Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Filing Suit in Prince Edward County

HILL: All right. Well, as I say, when – that Wednesday morning we stopped by the church, the kids were all there and they had such high morale, and we were still intending to tell them, "Go on back to school." They were so, I don't know, they were just so persuasive that we told them, if their parents – we were no longer filing suits charging inequality, that we were going to challenge the state of segregation per se from then on, and that if their parents would back them, we would file suit for them. And so we told them we'd be coming back through there on our way back to Richmond on Thursday night, and to have their parents there, and we'd discuss it. So on Thursday night, the parents were there and the parents were willing to support the children.

But somebody suggested that since this would affect the whole county we ought to have a county meeting. So all right, so we agree to hold a county meeting – this was Thursday night, but Friday, the next Friday, not the next night, but Friday a week – and on that Friday a week, church was standing room only. They discussed it going and coming, and the vote overwhelmingly was for support the children. So we accepted the case, filed a petition, and of course, it was – they came in with something about they had plans to do this, that and the other – in a couple of years, things were going to happen, and so we proceed to file the Davis suit. Now in the meantime, Bob Carter had tried a suit in Topeka, Kansas, and [Jack] Greenberg and – oh, what's the fellow's name up there in Delaware? Wilmington. Had a brother at Hampton.

BOND: Yes, I know who you mean. I can't think of his name either. Louis – ?

HILL: Louis Redding.

BOND: Louis Redding.

HILL: And Louis Redding in that case, the lower court ruled with the plaintiffs. In the meantime, Charlie died and he – when he got real sick, he turned the D.C. case over to Jack, I mean to – oh, hell. George Hayes and who? The president, who later became president? He had a son in the Legal Defense Fund. Oh, you know, who was president? Nabrit. Jim Nabrit.

BOND: Yeah, Nabrit. HILL: That suit was filed under the Fifth Amendment, because Fourth Amendment didn't apply to D.C. because it was not a state. But anyway, now in the meantime, Clarendon County case went up to the Supreme Court. For some reason, the – I've forgotten now what it was, but it was some technicality, they sent it back. And by the time it got back all five of these cases, the other four cases, were all up there, and the court consolidated them and everything of that nature – usually people do, they do it alphabetically – and Brown happened to be the lead name. The case was no different from any of the rest of them. We had filed our case as Davis, but if we'd given the thing any serious thought we would have filed a suit under name of Barbara Johns because she was the leading spirit of Prince Edward County. All the rest of the kids followed her. She was a marvelous kid. I don't guess you knew her?

BOND: No, I never knew her. But I knew her uncle.

HILL: I say, guess you knew her uncle, Vernon Johns. I didn't know her either, except in the case. But Vernon Johns as you know was a firebrand.

BOND: I know. He used to talk about spizzerinctum. And he was the pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery.

HILL: Dexter Baptist Church for five years before King got there.

BOND: That's right. They ran him away from the church and took King in his place.