About This Project
The story of Virginia’s Massive Resistance to Brown v. Board has been told many times. Most of those treatments focus on the political, legal, and educational aspects of desegregation. Often lost in these histories are the personal experiences of those whose lives were most immediately affected—the young people who were the first to cross previously enforced boundaries and charted new social norms.
This project began with a focus on athletics to explore the complexities and nuances of desegregation—where Black and White youth directly cooperated and competed for the time. Athletics is an important part of American culture that often crosses social boundaries and can unite communities through entertainment and the celebration of achievement. Sports, many contend, helped integrate America. Others see the culture of sport as perpetuating stereotypes which continue to limit opportunities for African Americans. In both White and Black communities, in both Charlottesville and Albemarle County, athletics was a powerful catalyst for community spirit. What were the effects of desegregating these communities of pride?
We began this project to explore whether interracial cooperation on athletic teams had a positive effect on the desegregation process. We quickly learned that the story must be broader. Some of the athletes we have interviewed said that color was not an issue in their sport— “it was all about winning.” Yet, they also say there were limits to their camaraderie; the team only existed on the court or field. In search of those limits, we expanded our interviews beyond athletes. While we use athletics as an entry point, these oral histories venture beyond the field and court to reveal how school desegregation made and broke communities beyond the school grounds. These individual stories help us to understand the ways that full integration has yet to be achieved. Collectively, they reveal the dynamic facets of school desegregation and the ramifications beyond the classrooms. Through these individual personal stories, we can feel what it was like to experience desegregation on a daily basis.
On this website, you will find a diverse range of materials that provide an in-depth exploration of the impact of desegregation. Find out how Charlottesville and Albemarle County were impacted by Virginia’s Massive Resistance to Brown v. Board. Learn about the perspectives of students and their communities. See how deconstructing some social barriers reinforced others, how forging new relationships also destroyed supportive networks, and how those previously forced to be separate learned to play together when “no playbook” existed.