PAGE 4 —Sept. 3, 1954 — SOUTHERN SCHOOL NEWS
District of Columbia
Southern School News
Southern School News is the official publication of the South
ern Education Reporting Service, an objective, fact-finding
agency established by southern newspaper editors and educators
with the aim of providing accurate, unbiased information to
school administrators, public officials and interested lay citizens
on developments in education arising from the U. S. Supreme
Court opinion of May 17, 1954 declaring segregation in the pub
lic schools unconstitutional.
Virginius Dabney Chairman
Thomas R. Waring Vice-Chairman
C. A. McKnight Executive Director
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Frank Ahlgren, Editor, Memphis
Commercial Appeal, Memphis,
Gordon Blackwell, Director, Institute
for Research in Social Science,
University of N. C.
Harvie Branscomb, Chancellor, Van
derbilt University, Nashville, Tenn.
Virginius Dabney, Editor, Richmond
Times-Dispatch, Richmond, Va.
Coleman A. Harwell, Editor, Nash
ville Tennessean, Nashville, Tenn.
Henry H. Hill, President, George
Peabody College, Nashville, Tenn.
Charles S. Johnson, President, Fisk
University, Nashville, Tenn.
C. A. McKnight, Editor (On Leave)
Charlotte News, Charlotte, N. C.
Charles Moss, Executive Editor,
Nashville Banner, Nashville, Tenn.
Thomas R. Waring, Editor, Charles
ton News & Courier, Charleston,
Henry I. Willett, Superintendent of
Schools, Richmond, Va.
P. B. Young Sr., Editor, Norfolk
Journal & Guide, Norfolk, Va.
William H. McDonald, Editorial
Writer, Montgomery Advertiser
Thomas D. Davis, Asst. City Editor,
William P. Frank, Staff Writer,
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Jeanne Rogers, Education Writer,
Washington Post & Times Herald
Bert Collier, Staff Writer, Miami
Joseph B. Parham, Editor, The
Weldon James, Editorial Writer,
Mario Fellom, Political Reporter,
New Orleans Item
Edgar L. Jones, Editorial Writer,
Baltimore Evening Sun
Kenneth Toler, Mississippi Bureau,
Robert Lasch, Editorial Writer, St.
Jay Jenkins, Staff Writer, Raleigh
News & Observer
Mary Goddard, Staff Writer, Ok
lahoma City Oklahoman-Times
W. D. Workman Jr., Special Cor
respondent, Columbia, S. C.
James Elliott, Staff Writer, Nash
Wallace Westfeldt, Staff Writer,
Richard M. Morehead, Austin Bu
reau, Dallas News
Overton Jones, Editorial Writer,
Frank A. Knight, Editor, Charles
P. O. Box 6156, Acklen Station, Nashville 5, Tenn.
TJEFORE the turn of 1953, the Dis
trict of Columbia Board of Edu
cation began to concern itself with
the possibility that the Supreme
Court might rule against segregated
Community organizations were
asked to suggest “best ways” of in
tegrating the 165 schools should the
court so order. The response was
heavy, thoughtful and varied.
School Superintendent Hobart M.
Coming publicly stated “we will be
prepared.” Corning and his staff
worked overtime drafting plans for
the posible transition from a dual to
single school system. The teachers’
in-service training program was de
voted to seminars and formal lec
tures by experts on human relations.
A teaching handbook was published
on the subject.
District school policy is set by a
nine-member school board appointed
by District Court judges. The auton
omy of the board is limited only by
financial dependency on the District
Commissioners and Congress.
The network of schools prior to last
June was divided by race into two
divisions. These separate wings were
administered by twin sets of teachers,
principals and other officers.
As administrators studied methods
of integrating students and staff
should the need arise, the school
board was enmeshed in pending
problems of equalizing existing fa
cilities. An increasing Negro enroll
ment was coupled with a declining
This situation began in 1950 when,
for the first time, the number of Ne
gro pupils jumped to 51 per cent of
the total enrollment of more than
96,000 youngsters. This enrollment
trend is continuing due to population
shifts which spotlight an exodus of
white families with school-age chil
dren into nearby Maryland and Vir
ginia suburbs and an influx of Negro
families into Washington.
According to 1950 census figures,
Negroes comprised nearly 35 per cent
of the 800,000 District population.
Unofficial projections now place the
white-Negro ratio at 60-40.
In 1952, there were 54,716 Negro
pupils or 54.3 per cent of the total en
rollment of 100.800. In addition, 18,-
928 students attended Catholic, pa
rochial and private District schools.
A majority of these students were
white, although Catholic parochial
and the private Episcopal schools be
gan accepting Negroes in 1952.
The per capita income for Wash
ington in 1950 was $1,948, according
to Commerce Department figures. In
this year, public school operating ex
penditures were $22,698,000. Current
expenditure per white pupil is $273.21
and per Negro pupil, $212.02.
By May 1954, District government
statistics recorded the Negro enroll
ment at 57.2 per cent of the total of
101,000 students. This percentage is
expected to reach 60 this fall, based
on an anticipated enrollment of
nearly 107,000 students.
Negro residences in Washington
are not restricted by unofficial real
estate covenants. Thus, the city has
a checkerboard neighborhood com
position. This fact, in turn, has re
sulted in some white schools oper
ating at half of capacity while some
Negro schools were overcrowded to
the point of using corridors and
shower rooms for classes.
One day after the Supreme Court
ban against racially segregated
schools, the District decided not to
wait for fall rearguments on the
method and timing of integration.
The District Corporation Counsel
told Corning and the school board
that October hearings before the
court would be “moot.” The munici
pal attorney said the court decision
voids all statutes requiring separate
schools by race. School segregation in
Washington stemmed from appro
priation acts in which Congress
through the years had classified cer
tain school jobs by races.
For example, there was to be one
assistant superintendent in charge of
Negro high schools and another in
charge of white schools. There were
to be two Boards of Teacher Exam
Before the counsel’s opinion, Com
ing issued a statement saying he
would have to put off school integra
tion until the court finalized the de
cree concerning the District suit.
After a meeting with the Commis
sioners, Corning changed his mind.
At this meeting, Commissioner Sam
uel Spencer disclosed that President
Eisenhower had expressed hope the
District would become a “model” for
the nation in school integration.
Five days later, the school board in
special session wrote its own five-
point antidiscrimination policy to
govern District schools. This declara
tion asked the “aid, cooperation and
good will” of Washington citizens
and the “help of the Almighty” in
carrying out the following pledges:
1. All appointments, changed as
signments, promotions and annual
ratings of educational and other em
ployees will be based on merit and
not on race or color.
2. Pupils will not be favored or
discriminated against because of race
3. School boundaries, when reor
ganized, will be honored with few
exceptions, but no exceptions will be
made for reasons of race.
4. After June 17, records of pupils
and school personnel will be kept
without reference to race.
5. The physical school plant will be
utilized fully without regard to race.
The school board further directed
Coming to bring in a blueprint for
school integration. He was given less
than a week. At this time, the scanty
beginning of school integration stood
at six system-wide school posts, all
held by white officials. Everywhere
else, the parallel pattern of jobs pre
vailed. There were 57,716 Negro stu
dents and 1,895 Negro teachers and
43,100 white students and their 1,693
On May 25, Corning submitted
genera] plans calling for a Septem
ber 1954 start on integration which
would be completed by fall of 1955.
The school board asked for more de
One month later, Coming present
ed a step-by-step timetable which
put deadlines on every phase of in
tegration. The board adopted the plan
by a 7 to 1 vote. Opposing it was
Mrs. Margaret Just Butcher, one of
three Negro board members, who de
manded “full scale” integration by
school opening of 1954. Mrs. Butcher
said the Coming plan was a “grad
ual” approach to integration.
Corning told the board that “arti
ficial and immediate reassignments
of large numbers of pupils, teachers
and officers would be disruptive and
will be avoided.” He added that in
his professional opinion, complete
“desegregation” of all the schools by
September would be impossible.
Under Coming’s plan, approxi
mately 29,800 students this fall will
attend mixed classes in all levels of
the school system. The faculty also
will be integrated to some degree.
Teams of Negro and white school offi
cials this summer appointed new
teachers from a single eligibility list,
which for the first time did not desig
nate the race of the job candidates.
Most of the big steps of integration
would be taken by February of 1955.
A key point in the District integra
tion plan was the rezoning of all pub
lic schools. These new boundaries
were published in map form July 1.
However, they do not apply to all
students this coming term.
The new zones must be obeyed this
September by all students new to the
school system, including kindergar
teners, elementary, junior and senior
high school students. Thus, most Dis
trict schools will be slightly inte
grated this fall. The redrawn bound
aries this September will not affect
pupils previously enrolled in the
school system—with the following
1. Approximately 1,500 Negro stu
dents will be transferred out of 12
overcrowded school into 14 other
buildings which previously had an
exclusively white enrollment. A
similar transfer of 800 Negro students
into three formerly white junior
highs will be made. Coming has
termed the overcrowded schools in
volved “emergency areas.”
In addition, 460 Negro students will
be transferred out of an antiquated
technical high school into one for
merly attended by white students
only. Funds have been requested to
revamp the latter building so it can
serve as a city-wide technical school.
2. A select number of Negro stu
dents now traveling “excessive dis
tance” to schools will attend a white
school nearer their home this fall.
Coming said this will affect about
100 pupils who will enter 18 build
Also in September, the evening
schools will open on an integrated
basis for an anticipated enrollment of
8,600 adults. The two teachers’ col
leges, operated by the public school
system, will open on an integrated
basis. Courses will be offered in both
plants until an existing high school
can be converted to a city-wide
School officials plan to conduct in
ter-high athletic competition on a
city-wide basis wherever possible
this year. Some varsity football game
contracts were made on a racial ba
sis as long as a year ago. High school
cadet competition will be conducted
on a city-wide basis this year.
Another important point in Com
ing’s plan gives old students the “op
tion” of remaining in their present
schools or moving into the building
in their new zone when the latter be
Several board members objected
to the “option plan” because old stu
dents could remain where they are
only if priority students living with
in the new boundaries did not crowd
them out. Walter N. Tobriner, board
member, said the resulting “bump
ing of students” will create “com
munity ill will.”
Between October 1 and 15, 1954,
school officers and teachers will ex
plain the working of this option sys
tem to parents. Then, student choices
will be tabulated and throughout the
year Coming will make the neces
sary student shifts. This will mean
more and more boundaries going into
operation through the school year.
By mid-term, or February 1955,
all junior high graduates would be
assigned to senior highs according to
the new boundaries. By September
1955 all vestiges of school segregation
in Washington will have been
Although not voting against the
Corning plan, Robert R. Faulkner,
board member, submitted an integra
tion plan of his own which was ta
bled. Faulkner proposed the estab
lishment of three sets of schools in
areas where the Negro and white
population is about equal. One would
be exclusively white, one exclusive
ly Negro, and the third would have a
mixed faculty and integrated classes.
Shortly after Coming announced
his integration plans, the District
Congress of Parents and Teachers re
moved all racial bars to membership
in its 64 Parent-Teacher Associa
tions, which represented schools at
tended by white students. The Con
gress has more than 26,000 members.
Congress officials also approved
the Coming plan. In a statement,
they said: “It calls for solid plan
ning on all levels and careful admin
istrative decision. It also calls for the
assumption by us all of the respon
sibility for support of the superin
tendent and the Board of Education;
for good will in meeting changing
conditions and for the determination
to keep pressures and tensions away
from all the children who are at the
center of the transition.”
The statement continued: “As
parents whose good will and coopera
tion will be helpful in carrying out
the school board’s decisions, we
strongly urge that the welfare of the
children for whom the schools exist,
continue to be the dominant consid
At present, Negro P-TAs in 67
schools are organized under another
parent group, the Washington Con
gress of Parents and Teachers,
which has a membership of nearly
18,000 persons. The Washington Con
gress has no racial restrictions to
membership. The former system of
segregated schools, however, has
precluded white membership in this
group. No move has been made to
merge the two Congresses.
On another front, the District Fed
eration of Citizens Associations has
hired an attorney who is preparing
to enjoin the Board of Education for
its decision to integrate schools be
fore the Supreme Court determines
how and when it should be done.
The Federation bylaws restrict from
membership organizations which in
clude Negroes. The Citizens Associa
tions originated years ago as voteless
District residents organized to seek
such things as additional street lights,
playgrounds and other benefits for
residents of individual neighbor
Federation officials stated the or
ganization is not “anti-Negro” but
added Washington citizenry is
aroused because Coming had ignored
the court request for rearguments in
the segregation cases. “Not only has
our Board of Education ignored the
court opinion—but it has defied it,”
one official declared. He added the
Federation will “go to court and
compel these people to obey the Su
preme Court and its rule6.”
The Federation has said it will take
steps to “protect the rights” of both
white and Negro children forced to
attend schools where they are “psy
chologically unwilling” to go because
they will be in the minority race.
Another large organization, the
District branch of the National Asso
ciation for the Advancement of Col
ored People, has promised to use all
its resources to “protect the rights”
of District children who are refused
admittance next fall to the schools
nearest their home because of race.
The NAACP, which repeatedly has
labeled Coming’s plan as one of
“gradual desegration,” declared that
“refusal to admit any school appli
cant because of race will be consid
ered a violation of law.”
Wesley S. Williams, Negro school
board member, also has disclosed
that some Negro parents plan to send
their children to the closest school
next Septmeber—whether or not new
geographic boundaries are in effect-
One such parent who notified the
school board that this is his intent
was Scovel Richardson, an Eisen
hower appointee to the Federal Pa -
At the time Williams made his dis
closure he told Coming, “If you
don’t let people like Richardson pul
their kids in the nearest schools
you’ll have a flood of suits this fall.
Coming said he believed parents
would obey school rules.
On August 9, the Board of Educa
tion sent the Commissioners a rec
ord-breaking $36,500,000 budget re
quest for fiscal year 1956, an increase
See DISTRICT on Page 16