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The Integration Fights of 1958

Public school districts that were desegregated in 1958 numbered 34, as compared with 96 in 1957.


On May 8, President Dwight Eisenhower ordered that federalized National Guardsmen be removed from Central High School in Little Rock on May 29, when the school year ended.

Arkansas National Guard troops at Central High School.
National Guardsmen at Central High School

On June 21, federal District Judge Harry J. Lemlsey, sitting at Hope, Arkansas, ordered a 2-1/2-year suspension of integration at Central High School. The stay of integration was overturned, however, by a 6-1 decision announced by the 8th U.S. District Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, Missouri, on August 18.

A special session of the Arkansas Legislature on August 28 adopted legislation requested by Governor Orval Faubus in his campaign to prevent forcible school integration.

Central High School students parade in cars past the Arkansas State Capitol in their protest against integration.
Central students protest integration

On September 12 the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ordered resumption of integration at Central High School. That same day, Governor Faubus, acting under authority granted to him by the legislature in August, issued a proclamation closing all four of Little Rock's high schools, effective at 8 a.m. September 15. In the public referendum that followed, 7,561 voted to accept desegregation while 19,470 preferred to close the schools.

A Little Rock private school corporation was chartered on September 17. On September 29, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in Omaha, Nebraska, blocked the attempt by Little Rock (and, by extension, any other school district) to circumvent integration by privatizing its public schools. Despite the Appeals Court ruling, the Little Rock Private School Corporation opened a drive on October 1 for contributions of money and classroom space and for teachers.

Federal Judge Joseph Woodrough signs a restraining order forbidding Little Rock school officials to turn public high schools over to a private corporation.
Judge Joseph Woodrough

The arguments of these attorneys won a court order against private operation of Little Rock schools.
Little Rock attorneys

The Little Rock School Board was ordered on November 10 by the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis to take steps to integrate the city's high schools under a long-delayed court-approved plan.

At year's end Little Rock's public high schools remained closed, the school superintendent had been paid in advance and released from duty, and more than 1,000 students were out of any kind of school.

Students of Central High School attend classes given for church members at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral.
Central students attending classes at a church


In August, U.S. District Court Judge Sterling Hutcheson allowed Prince Edward County seven years to begin desegregation, provided suitable plans were begun immediately. The federal courts, however, required immediate desegregation in Charlottesville, Norfolk, and Warren counties.

Governor J. Lindsay Almond, Jr. said on August 21 that there would be "no enforced integration in Virginia." On September 12 he defied federal court orders and took control of the Warren County High School in Front Royal and ordered it "closed and removed from the public school system," effective September 15.

Virginia Governor J. Lindsay Almond, Jr.
J. Lindsay Almond, Jr.

Students of Warren County High School leave after the school was closed to keep it from being integrated.
students leave Warren County High School

Six junior and senior high schools in Norfolk, Virginia, were closed by "massive resistance" against integration on September 27. In a referendum held on November 18, voters chose to keep the schools closed rather than allow their integration.

On October 8, U.S. District Judge John Paul ruled, in Harrisonburg, Virginia, that public funds and publicly paid teachers could not be used in makeshift "private" schools unless the schools admitted blacks.

Governor Almond said on November 20 that his state might be forced to yield to the federal government's "overriding power" and admit some blacks to white schools.

At year's end about one half of the students in Charlottesville, Norfolk, and Warren counties were attending private classes, while most others had moved elsewhere to live with relatives and friends in order to attend open, desegregated, public schools.


Acting under a federal court order, the New Orleans branch of Louisiana State University admitted 59 black freshmen.

Blacks attending a class at Louisiana State University, New Orleans.
black students at Louisiana State University

On October 5, the Clinton (Tennessee) High School, integrated since 1956, was wrecked by three dynamite blasts.

The north entrance to the Clinton High School after the dynamite blasts.
Clinton High School

On November 10, the Osage (West Virginia) Elementary and Junior High School, integrated for five years, was wrecked by two dynamite bombs.

President Dwight Eisenhower
Orval Faubus
J. Lindsay Almond, Jr.

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This page was last updated on September 26, 2017.