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Wed, 10.29.1969

Alexander v. Holmes County Board of Education decided

*On this date in 1969, Alexander v. Holmes County Board of Education, 396 U.S. 19 (1969), was decided.  It followed 15 years of delays to integrate by most Southern school boards after the Court's ruling in Brown v. Board of Education (1954) that segregated public schools were unconstitutional.  This was a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court ordered immediate desegregation of public schools in the American South.  Justice Felix Frankfurter demanded that the opinion in 1955's Brown v. Board of Education II order desegregation with the phrase of "all deliberate speed".  

The South took it as an excuse to emphasize "deliberate" over "speed" and conducted resistance to desegregating schools, in some jurisdictions closing public schools altogether.  For fifteen years, schools in the South remained segregated.  In 1968, freedom of choice plans had been condemned by the Supreme Court in Green v. County School Board of New Kent County.  Beatrice Alexander, mother of children, sued the Holmes County, Mississippi School District, arguing the District didn't do any meaningful attempt to integrate its schools, basing her opinion on the small number of Black pupils in mainly white schools.  

Republican Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina decried the decision, while praising President Richard Nixon for having "stood with the South in this case" while former Alabama Governor George Wallace said the new Burger court was "no better than the Warren Court," and called the Justices "limousine hypocrites."  Sam Ervin filed an amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which failed, stating freedom of choice was the standard for integration. The decision came as a surprise to the Nixon administration, which had previously referred to those calling for immediate integration as an "extreme group."  In Mississippi, Governor John Bell Williams promised the establishment of a private school system but advised against violence.

This position was pushed by Jimmy Swan while William K. Scarborough advocated nullification. Demonstrations against this decision were held.  To the opposite of this, a group of Protestant, Catholic and Jewish clerics backed integration.  In order to smooth the transition, Federal agents were sent.  Ted Kennedy expressed satisfaction to the ruling while Hugh Scott wanted to raise the funding of the HEW to give them the resources needed to implement Alexander.  Some districts tried to set up single-sex education in their schools.  

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