On this daySep 12, 1966
White Mob Attacks Black Students for Integrating Grenada, Mississippi, Schools
On September 12, 1966, 250 Black students attempted to integrate Grenada, Mississippi, schools on the first day of class. Though it was 12 years after the Supreme Court's landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling held racially segregated public schooling unconstitutional, the city of Grenada, Mississippi, had not stopped operating a segregated school system. In August 1966, a federal judge ordered Grenada officials to enroll African American students in the formerly white-only schools, and approximately 450 students had enrolled by the start of the 1966 school year.
On September 2, the school district postponed the start of school by 10 days. During that time, white leaders tried to coerce African American parents into withdrawing their children from the white schools by threatening them with firing or eviction. As a result, 200 students withdrew.
When the remaining 250 Black students arrived for classes on September 12, a large white mob surrounded the city's elementary school and high school and turned them away. As the students retreated, members of the mob pursued them through the streets, beating them with chains, pipes, and clubs. At lunchtime, the mob returned to the school to attack the few Black students who had made it inside that morning. As the students left for lunch, members of the mob attacked them, leaving some hospitalized with broken bones. Some reporters covering the story were also beaten.
The mob violence continued for several days with no intervention from law enforcement. On September 16, a federal judge ordered protection for the students, and on September 17, 13 members of the mob were arrested by the FBI.
To learn more about the massive resistance of many white Americans against civil liberties and rights for African Americans, see the Equal Justice Initiative's report, Segregation in America.