Charlottesville City School History: A Timeline
With appreciation to Ann Wicks Carter, who initially developed this timeline for the 50th anniversary of the Venable and Lane desegregation in 2009.
1954: Supreme Court rules in Brown v. Board of Education that racial segregation of children in public schools is unconstitutional.
1955: Families of black students in Charlottesville apply for transfer to white schools and are denied.
1956: Black families sue the Charlottesville School Board for access to white schools, and the U.S. District Court orders Charlottesville to integrate Venable Elementary and Lane High School.
1957: The U.S. Supreme Court refuses to hear the Charlottesville School Board’s appeal, leaving the lower court’s ruling in place.
1958: The U.S. District Court orders ten black students to Venable and two to Lane. but instead of complying, the two schools are closed and private schools open to teach white students.
February 4, 1959: Lane and Venable reopen with an inadequate approach to desegregation: Twelve black students receive tutoring in the School Board Office in the Venable Annex building. Olivia Ferguson, one of the young plaintiffs, is denied a true high school diploma and the opportunity to graduate with her peers.
September 5, 1959: The U.S. District Court again orders the desegregation of Charlottesville Schools, now with three students to Lane and nine to Venable.
September 8, 1959: The “Charlottesville 12” desegregate Venable and Lane without incident.
1960: School administrators allow only a few additional black students into Venable and Lane, bringing the total number to 20. All other transfer requests of black families are denied. Spearheaded by then-president Eugene Williams, Charlottesville’s NAACP leads a legal challenge to the handling of school transfers. Mrs. Lorraine Williams, a teacher in Charlottesville City Schools, risks her job by including their two daughters in the lawsuit.
1961: School administrators again minimize black students transferring into white schools, limiting the total number of black students in white schools to 36. Venable and Lane remain the only two desegregated schools.
1962: U.S. Court of Appeals rules in Dillard v. School Board of the City of Charlottesville that the schools have discriminated in their handling of transfer requests. The court orders additional students’ transfers to be approved at Lane, Venable, and Johnson Elementary School. The U.S. Supreme Court refuses to review the case, leaving the lower court’s ruling in place.
October 24, 1962: Due to the court order, additional students begin attending Lane and Venable, and four black students desegregate Johnson Elementary School. At Johnson, two of the students — Karol and Scheryl Williams — are approved through the lawsuit, and two — Michael Lewis and Rosalind Whitlock — are separately approved to transfer on the basis of the court ruling.
1963-64: The Dillard case has limited immediate impact on Charlottesville school enrollment, but it is seen as the last resistance to local school desegregation. The case is cited across Virginia and in other states to end discriminatory practices.
1963: Raymond Bell becomes the first black person appointed to the Charlottesville City School Board.
1965-66: All Charlottesville City Schools are completely desegregated.
1967-today: The work for true racial equity continues.