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Editor’s NotebookEditor's Notebook: Crazy days in the battle to end segregation

Editor’s Notebook: Crazy days in the battle to end segregation

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Perhaps no surprise here: The year 1961 featured some big battles on the school-integration front, both locally and at the national level.

So let’s pop into the way-back machine and see what was going on.

The Dec. 2, 1961, front page of the Northern Virginia Sun had two integration-themed articles.


First, the Fairfax Education Association was in the throes of an internal dispute over whether to admit members who were, let’s just say, not of the caucasian persuasion. That had been a big issue for several years in Virginia; when the Arlington Education Association attempted to move beyond an all-white membership in the late 1950s, the Virginia Education Association stepped in and threatened to expel Arlington from its ranks if it made such a move.

The same edition noted that Virginia’s attorney general had perused the state constitution (the 1902 one; our current one didn’t come into being until 1971) and determined that the leaders of Prince Edward County were within their rights to close public schools rather than integrate them.

Basically, the attorney general said: Show me where in the Virginia Constitution it guarantees a public education? And apparently the answer was “nowhere”; as a result, Prince Edward kept its schools closed for five years (!!) rather than bow to court-ordered integration.

(Pulling out that John Lennon lyric: Strange days indeed; most peculiar, mama.)

WE COULD TELL YOU EXACTLY HOW MANY, BUT THEN WE’D NEED TO KILL YOU: That same edition of the Sun (12/2/61) reported that “more than half” the Washington-based staff of the Central Intelligence Agency had moved into the new headquarters building in the woods at Langley.

Exactly how much more than half? Don’t think the CIA divulged that. (Heck, the Soviets probably knew already, but no need in providing the American public any more information….)

— Scott McCaffrey

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