Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Virginius Dabney, July 31, 1975. Interview A-0311-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Most Virginians favored segregated schools

In the aftermath of the <cite>Brown</cite> decision, many moderate groups pressing for integration were considered extremist and radical as compared to the political temper of most Virginians at the time. The Gray Commission, also mentioned again later in the interview, was charged with creating a desegregation plan. However, the Commission avoided the practical input of black leaders.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Virginius Dabney, July 31, 1975. Interview A-0311-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

DANIEL JORDAN:
Governor Stanley in August of '54 appointed a committee that became known as the Gray Committee. What was the public's notion of what the committee was supposed to be doing?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I think they were trying to work out some kind of plan that would meet this decision and obey it without causing too much disruption in the state. As far as I know, when it was first appointed, the prevailing view was that it was not going to defy anybody or shut down schools or anything like that.
DANIEL JORDAN:
It was an all white committee. Was there a sense that this was a mistake, that Stanley should have in fact brought black leaders into it?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, I think it was a bad mistake. The way they did it was to make a rule that the whole commission had to come from the General Assembly and that elimated the blacks because there weren't any in the General Assembly. Stanley had said, as I mentioned, that he was going to consult both races. He called in about four or five leading Negroes to his office, and his consultation consisted of asking them not to pay any attention to the Supreme Court's ruling. (laughter) Not to try, therefore, to integrate.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Now, the NAACP was very active in Virginia at this period. Do you recall your reaction to it, and do you recall the statewide reaction to the work of the NAACP?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I think that most Virginians felt that the NAACP was too far to the left and was pushing things too hard, and we couldn't live with the kinds of things that they were trying to do right away.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Was the NAACP working mainly in the courts?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, I think so.
DANIEL JORDAN:
What about the Virginia Council on Human Relations, which was created in February of '55? A group of moderates, as I understand it.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I've forgotten who was the head of that, do you remember?
DANIEL JORDAN:
I don't believe that they had any notable Virginians, but they included a lot of ministers and a lot of educators, and the notion was that they would somehow or another create a climate that would make possible better race relations and acceptance of integration when it came to it.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I remember their operations in a sort of hazy way. I think I know some of the people who were in it. Nowadays, what they were trying to do sounds reasonably proper. At that time, most people were opposed to it.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Another group was the Virginia Society for the Preservation of Public Education. I believe that Armistead Boothe was involved in that.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, that's right. I believe that came along after the massive resistance thing started, didn't it?
DANIEL JORDAN:
It sort of picked up at that point. Do you recall its impact or the public reaction to that?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I think most people felt that they were out of step with the majority sentiment, and that what they were trying to do was premature, that you couldn't bring the state along right away with these things that they were trying to put into effect.