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Case Name Armstrong v. Board of Education of the City of Birmingham, Jefferson County, Ala. SD-AL-0003
Docket / Court Civ. A. No. 9678 ( N.D. Ala. )
State/Territory Alabama
Case Type(s) Education
School Desegregation
Attorney Organization NAACP Legal Defense Fund
Case Summary
This case, which spanned from 1960 through 1983, concerned school desegregation in Birmingham, Alabama.

The African-American plaintiffs, Birmingham barber James Armstrong and his children, brought this action in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama in 1960 to ... read more >
This case, which spanned from 1960 through 1983, concerned school desegregation in Birmingham, Alabama.

The African-American plaintiffs, Birmingham barber James Armstrong and his children, brought this action in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama in 1960 to desegregate the schools of Birmingham, Alabama. They sued the Birmingham Board of Education in a class action suit.

On May 28, 1963, Judge Seybourne Lynne denied injunctive relief, requiring plaintiffs to exhaust the supposed remedies offered by the Alabama School Placement Law (a school choice law), following a course that it saw proper after the Supreme Court affirmed the decision in Shuttlesworth v. Birmingham Board of Education, upholding as facially constitutional the Alabama School Placement Law. Shuttlesworth v. Birmingham Board of Education, 162 F.Supp. 327 (N.D. Ala. 1958), aff'd 358 U.S. 101 (1958) (per curiam). Armstrong v. Birmingham Board of Education, 220 F.Supp. 217 (N.D. Ala. 1963).

The plaintiffs appealed Judge Lynne's decision to the Fifth Circuit, also asking for an injunction pending appeal, which they were granted. 323 F.2d 333 (5th Cir. July 12, 1963). In that opinion, the court of appeals held that the plaintiffs did not have to exhaust potential remedies under the state law before seeking relief in the federal courts. The injunction ordered the Board and the Superintendent to submit a plan to the court for desegregation by August 19, 1963.

On September 4, 1963, the first day of the new school year, Armstrong showed up with two of his children to register them at a previously all-white school.

On June 18, 1964, the Fifth Circuit ruled on the merits of plaintiffs' appeal. 333 F.2d 47 (5th Cir. 1964). The court vacated the district court's order denying injunctive relief and remanded it with instructions to require the school board to present a desegregation plan that met certain minimum standards across elementary, middle and high school. The court noted that after the earlier Court of Appeals decision, the Board had submitted an inadequate plan that did little beyond continue to accept voluntary transfers.

The next available document comes from 1977: The district court (at this point, Judge Guin) still had jurisdiction over the district's desegregation efforts. The opinion mentioned nothing of those on-going efforts though; the particular issue here concerned the firing of the Special Assistant to the Superintendent in the school district. The court reinstated him with back pay. 430 F.Supp. 595 (N.D. Ala. 1977).

According to news reports, Judge Guin dismissed the desegregation suit against Birmingham in 1983. We do not have additional information on what more was in issue.

Available Opinions
Armstrong v. Bd of Ed. of the City of Birmingham, 220 F.Supp. 217 (N.D. Ala. May 28, 1963) (denying preliminary injunction)
Armstrong v. Bd of Ed. of the City of Birmingham, 323 F.2d 333 (5th Cir. July 12, 1963) (granting preliminary injunction pending appeal and ordering Board to submit a desegregation plan)
Armstrong v. Bd of Ed. of the City of Birmingham, 333 F.2d 47 (5th Cir. June 18, 1964) (vacating ordering denying injunctive relief, remanding to district court with instructions to present adequate desegregation plan)

Greg Margolis - 02/23/2017


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Equal Protection
Content of Injunction
Monitor/Master
Student assignment
Defendant-type
Elementary/Secondary School
Jurisdiction-wide
Discrimination-basis
Race discrimination
General
Racial segregation
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Race
Black
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983
Defendant(s) Birmingham
Plaintiff Description Plaintiffs included African-American school-aged children (through their parents) in Birmingham, Alabama.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations NAACP Legal Defense Fund
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Declaratory Judgment
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 1963 - 1983
Case Closing Year 1983
Case Ongoing No
Docket(s)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
Opinion (220 F.Supp. 217) (N.D. Ala.)
SD-AL-0003-0001.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 05/28/1963
Source: Westlaw
Opinion (323 F.2d 333)
SD-AL-0003-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 07/12/1963
Source: Westlaw
Opinion (333 F.2d 47)
SD-AL-0003-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 07/18/1964
Source: Westlaw
Judges Gewin, Walter Pettus (Fifth Circuit)
SD-AL-0003-0003
Lynne, Seybourn Harris (N.D. Ala.)
SD-AL-0003-0001
Rives, Richard Taylor (Eleventh Circuit, Fifth Circuit)
SD-AL-0003-0002

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