What do you notice about the rock?
    • What do you notice about the background? Stormy/peaceful?
    • Who is the man in the cartoon representing?
    • What is the the mood of the passengers look?
    • How does the cartoon make you feel?
    • What do you think the cartoon is trying to say?
    • How do you think the cartoonist feels about the Brown decision?
    Make sure that you are circulating through the room to make sure students are on task and that you are availale to provide minimal assistance to pairs or groups that may need it.
  6. Have the class come together to discuss what each pair or group gained from their examination of the cartoon. As the teacher, make sure that you value each student's answers, but direct the discussion to answer the above questions correctly. You may want to list the student’s answers on the board or flip chart. Be sure to highlight the following:
    • The man on the boat: Old southern plantation owner type (Stereotypical character portraying some whites in the south.)
    • The boat: Named "The South" and containing a building labeled "Public Schools" signifies that all the public schools in the South were now in the same boat and would have to deal with the U.S. Supreme Court's Brown vs Board of Education decision.
    • The Rock: The rock is an immovable object representing the the U.S. Supreme Court’s power and their decision on segregating public schools. The South will have to find a way off of the the rock! How will the South get the boat off of the rock? Will they simply follow the Court's decision or will they try to resist it? Have students make predictions and write them on the board or a flip chart! After students have made some predictions, review them, and then remind them of what they have already learned by comparing and contrasting this situation to sharecropping following the Civil War.
  7. Talking Points: Connect the pictures from the hook back to this part of the lesson. Establish the pattern of behavior by whites in the South when dealing with African-Americans.
    • How did Plessy v. Ferguson and Jim Crow Laws contribute to this situation?
    • Is this what your school looks like today? Why or why not?
    • What do you think white students thought about their school?
    • What do you think African-Americans thought about theirs?
    • Do these pictures remind you of anything else we have studied this school year?
    • What did African-Americans do in response to these conditions? (Brown v Board of Education, etc.)
    These questions/talking points/discussion will be able to allow the teacher to connect the separate schools back to a larger pattern of behavior by whites to make African-Americans feel inferior and retain social power.
  8. Wrap-up, Compare/Contrast and Connection With Prior Learning: Have students review what they know about sharecropping in the South following the Civil War. How does this situation compare to the end of the Civil War when the slaves were given their freedom? How did the whites in the South respond to the freeing of the slaves? Were they able to “get around” the new laws regarding slavery? If so, how did they?
    • Sharecropping offered the former slaves a way to make a living following their emancipation. Remember, former slaves had little or no education and farming was all they knew!
    • The sharecroppers (former slaves) would work the fields of the landowner. In exchange, the landowner would provide the sharecroppers shelter and allow them to keep a portion of the crops.
    • However, the portion of the crops that the sharecroppers were allowed to keep was just enough to eke out a meager existence.
    • Therefore, whites retained control over African-Americans.
    Review what has been discussed in regards to segregated schools, the Brown v. Board decision, sharecropping, and the cartoon. Finally, for homework, ask students to think about any other situation where whites in the South did something to hold back African-Americans since the end of the Civil War.

Day 2

  1. Hook: Ask students for any situation that they were able to think of last night where whites in the south did something to hold back African-Americans since the end of the Civil War. Acknowledge correct answers but steer the conversation towards voting rights for African-American men.
    • How does this situation compare to the end of Reconstruction when Virginia adopted a new state constitution that banned slavery and gave African-American men the right to vote?
    • Remember, African-Americans were beginning to experience political success and began to have some power in Virginia’s government.
    • How did the whites try to stop African-Americans’ gains in politics? Were the whites successful?
    • Since they were successful by instituting poll taxes and literacy tests to get around the state constitution’s requirement that African-American men had the right to vote and reversed the gains of African-Americans, do you think they will try again to get around the Brown v. Board of Education decision?
    • If so, how will they do this? Make a list of predictions from the students.
  2. Next, put the words "massive" and "resistance" on the board. This is a great opportunity to "teach across the curriculum" and investigate what these words mean using language arts/reading skills. Once the class has determined what the words massive and resistance mean, ask the class what they think there would have been a massive resistance to during this time in Virginia’s history. What group would probably be in favor of Massive Resistance? Which group would be opposed to Massive Resistance? For what reasons?
  3. Talking Points:
    • Virginia's government established a policy of Massive Resistance, which fought to "resist" the integration of public schools!
      • Virginia attempted to get around the Brown decision by cutting off funding for state schools.
    • This meant that the Virginia state government did not want whites and blacks attending the same schools!
      • In 1956, the Virginia General Assembly passed a series of laws to implement massive resistance. One of these laws forbade any integrated schools from receiving state funds!
    • Harry F. Byrd, Sr. led a Massive Resistance Movement against the integration of public schools.
      • He was a former governor of Virginia and a U.S. Senator from Virginia. He did not want whites and blacks to attend the same schools!
  4. Tell students that they will be examining another political cartoon that will help them understand "white" Virginia's response to the Brown v. Board of Education decision. Take a quick moment to review what to look for when analyzing a political cartoon. What is the artist trying to get the reader to think about? What is the artist’s opinion? Etc.
  5. Pass out the image of the "Now What" cartoon from the previous day's lesson to each student. Then proceed to pass out the image of the "Riding Out the Storm" political cartoon to each student. Also, you may choose to display the images via an LCD projector as well. Next, have the students work individually to analyze the "Riding Out the Storm" cartoon and instruct them to focus their attention on how it was like yesterday's "Now What?" cartoon. Direct them to examine the cartoon and answer the following questions:
    • What do you see?
    • What do you notice about the boat?
    • What do you notice about the water?
    • What do you notice about the background? Stormy/peaceful?
    • Who is the man in the cartoon supposed to be?
    • Do the passengers look worried?
    • How does the cartoon make you feel?
    • Can you explain what the cartoon is supposed to mean?
    • How is it like yesterday’s cartoon? How is it different?
    • What is the artist trying to say?
    Make sure that you are circulating through the room to make sure students are on task and that you are available to provide minimal assistance to those students that may need it.
  6. Have the class come together to discuss what they gained from their examination of the cartoon. As the teacher, make sure that you value ech student’s answers, but direct the discussion to answer the above questions correctly. You may want to list the student’s answers on the board or flip chart. Be sure to highlight the following:
    • The title of the cartoon: "Riding Out the Storm" Connect the title back to previous learning! Be sure to mention sharecropping (riding out the end of slavery), changing the rules about African-American men voting (riding out reconstruction). Stress the fact that Virginia thought they would be able to ride this out just like everything else through their history. Next, get into discussing the cartoon.
    • The gathering storm (integration) on the horizon: The Supreme Court's decision in the Brown v. Board of Education case made integration of schools a reality even though many would try to find a way around it. In Virginia, some schools were closed in order to avoid integration.
    • The man on the boat: Old southern plantation owner type (Stereotypical character portraying most whites in the south.) How has his mood changed when compared to the first cartoon? What do you think has caused this change? The man on the boat looks very determined. This represents some people’s determination to do every thing possible to try and stop the integration of public schools.
    • The boat: How has the boat changed from the first cartoon? Title: It is now called "Public School Closings." The boat is being rocked up and down by the water, perhaps a representation of how those in Virginia and were being rocked by the effects of the Brown vs Board decision and the seeming inevitability that schools were going to be integrated.
    • The water: How has the water changed from the previous cartoon? What does it signify? The water represents the social turmoil and upheavel that was going on in Virginia and the federal government's pressure on Virginia and other southern states to acknowledge the Brown v. Board of Education decision and integrate the public schools.
  7. Wrap-up Talking points:
    • Some schools were closed in order to avoid integration!
      • Schools who tried to follow the ruling in the Brown decision and integrate were seized by the state and closed. Some white students were offered tuition grants to attend private schools. African-American students were offered nothing and they missed out on attending school.
    • The policy of Massive Resistance failed, and Virginia's public schools were eventually integrated.
      • Many people (both black and white) were upset about the schools being closed.
      • After several court rulings and public pressure, Virginia reversed its stance and reopened the public schools. Schools in Virginia were integrated!
    • What was white Virginia's response to this? If time allows you can talk about the "white flight" phenomenon. White flight is the movement of Virginia’s out of the cities and into the suburbs. This effectively reinstated segregated schools since blacks could not afford to move into the suburbs.

Assessment

Have students create a timeline that displays all the important events that we have discussed in this lesson. The timeline should include the following events: Freeing of the slaves, sharecropping, African-American men and voting rights, poll taxes and literacy tests, Brown v. Board of Education, Massive Resistance, and "White Flight."

The timeline should include the following:

  • Name of the event
  • Date(s)
  • Illustration
  • Short sentence explaining the event.
  • Short paragraph on how all of the events are connected.


References: Web

Images:

Bank Street College Library
http://streetcat.bankstreet.edu/html/protest.jpeg

    Excellent image of a school segregation protest march.

"NEA Celebrates 54th Anniversary of 'Brown v. Board of Education,'" National Education Association
http://www.nea.org/brownvboard/images/browncoverstory31.jpg

    Famous picture taken on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision.

"Now What?" Cartoon
http://chnm.gmu.edu/loudountah/resources_files/mass-res-cartoon1.pdf

    “Now What?” Political Cartoon from the Richmond Times-Dispatch, 1954.

"Riding Out the Storm," Cartoon
http://chnm.gmu.edu/loudountah/resources_files/mass-res-cartoon2.pdf

    “Riding Out the Storm,” Political Cartoon from the Richmond Times-Dispatch, 1958.

"Primary Source Learning," Library of Congress
http://www.primarysourcelearning.org/teach/l_p/038/images/byrd.jpg

    Portrait of Harry Flood Byrd.

"The Ground Beneath Our Feet: Massive Resistance," Virginia Center for Digital History, UVA
http://www.vahistory.org/massive.resistance/photos/3/Dp0008.jpg

    Picture of African-American students in a Virginia segregated school.

John Alfred Hamilton, "Prince Edward's 'Massive Resistance,'" April 1962
http://www.nieman.harvard.edu/reports/99-4_00-1NR/Hamilton.05-1.JPG

"The Ground Beneath Our Feet: Massive Resistance," Virginia Center for Digital History, UVA
http://www.vahistory.org/massive.resistance/photos/1/Sep0002.jpg

    Photo from Prince Edward County, Virginia. Photo shows a "school closed" sign as part of Massive Resistance.

"School: The Story of American Public Education," PBS
http://www.pbs.org/kcet/publicschool/images/photo9.gif

    Black and white girls stare at each other following the integration of their Fort Myer, Virginia, school.

Content References:

"The Civil Rights Movement in Virginia," Virginia Historical Society
http://www.vahistorical.org/civilrights/massiveresistance.htm

    This website is a great resource for a complete look at the Massive Resistance Movement in Virginia. It features a fine resource of images from the time period in Virginia.

Plessy v. Ferguson
http://www.watson.org/~lisa/blackhistory/post-civilwar/plessy.html

    A good background piece on the Plessy v. Ferguson decision and its influence on the "separate but equal" policy that would influence American society for over a half a century.

"The History of Jim Crow"
http://www.jimcrowhistory.org/

    An outstanding website that covers Jim Crow up close and in-depth. There are numerous resources available at this website and is a great place for teachers and students alike!

References: Books & Media

"Interview with Dr. Dough Smith," Center for History and New Media, George Mason University
http://chnm.gmu.edu/loudountah/source-analysis/massive-resistance-cartoons/scholar-analysis/

    A great interview with an expert on the subject of Massive Resistance in Virginia and the political cartoons from the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Accessed March 27, 2007.