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May 23, 2017

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Patrick S. O'Donnell

I cannot answer the trivia question but should anyone be interested in learning about the numerous schools constructed by the WPA, you can find a listing of them, many but not all with photos, at The Living New Deal website (look under Projects by Category, and then click on ‘Education and Health’). More than a few of the schools have colorful, if not inspirational, histories: for example, Lincoln High in Los Angeles, which was rebuilt by the WPA after it was extensively damaged in the 1933 earthquake:

“Architect Albert C. Martin provided the Moderne design for the Lincoln High School campus when it was rebuilt following the 1933 Long Beach Earthquake. Typical of the period, the buildings are generously embellished with W.P.A. murals and sculpture.”

“Beginning in the latter part of the 1960s, Lincoln High School became a focal point for the emerging Chicano civil rights movement that was fueled by student activism which called for a more culturally sensitive educational curriculum and access to college preparatory courses for Mexican American students. Encouraged by Sal Castro, who championed equal educational opportunity as a Lincoln High faculty member, students at Lincoln organized a mass walk-out in protest of sub-standard facilities, vocational program tracking for Chicano youth and discriminatory practices which excluded them from advanced college prep courses. In March 1968, Lincoln High students led the first wave of what became the largest student strike in the history of public education in U.S. The ‘Blow-out’ was joined by students from at least three other area high schools, among them Garfield, Roosevelt, Lincoln, Belmont and Wilson.”

Patrick S. O'Donnell

Incidentally (while we're waiting for answers to the trivia question), I just began a little bit of online research about segregation and WPA schools and learned from one author that “In those southern and southwestern states where legal segregation still existed in the 1930s, many of the emergency WPA projects mandated that a fairer proportion of eligible black students be enrolled in local schools and that black teachers receive pay that was closer [not equivalent, mind you!] to the level their white colleagues had been receiving all along.” In addition, the WPA sponsored quite a number of free lunch programs (600 million school lunches) for poorer students. Of course FDR was often quite deferential to Southern white racists in the Democratic Party (Eleanor Roosevelt, on the other hand…), and New Deal programs and projects (notoriously, those related to housing) were often (and with notable exceptions) infected by the racism that permeated the country as a whole during this period, although as one historian writes, “it was during the New Deal, that the silent, invisible hand of racism was fully exposed as a national issue; as a problem that at the very least needed to be recognized; as something the county could no longer pretend did not exist. This shift in attitude, as Havard Sitkoff, the noted historian of the African American experience in the New Deal observes, helped propel the issue of race relations onto the national stage and usher in a new political climate in which ‘Afro-Americans and their allies could begin to struggle with some expectation of success.’”

Al Brophy

Patrick, this is all super interesting. Thanks for it.

Anon JD/MD

This is R.R. Moton High School in Farmville, Virginia. The case was Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, before it was consolidated into Brown.

Al Brophy

JD/MD, you are *very* good. This is exactly right. I'm deeply interested in the African American community in Farmville (the county seat of Prince Edward County and the location of this school). Going back to the late eighteenth century there was a vibrant community of free people (written about so beautifully by Melvin Ely in Israel on the Appomattox). That community continued through the 19th century and in the early 20th century DuBois wrote about in the pages of The Crisis. And then the African American community took a stand against segregation in the years leading into Brown. In the 1960s the school board shut the public schools down rather than integrate. I can remember reading an except of that case in then professor now Judge Lynch's con law class back in the spring of 1988 and thinking, wow, what a dark place PE County must have been. I've been glad to visit it several times in recent years and to see how much it has changed. There's more to say about this, which I hope to get to later this summer (or whenever it is that I return to writing, maybe not until this fall) about that African American community in Farmville, especially as it relates to the era of slavery.

Anon JD/MD

Here is some trivia for the military history buffs out there (and interested legal scholars) pertaining to the Civil Rights movement. The governor of Arkansas ignored the Federal courts and refused to integrate. In response, President Eisenhower sent the 101st Airborne Division to escort the Little Rock Nine to school and end segregation in Arkansas. I always found this move significant, because the 101st was the unit that Ike ordered to jump into battle behind enemy lines during the early morning hours of D-Day. The unit was featured in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers. I don’t know if Ike turned to the 101st because they were some of his best Soldiers or if he was trying to send a message to the Governor of Arkansas. Maybe it was a little of both.

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