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Statement of Benjamin L. Smith before the U.S. Civil Rights Commission conference in Nashville

Date: 1959

Author: Benjamin Lee Smith

Biographical/Historical abstract: Benjamin Lee Smith was superintendent of the Greensboro City Schools at the time of the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision ordering desegregation of public schools.

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Description:

This transcript of a statement made by former Greensboro public school superintendent, Benjamin L. Smith, before the 1959 U.S. Civil Rights Commission conference in Nashville, Tennessee, describes Greensboro’s efforts at desegregating its public school system.


In this statement, Smith explains that school desegregation has been generally accepted by the community. He offers an overview of the desegregation of Gillespie Elementary School and Greensboro Senior High in 1957, and recalls the resolution of compliance passed by the Greensboro School Board the day after the Brown v. Board of Education decision, and shares the details of a resolution adopted by the board in 1957. The reasons he feels desegregation in Greensboro was possible are: a liberal community, extraordinary school board, dedicated school personnel, favorable press, and an alert police force. He remarks on Greensboro’s traditionally black universities, its integrated school board, integrated classes at the polio hospital and the Cerebral Palsy School, and the influencing presence of the Quaker population.


Smith offers to answer questions from the board. In response to a question of whether new black students were transferred in 1958, he says that there were not and that a child was denied admittance to Curry School by the Woman’s College. When asked if there has been negative response, he recalls having a cross burned in his yard, bricks thrown through his window, and picketing at Gillespie. When asked if more schools would be desegregated, he says that no parents will be forced to send their children to schools they don’t want to be at, and that some applications for reassignment were rejected for various reasons. He refers multiple times to the Caldwell Elementary-Pearson Street School court case that was pending at the time of this conference.

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Format of original: Other

Collection: Benjamin Lee Smith Papers

Repository: Duke University

Item#: 4.1.978

Rights: It is responsibility of the user to follow the copyright law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). Materials are not to be reproduced in published works without written consent, and any use should credit Civil Rights Greensboro and the appropriate repository.

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