The Columns

DeLaney Lectures on “Telling Our Stories: School Desegregation in Western Virginia”

— by on October 18th, 2007

Prof. Ted DeLaney, associate professor of history at Washington and Lee University, will present a lecture entitled “Telling Our Stories: School Desegregation in Western Virginia” as part of the Chavis Lecture Series on Wednesday, Nov. 7, at 7 p.m. in the Stackhouse Theater of the University Commons.

This lecture, which is free and open to the public, is part of DeLaney’s evolving work on school integration in this part of Virginia. This presentation will be somewhat different from the one he delivered to the Rockbridge Historical Association in July 2007.

Oral history forms the basis of much of DeLaney’s work, but it is an elusive voice because it does not include those people whose opposed desegregation-those people who favored Virginia’s policy of “massive resistance.” Many white residents did express their opposition to integration through letters to the governor, and DeLaney has now examined samples of those documents. School board minutes and local newspapers also add to this study.

Virginia politicians vowed to close the state’s schools rather than submit to court ordered desegregation, but no jurisdiction in the study area closed its schools. Rather than prompt compliance with the Brown v. Board of Education decision, the strategy was to delay desegregation as long as possible.

Yet desegregation proceeded in Western Virginia, DeLaney’s study area, without serious problems. There were, however, negative long term consequences which are part of the troubled legacy of Brown v. Board of Education.

The Chavis Lecture Series, which began at W&L in fall 2005, is named in honor of the first African-American student to attend Washington and Lee University, and by some historical accounts was the first African-American to attend college in the nation’s history. This series highlights Washington and Lee faculty and their work in the areas of African-American Studies, diversity and social justice.