Pride and Prejudice: School Desegregation and Urban Renewal in Norfolk, 1950-1959

Pride and Prejudice: School Desegregation and Urban Renewal in Norfolk, 1950-1959

Pride and Prejudice: School Desegregation and Urban Renewal in Norfolk, 1950-1959

Pride and Prejudice: School Desegregation and Urban Renewal in Norfolk, 1950-1959

Synopsis

These findings present a breakthrough in urban studies and school desegregation research. The author establishes that the history of school desegregation began much earlier than commonly thought, with almost a decade of planning, redevelopment, and urban renewal initiatives, and that school boards and administrators were only minor actors in a cast that included mayors, city councils, and state legislators. Two events make the history of Norfolk in the 1950s remarkable: the voracity of its attack upon urban blight and the ferocity of its resistance to school desegregation. One of the first cities in the nation to initiate large-scale redevelopment efforts, Norfolk was the chief battleground to court-ordered school desegregation.

Excerpt

The twin waves of boom and bust had broken many times upon Norfolk's shores. Bombarded, blockaded, captured, and even plundered, the city had endured its share of misfortune at the hands of invaders; but Norfolk, too, had suffered even more mercilessly from enemies within, having been razed by the patriots, isolated by trade restrictions, strangled by intrastate rivalries, decimated by yellow fever, terrorized by the armed mobs during Reconstruction, and then very nearly ruined financially by the disarmament that followed World War I. Through it all, however, the promise of prosperity lingered just around the corner. For more than 300 years the ships of many nations had sought refuge in her fine natural harbor. For two centuries the hammer blows of the ship-building trade had reverberated across her waterfront, punctuating the bustle of ships' chandlers, sail makers, jacktars, tavern keepers, and sailors on leave. Merchants, upon surveying this hubbub of activity, dreamed of the day when the harbor would one day compete with the great ports of New York, Baltimore, Boston, and Charleston. It was the pursuit of this dream that brought them the resiliency to overcome the harrowing scars of defeat. Over and over Norfolk again had bounced back from the crushing blows of . . .

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