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Wed, 11.16.1898

Williams v. B.O.E. is Decided

Williams Case Plaque

*On this date in 1898, Williams v. Board of Education was decided.  This was a landmark civil rights and education case before the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.

In Williams v. Board of Education, black lawyer J.R. Clifford argued against the 1892 Tucker County Board of Education's decision to shorten the school year for African American schoolchildren from nine months to five months, keeping a full term for white students.  Mrs. Carrie Williams, a black school's teacher, approached Clifford about the discrepancy. He encouraged her to continue teaching for the full nine months, regardless of funding. Clifford then filed a lawsuit against the school board for Williams' back pay.

Clifford won the case at a jury trial and then won again before the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. The Court's decision bolstered equal educational rights for African American students statewide.  Clifford's victory in the Williams case occurred over fifty years before the landmark "Brown v. Board of Education" case and was one of the few civil rights victories in a southern state's high court before the turn of the 20th century. The J. R. Clifford Project, an organization dedicated to preserving Clifford's legacy and researching his life, presents re-enactments of this trial.  

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