Calendar photo caption: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other prominent civil rights activists lead a group of Black children to integrate their school in Grenada, Mississippi, on September 20, 1966. (Bettmann/Getty Images)
After the Supreme Court struck down racial segregation in public schools in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka on May 17, 1954, many white Americans violently resisted integration by harassing and attacking Black students while their own children watched or participated.
At the time, up to a quarter of white Southerners admitted to pollsters that they "favored violence, if necessary, to prevent school desegregation."
Integrations was met with violent opposition almost every year after Brown: Milford, Delaware, in 1954; Hoxie, Arkansas, in 1955; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Clinton, Tennessee, Mansfield, Texas, and Clay and Sturgis communities in Kentucky in 1956; Little Rock and Nashville in 1957; Clinton (again) in 1958; New Orleans in 1960; Athens, Georgia, in 1961; Oxford Mississippi, in 1962; and Birmingham in 1963.
Violent resistance to school desegregation persisted for more than a decade. in 1966, when 450 Black students in Grenada, Mississippi, enrolled in public school following a court order to desegregate, local white leaders threatened to fire or evict their parents, and 200 Black students withdrew.
The Black students who arrived on September 12, 1966 faced a white mob that chased them through the streets and beat them with chains, pipes, and clubs so severely that some had to be hospitalized. The mob violence continued for days without intervention from law enforcement.
In 1967, 13 years after Brown, a report by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights observed that "violence against Negroes continues to be a deterrent to school desegregation."