Griffin v. County School Board of Prince Edward County

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377 U.S. 218 (1964), argued 30 Mar. 1964, decided 25 May 1964 by vote of 9 to 0; Black for the Court, Clark and Harlan concurring. Instead of complying with the mandate of Brown v. Board of Education II (1955) to eliminate racial assignments to public schools, the Prince Edward County, Virginia, Board of Education, pursuant to state law, closed its public schools and provided tuition grants and tax credits to private schools attended only by white children. Justice Hugo Black's opinion for the Court impatiently swept aside plausible procedural defenses of the policy and announced that “[t]he time for mere ‘deliberate speed’ has run out” (p. 234), that the district court was empowered to enjoin further use of grants and credits, that the court could superintend the board's taxing and appropriation powers, and even that it could order the public schools reopened. On the final point, Justices Tom Clark and John M. Harlan “disagree[d]” without explanation—marking the first time since well before Brown that even partially dissenting views had been expressed in the Court with respect to litigation involving segregation and the Fourteenth Amendment.

Of greater significance was the Court's unequivocal rejection of tactics designed to forestall compliance with Brown II. After Griffin, affected school districts appeared to choose between either desegregating their racially dual systems or acquiescing in white flight to private academies.

Dennis J. Hutchinson

Subjects: Law.

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