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Bolling v. Sharp

Washington D.C.

       In the case of Bolling v. Sharp African-American junior high school youths were refused admission to all-white schools. The schools had unequal terms of physical condition and lacked adequate education materials. Even as the capital of our nation, Washington D.C. did not set a positive example regarding race relation.

      In 1950 while preparing the Bolling case, Charles Hamilton Houston suffered a heart attack. He asked colleague and friend James Nabritt, Jr. to help Gardner Bishop and his group.

      In 1951 the case of Bolling v. Sharp was filed in U.S. district court. This case was named for Spottswood Thomas Bolling, one of the children who accompanied Gardner to Sousa High. He was among those denied admission based solely on race. It was appealed.

     The Bolling case would later meet with success as one of the cases combined under Brown v. Board of Education.


Belton v. Gebhart


          In the case of Belton v. Gebhart, two black schools from Delaware; Howard High in Wilmington and a one-room elementary school in Hockessin, petitioned for equal transportation to their one-room school.  The elementary school was located in the industrial area of town and badly lacked educational areas.  The two cases were combined, both seeking integration because “the Negro schools were inferior with respect to teacher training, pupil-teacher ratio, curricular and extra-curricular activities, physical plant, and time and distance involved in travel.”

          Eight parents sought legal help from Louis Redding of the NAACP; he agreed to help them.  The parents explained to him how the students had to ride the bus twenty miles round trip to Howard High School.  Students interested in vocational training courses had to walk several blocks to run down Carver annex regardless of the weather.

          Mrs. Sarah Bulah wanted equal opportunity for her adopted daughter, Shirley Barbara.  She wrote to the Department of Public Instruction and to the governor.  Their replies reaffirmed that no bus transportation would be provided because “colored” children could not ride on a bus serving white children.  Mrs. Bulah made an appointment with Louis Redding.  Their case would name the State Board of Education as the principal defendant.  The first name on the board list was Francis B. Gebhart.  The results in cases were called Bulah v. Gebhart.

          Judge Collin Seitz ruled that “ the Separate but equal doctrine had been violated and that the plaintiffs were entitled to immediate admission to the white school in their communities.”

          The Belton and Bulah cases would ultimately join four other NAACP cases in the Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education.    


Davis v. Prince Edward County


  I n the case of Davis v. Prince Edward County, 117 African American high school students chose to strike rather than attend all-black Moton High, which was in need of physical repair.  The students first wanted a new building with indoor plumbing to replace the old school.

          Strike leader, Barbara Johns, enlisted the assistance of NAACP attorneys.  The U.S. District Court ordered equal facilities be provided for the black students but “denied the plaintiffs admission to the white schools during the equalization program.”

          The Robert Moton School added grades nine through twelve by 1947 due partly to the fundraising efforts of the Farmville Colored Women’s Club.  The new school was never adequately large enough, necessitating the use of tarpaper-covered buildings constructed on the campus for use as classrooms.  The poor classrooms sparked a student strike in 1951.

           Rev. Francis Griffin and M. Boyd Jones petitioned to push for change.  With the strike underway, Barbara Jones and classmate Carrie Stokes sought legal help from NAACP attorneys in Richmond.  Oliver Hill agreed to meet with them.  The strike lasted ten days; Hill promised that action would be taken on their behalf.  The students returned to school on May 7, 1951.

          During the trial the first student listed was a ninth grade girl, daughter of a local farmer.  Her name was Dorothy Davis.  The Virginia case was filed as Dorothy E. Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County.

          The case was later added to the Brown v. Board of Education cases.


Briggs v. Elliot

South Carolina

          In the case of Briggs v. Elliot, in 1947, twenty African Americans parents from Clarendon County, South Carolina, petitioned for better schools for their children.  The schools they had were wooden shacks.  They wanted the new schools to be equal to the whites.  They also petitioned for higher teacher’s salaries.

          With the help of NAACP lawyers, Rev. James Hinton and Rev. J.A. Delaine, the parents issued a challenge to find the courage to test the legality of the discriminatory practices aimed at African American school children.

          Some students had to walk eight miles each way to school.  They approached the Clarendon County school board but the officials failed to secure school buses.  African American parents collected donations and purchased a secondhand school bus.

          In May of 1950 with the help of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the case of Briggs v. Elliot was filed.  The court ruled against the petitioners and ordered schools to be equalized, focusing on equalization and ignoring the broader question of the constitutionality of segregation.

          The states action resulted in an NAACP appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.  The Briggs case became part of the Brown litigation.



Meg Guindon

Michael Pugh



Wisneski, Martin E. "Brown v. Board of Education Orientation Handbook." January 18, 2000< http://brownvboard.org/research/handbook/combined/davis.htm > (14 Feb. 2002).

Wisneski, Martin E. "Brown v. Board of Education Orientation Handbook." January 18, 2000 < http://brownvboard.org/research/handbook/combined/belton.htm > ( 10 Feb. 2002 )

Wisneski, Martin E. "Brown v. Board of Education Orientation Handbook." January 18, 2000 < http://brownvboard.org/research/handbook/combined/briggs.htm > ( 12 Feb. 2002 )

Wisneski, Martin E. "Brown v. Board of Education Orientation Handbook. " January 18, 2000 < http://brownvboard.org/research/handbook/combined/bolling.htm > ( 7 Feb. 2002 )



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