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Case Name Griffith v. Board of Education of Yancey County SD-NC-0012
Docket / Court Civ. Action No. 1881 ( W.D.N.C. )
State/Territory North Carolina
Case Type(s) School Desegregation
Attorney Organization NAACP Legal Defense Fund
Case Summary
On November 11, 1959, the plaintiffs brought this action in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina. The plaintiffs, African-American minor school children by and through their parents, sued the defendant Yancey County Board of Education to enjoin the operation of a ... read more >
On November 11, 1959, the plaintiffs brought this action in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina. The plaintiffs, African-American minor school children by and through their parents, sued the defendant Yancey County Board of Education to enjoin the operation of a segregated school system. They were represented by, among others, Thurgood Marshall and Jack Greenberg (for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund).

When the lawsuit was filed, the Yancey County school system had two high schools with about 1,200 students and 13 elementary schools with a total of 3,000 students. Prior to the 1958-59 school year, there was a separate one-room elementary school for black students. Shortly before the lawsuit commenced, local officials declared that school unsafe and unsanitary; they began busing the black elementary school students to Asheville -- along with the black high school students, who attended school there because of the lack of a black high school in Yancey County. The trip was 40 miles and took an hour and a half.

At the end of the 1958-59 school year, the plaintiffs filed for a transfer to the then-all-white schools under the North Carolina student placement law on the books. They were denied for failing to comply with the proper procedure.

Reaffirming the validity of freedom of choice and the notion that "federal courts should not be called upon to interfere in the administration of the local schools until plaintiffs have exhausted their administrative remedies under the law," the district court (Judge Wilson Warlick), after trial, concluded that the plaintiffs had in fact followed those procedures and were improperly denied a transfer. Griffith v. Board of Education of Yancey County, 186 F.Supp. 511, 516 (W.D.N.C. Sept. 12, 1960).

After the action was filed, the Board began construction of a two-room school to replace the school that had been shut down. It subsequently assigned all black children to that school without regard to age or grade. The plaintiffs then amended their complaint, seeking to enjoin the assignment of students to that school on the basis of race. The district court granted the injunction as to the high school students, ordering the Board to assign them to Yancey County schools. As to the elementary school students, the court concluded that the Board should treat the new school as part of the district and make assignment accordingly "giv[ing] consideration to the location of these schools, the distances involved, so as to provide for the effective instruction, health, safety and general welfare of the pupils assigned to such schools." Id. at 519.

The district court then issued a preliminary injunction on September 26, 1960.

Unsurprisingly, the Board took this not-so-subtle hint and did little to integrate -- notwithstanding (or because of) the addition of this new school. In 1963, the plaintiffs again went to court, seeking a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order to force the Board to make more of an effort to integrate. In a judgment on October 28, 1963, the court ordered the Board to produce a new plan that would better integrate the schools.

Unfortunately, we were unable to find out what happened in Yancey County after the court granted the plaintiffs' motion in October of 1963. There is no digitized docket available. However, researchers for Pro Publica report that the case was still open as of 2014.

Available Opinions
Griffith v. Board of Education of Yancey County, 186 F.Supp. 511 (W.D.NC. Sept. 12, 1960)

Greg Margolis - 02/28/2017


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Equal Protection
Content of Injunction
Discrimination Prohibition
Preliminary relief granted
Student assignment
Defendant-type
Elementary/Secondary School
Discrimination-basis
Race discrimination
General
Disparate Treatment
Education
Racial segregation
School/University Facilities
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Race
Black
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Yancey County
Plaintiff Description African-American minor school children, by and through their parents, in the Yancey County, North Carolina school system
Indexed Lawyer Organizations NAACP Legal Defense Fund
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 1962 - n/a
Case Ongoing Perhaps, but long-dormant
Additional Resources
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  “Get on Board, Children: The Story of Integration in Yancey County, North Carolina"
Appalachian State University
Date: May 1, 2011
By: Ashley Cole Brewer (Appalachian State University Student)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Civil Rights U.S.A./ Public Schools Southern States 1962
Date: Jan. 1, 1962
By: The United States Commission on Civil Rights staff (The United States Commission on Civil Rights )
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
Civ. Action No. 1881 (W.D.N.C.)
SD-NC-0012-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/28/1960
Source: Pro Publica
General Documents
[Order] (186 F.Supp. 511) (W.D.N.C.)
SD-NC-0012-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 09/12/1960
Source: Supreme Court website
Judgment (W.D.N.C.)
SD-NC-0012-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/28/1963
Source: Pro Publica
Judges Warlick, Wilson (W.D.N.C.)
SD-NC-0012-0001 | SD-NC-0012-0002
Plaintiff's Lawyers Dailey, Ruben J. (North Carolina)
SD-NC-0012-9000
Greenburg, Jack (New York)
SD-NC-0012-9000
Marshall, Thurgood (District of Columbia)
SD-NC-0012-9000
Pearson, C. O. (North Carolina)
SD-NC-0012-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Randolph, C.P. (North Carolina)
SD-NC-0012-9000

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