Prince Edward Academy, once nationally notorious as a symbol of Virginia's Massive Resistance movement against school integration in the 1950s, this fall retained four of five black students it had admitted to the school last year; the fifth left.
One black family took their child out of the academy and put the third grader in public school, said Edgar Berry, a retired New York police officer who became the first black member of the academy's board of directors last year.
According to Berry, the family was not dissatisfied with the school but could not afford the academy's tuition and did not want to take scholarship money.
Berry, who is in charge of recruitment of blacks and a minority scholarship fund, said money is available for about a dozen minority students but that black families in the central Virginia community have not applied to put their children in the school.
"It's deep-seated," he said when asked why the school had not attracted a high number of black applicants. Black community leaders from the area remember the school's past, Berry said. "They lost their perspective and have drifted from integration to retaliation."
Prince Edward County's school system was one of five named in the Supreme Court's landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954 that resulted in school desegregation. Refusing to comply, the county's white leaders in 1959 closed the public schools, and white residents of the county founded the private academy to educate their children. The public schools stayed closed for five years.
The academy, faced with the threat of losing its federal tax-exempt status if it did not adopt and show evidence of a nondiscriminatory policy, admitted its first five black students last fall. The four that stayed on this year now range from first graders to 10th graders.