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Norfolk Public Schools Desegregation Collection

Collection ID: MG 92

Scope and Contents

This collection primarily contains material related to the integration of the Norfolk public schools. The papers include correspondence, court cases, school board resolutions, inter-district memorandum, press releases, reports, news clippings and district maps. Subjects covered are the 1958 school closing to prevent integration, integration progress in the 1960s, busing to achieve integration in the 1970s and the end of busing in the mid-1980s. Among the most important historical materials is correspondence between Governor Lindsay Almond and the School Administration, beginning with the letter ordering the closing of six Norfolk schools as mandated by the "Massive Resistance" law. While most of the collection deals with desegregation, it also includes school directories and calendars before and after desegregation. Parts of the collection have been scanned and are available in the Old Dominion University Libraries Digital Collections.


  • circa 1922-2008, undated
  • Other: Date acquired: 12/14/2007



18.40 Linear Feet

Conditions Governing Access

Open to researchers without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Before publishing quotations or excerpts from any materials, permission must be obtained from Special Collections and University Archives, and the holder of the copyright, if not Old Dominion University Libraries.

Biographical or Historical Information

Norfolk, Virginia has twice found itself at the center of attention related to the racial desegregation of its schools. The first was in the late 1950s during a state-wide, governor-led resistance to the integration mandated by the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, KS ruling. Governor J. Lindsay Almond, Jr. closed the schools scheduled to be integrated for five months until the courts intervened. The second was in 1986 when Norfolk became the first school district in the country to have a federal judicial ruling allowing them to end busing for the purpose of achieving racial balance in schools. On September 19, 1958, U.S. District Judge Walter Hoffman issued an order in continuation of Leola Pearl Beckett v. The School Board of the City of Norfolk which said that Norfolk must immediately begin to integrate its schools. On September 27, 1958, the Norfolk School Board placed 17 African American children into previously all white schools in compliance with the judge's order. Earlier in 1958, the Virginia legislature had granted permission to Governor J. Lindsay Almond, Jr. to close any white school that had "negroes" which tried to enroll. On September 27, the same day the children were to start at school, the Governor closed the six affected schools in Norfolk and took them under his control. In all, this impacted more than 10,000 white students and the 17 African American students (the Norfolk 17). In the months that followed, students found avenues to education through private schools, relocation, but mostly through highly organized tutoring groups. In February of 1959, the schools reopened with fewer students-by one estimate almost 2500 fewer.

Language of Materials



This collection dating from 1922-2008, contains correspondence, memorandum, depositions, court orders, recollections, statistical testing data, printed material, artifacts, and maps.The bulk of the collection provides a glimpse into the decisions made by the School Board through court documentation and the public sentiment during the integration process in Norfolk. While most of the collection deals with desegregation, it also includes school directories and calendars before and after desegregation.

Arrangement Note

The collection is organized into five series: Series I: Closing of the Norfolk City Schools; Series II: The Path to a Unitary School District; Series III: Norfolk as a Unitary School District; Series IV: Directories and Calendars; and Series V: Oversized Documents.

Related Digital Material

Custodial History

From 2008 to September 2020, the collection was known as the Norfolk Public Schools Desegregation Papers.

Source of Acquisition

Norfolk, Virginia, Public Schools

Method of Acquisition

Gift. Accession #A2007-006

Processing Information

The finding aid was completed by Jennifer Clayton in Apirl 2008.

A Guide to the Norfolk Public Schools Desegregation Collection
Jennifer K. Clayton
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Revision Statements

  • 09099999: The container listing was updated by Mona Farrow in March 2015.

Repository Details

Part of the ODU Community Collections Repository

3000 Perry Library
4427 Hampton Blvd.
Norfolk VA 23529 US