On this dayAug 31, 1966

Alabama Senate Passes Law to Forbid School Desegregation

Image | Associated Press

On August 31, 1966, in an ongoing battle with federal agencies and the United States Supreme Court, the Alabama Senate passed a law that made it illegal for public schools in the state to enter into desegregation plans with federal officials.

A decade after the United States Supreme Court's 1954 ruling in Brown v. Board of Education declared racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional, many school districts throughout the South still maintained segregated public schools. In 1964, the United States Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, which contained a provision that required local school districts to comply with integration orders to receive federal funding.

In 1966, twelve years after Brown, the United States Office of Education issued regulations providing guidance and standards regarding school desegregation. These regulations required segregated school districts to submit integration plans to the federal government. Noncompliant districts risked losing federal funds.

In response, Governor George Wallace, whose 1963 inauguration speech had vowed to maintain "segregation forever," proposed a new state law to forbid Alabama school districts from entering into desegregation agreements with the federal Office of Education. In legislative hearings, representatives of Alabama’s teachers’ unions spoke against the bill and warned that it would risk $24 million of federal funding. Nevertheless, the Alabama Senate approved the bill on August 31, almost unanimously: only seven members voted against the measure.

The Alabama House of Representatives passed the bill soon after, and Governor Wallace signed it into law on September 9.

The massive resistance by the white community was largely successful in preventing the integration of schools in the South. In the five Deep South states, every single one of 1.4 million black schoolchildren attended segregated schools until the fall of 1960. By the start of the 1964-65 school year, less than 3 percent of the South’s African American children attended school with white students, and in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina that number remained substantially below 1 percent. In 1967, 13 years after Brown, a report by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights observed that white violence and intimidation against black people “continues to be a deterrent to school desegregation.”
 

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