Civil rights content from Brown Media Archives and UGA Libraries in the PBS series “The Future of America’s Past”

Title screen from the PBS program "The Future of America's Past"

On the May 17th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision that ruled against segregation in public schools, we are pleased to report that civil rights content from the Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection and the University of Georgia Libraries, available in the Civil Rights Digital Library and the Digital Library of Georgia were included in “School Interrupted,” an episode from the second season of the PBS series “The Future of America’s Past.”

This content includes:

  • footage from a WSB-TV newsfilm clip dated July 27, 1962, that includes scenes related to the closure of public schools and education for African Americans in Prince Edward County, Virginia. The WSB-TV collection consists of over 5 million feet of newsfilm from WSB-TV in Atlanta, Georgia, and coverage of national civil rights events, such as those in Prince Edward County, Virginia.

On May 17, 1954, the United States Supreme Court in the Brown v. Board of Education case ruled against segregation in public schools. That case included a case against segregated education that was brought against Prince Edward County in 1951. After the Brown ruling, Virginia state officials instituted a plan of “massive resistance” to court-ordered integration, passing laws to close integrated schools and provide tuition grants to displaced white students. After both state and federal courts overturned the school closing law in January 1959, governor J. Lindsay Almond called a special legislative session and announced the end to the state’s policy of massive resistance. That fall, leaders in Prince Edward County chose to close the public school system rather than allow integration. White citizens established the Prince Edward School Foundation as a private school system for the 1,500 white school children in the county. The 1,700 African American schoolchildren were left without educational opportunities in the county. Some were sent to live with relatives in other parts of Virginia and attend classes there, some began college early, and some accepted arrangements to attend school in other states; most remained out of school until the fall of 1964 when federal courts ordered Prince Edward County to reopen its public school system.

In the episode “School Interrupted,” the program highlights a student strike in Prince Edward County that followed the Brown v. Board of Education ruling. The program’s host, Ed Ayers, learns about the drama that unfolded through conversations with two of the student strikers. He discovers how black women activists defied the school closures by starting grassroots schools, and he meets an author whose grandfather helped start the whites-only “segregation academy” Prince Edward Academy. In a museum at the school that started it all, Ed Ayers talks with a descendant of strikers who inspires students today to take up the fight for justice.


Georgia Newspaper Project mentioned on NPR’s Fresh Air

The Georgia Newspaper Project was mentioned in an interview on NPR’s Fresh Air on September 15, 2016.

Fresh Air host Terry Gross interviewed Patrick Phillips, author of the book Blood at the Root, which documents 1912 events in Forsyth County, Georgia, where white mobs violently expelled 1100 African Americans who lived in the county, a response to the alleged rape of a white woman by an African American man, and the death of a young white woman who died of injuries sustained in a beating. In the interview, Phillips discusses his research conducted with descendants of the African Americans who were driven out of Forsyth County, with white Forsyth County residents, and his work consulting archives.

You can listen to the interview and read the interview transcript here:

The excerpt of the interview that mentions the Georgia Newspaper Project follows:

“PHILLIPS: You know, I did not find any photographs. I found lots of descriptions. You know, my search for photographs was interesting in that one of the places where I think I might have found such a photograph was in the Forsyth County newspaper. I relied on a lot of newspapers from Atlanta, from places as far away as The New York Times and especially Gainesville, the town next door.

But one of the really gaping holes in the record is the Forsyth County News which was publishing Incoming, the closest newspaper, you know, right in the middle of all of this, and the issues from the relevant months are nowhere to be found. There – I actually went to the University of Georgia library and where there’s a place called the Georgia Newspaper Project and they have microfilms of all of these.

And literally I opened the drawer and the two boxes that would contain September and October of the Forsyth County News from 1912 there’s just a space there. You know, hard to say exactly what to make of that, but it certainly seems there’s been some effort to deflect attention away from all of this.”

Find out more about the Georgia Newspaper Project by visiting here.