The NAACP challenged the closing of the schools in the Grifﬁn v. County School Board of Prince Edward case. The legal challenge bogged down in state and federal courts, and the school closures lasted for years. The plight of Prince Edward’s children attracted media attention and drew civil rights activists to the county.
Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. visited the county to lend his encouragement. The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker peace organization, placed children with host families in the North so they could attend school. The AFSC also worked in the county, supporting local efforts to address the children’s needs and to bring an end to the school closings. During the summers, college student volunteers flocked to Prince Edward to staff tutor-ing and recreational programs.
Supported by the Kennedy administration, the Prince Edward Free School Association organized to create privately funded schools open to all the county’s children. Students concentrated on reading and mathematics, while older students also learned job skills. The assessment of the Free Schools varied, but some studies showed pupils had gained an average of two years of schools in ten months. Twenty-three students graduated from the Free Schools in 1964.
Thirteen years after the Davis case was filed, the Supreme Court ordered the schools reopened. In Grifﬁn v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, Associate Justice Hugo Black wrote: “The time for mere ‘deliberate speed’ has run out, and that phrase can no longer justify denying these…children their constitutional rights to an education.” The courage and sacrifice of children ensured the constitutional principle was won. Yet, the struggle to achieve educational quality in Prince Edward—as in the rest of America—continued long after 1964.