Green v. County School Board of New Kent County

Green v. County School Board of New Kent County, 391 U.S. 430 (1968), was an important United States Supreme Court case dealing with the freedom of choice plans created to avoid compliance with the Court's mandate in Brown II.[1] The Court held that New Kent County's freedom of choice plan did not constitute adequate compliance with the school board's responsibility to determine a system of admission to public schools on a non-racial basis. The Supreme Court mandated that the school board must formulate new plans and steps towards realistically converting to a desegregated system. Green v. County School board of New Kent County was a follow up of Brown v. Board of Education.

Green v. County School Board of New Kent Co.
Seal of the United States Supreme Court
Argued April 3, 1968
Decided May 27, 1968
Full case nameCharles C. Green et al. v. County School Board of New Kent County, Virginia et al.
Citations391 U.S. 430 (more)
88 S. Ct. 1689; 20 L. Ed. 2d 716
Case history
Prior382 F.2d 338 (4th Cir. 1967), cert. granted, 389 U.S. 1003.
New Kent County's freedom of choice desegregation plan did not comply with the dictates of Brown v. Board of Education and was therefore unconstitutional.
Court membership
Chief Justice
Earl Warren
Associate Justices
Hugo Black · William O. Douglas
John M. Harlan II · William J. Brennan Jr.
Potter Stewart · Byron White
Abe Fortas · Thurgood Marshall
Case opinion
MajorityBrennan, joined by unanimous
Laws applied
U.S. Const., amend. XIV


In Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, the Warren Court ruled that state-sanctioned segregation of public schools was unconstitutional. One year later, in Brown II, enforcement of this principle was given to district courts, ordering that they take the necessary steps to make admittance to public schools nondiscriminatory "with all deliberate speed." The term "all deliberate speed" did little to speed up the school board's plan for integration. Judge John J. Parker of the United States Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit led many in the South in interpreting Brown as a charge to not-segregate, but not an order to integrate.[2] The Supreme Court heard several more cases surrounding the speed and efficacy of desegregation between its initial ruling in Brown and the Green v. School Board case in 1968.

Factual backgroundEdit

New Kent is a rural county in eastern Virginia. At the time of the 1960 census, approximately half of the county's 4,500[3] residents were black.[1] The school system had only two schools, the New Kent School for white students and the George W. Watkins School for black students.[4] School buses traveled overlapping routes throughout the county. The state had long mandated racial segregation in public education under the Virginia Constitution of 1902.[5] The school board continued to operate a segregated system in the wake of the Brown rulings, on the authority of several "massive resistance" state laws enacted to resist them.

One such law, the Pupil Placement Act, divested local boards of authority to assign children to particular schools and centralized that power with the newly-created State Pupil Placement Board.[6] Under the act, children were automatically reassigned to their prior school each year unless they applied for transfer to another school and the board approved their application. New students' schools were also assigned by the board.[7] White families almost uniformly chose the predominantly white school, and black families almost uniformly chose the predominantly black school. As of September 1964, no New Kent student had applied to the Pupil Placement Board for a transfer between the schools.[8]

In 1965, thirty-five black students enrolled in the previously all-white New Kent school.[9] More than a hundred additional black students enrolled each year in 1966 and 1967.[9] The newly enrolled black students reported harassment by their white peers, to which teachers and administrators turned a blind eye.[9]

Green before the Supreme CourtEdit

This case was argued during the same term as Raney v. Board of Education of Gould School District and Monroe v. Board of Commissioners of Jackson, Tenn.[10] In the latter case, the plan in question was called "free transfer."

NAACP Legal Defense Fund lawyers Samuel W. Tucker, Jack Greenberg, Henry L. Marsh, III, James Nabrit III, and Oliver W. Hill argued and prepared the petitioners' case, and Tucker presented their arguments. Frederick T. Gray represented the school board, and Louis F. Claiborne served as amicus curiae.[11] While the Court did not rule that all "freedom of choice" plans were unconstitutional,[10] it did note that they tended to be ineffective at desegregating a school system and held that in New Kent County's case the freedom-of-choice plan violated the Constitution.[4]

Schools after GreenEdit

In order to comply with the Court's mandate, the school board separated the New Kent and George Watkins schools by grade level, rather than race. The Watkins School became George W. Watkins Elementary School, and New Kent became New Kent High School.[1]

50th Anniversary CelebrationEdit

Several events took place in New Kent County, VA during the month of May 2018 to celebrate 50 years since the Supreme Court's ruling on the case. The Green Vs County School Board of New Kent organization's[12] has a list of the events.

In 2018, the Library of Virginia honored Calvin Coolidge Green (1931-2011), pastor, soldier, educator, civil rights activist and father of named plaintiff Charles Green, as one of its Strong Men and Women.[13]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c "Green, Charles C. et al. v. County School Board of New Kent County, Virginia". Retrieved 2016-12-12.
  2. ^ "Parker, John Johnston | NCpedia". Retrieved 2016-12-12.
  3. ^ New Kent County Department of Community Development (2010). Data Summary. New Kent County. p. 5 – via
  4. ^ a b "New Kent School and the George W. Watkins School --Reading 1". Retrieved 2016-12-12.
  5. ^ "Education from LVA: Education: Segregated Public Schools Are Not Equal". Retrieved 2016-12-12.
  6. ^ "Television News of the Civil Rights Era : Film & Summaries". Retrieved 2016-12-12.
  7. ^ Records of the Virginia Pupil Placement Board, 1957-1966. Accession 26517, State records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va. Retrieved from
  8. ^ "Green v. County School Board of New Kent County". LII / Legal Information Institute. Retrieved 2016-12-12.
  9. ^ a b c Allen, La Vonne Patterson; Tramuel, Camilla Lewis (2013). Heritage of African Americans in New Kent County, Virginia: Volume I, Early Education Colored Schools. Sandston, VA: Fidelity Printing Inc. pp. 212–213. ISBN 978-1-62407-717-3.
  10. ^ a b Bremner, Robert Hamlett (1974-01-01). Children and Youth in America: A Documentary History. Harvard University Press. p. 1841. ISBN 9780674116139.
  11. ^ Association, American Bar (1968-09-01). ABA Journal. American Bar Association. p. 913.
  12. ^ website
  13. ^

Further readingEdit

  • Allen, Jody and Daugherity, Brian. "Recovering a ‘Lost’ Story Using Oral History: The United States Supreme Court's Historic Green v. New Kent County, Virginia, Decision," Oral History Review, vol. 3, issue 2, 25-45 (June 2006).
  • Daugherity, Brian and Bolton, Charles, editors. With All Deliberate Speed: Implementing Brown v. Board of Education. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2008.

External linksEdit