I've welcomed all the articles commemorating the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, but as a survivor of the "all deliberate speed" clause in Prince Edward County, my question is: Why is the Rev. L. Francis Griffin barely mentioned?
The Rev. Griffin was the man whom Barbara Johns -- the 16-year-old who staged the walkout from Robert R. Moton High School that culminated in one of the four cases under Brown -- consulted before, during and after April 23, 1951. That day, according to Donald P. Baker, writing in The Post Magazine in 2001, was arguably the beginning of the modern civil rights movement.
The Rev. Griffin offered his church (First Baptist) as a meeting place after the walkout because the students were not allowed to congregate on public property. He also pleaded with the two Richmond lawyers who eventually aided Thurgood Marshall with his arguments before the Supreme Court. The Rev. Griffin was steadfast in his convictions, even when segregationists cut off his utilities in winter after denying him credit and calling in all of his earlier loans to be paid in full. He is the same man who refused to sell out to county leaders when they offered a new blacks-only school before they built a whites-only private school.
The Rev. Griffin set up training centers in churches and businesses after the county closed the public schools for five years rather than integrate them. He brought college students from Michigan to teach children how to read and teamed with the American Friends Service Committee to disperse children across the country so they could get an education. He also persuaded people around the world to donate money to open the Prince Edward County Free School.
The Rev. Griffin used his 16-year-old son as a plaintiff in a Supreme Court case, 10 years after Brown, to force the reopening of the schools. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. came to Prince Edward to meet with him and called him a "giant."
Maybe people don't remember that when we walked out again from R.R. Moton High School, twice, in 1968 and 1969, we planned that action in the Rev. Griffin's church. All we wanted was some blacks on the all-white school board that presided over a public school system that was 95 percent black, and the reinstatement of an English teacher ruled incompetent because he had students (like me) writing colleges for information on admissions, catalogues and financial aid while we were in ninth grade.
The "Fighting Preacher" was an unsung hero of the civil rights movement.
CARL E. ROSS
How appropriate that the first legally sanctioned same-sex marriages were solemnized on the 50th anniversary of the court decision that ordered an end to racial discrimination in public schools. May 17 is becoming a landmark date in the struggle for equal rights.
As the Supreme Court declared in Brown v. Board of Education, separate is not equal. Only equal is equal. It was wrong to deny people equal educational opportunities because of their race. It is equally wrong to deny people equal marital opportunities because of their sexual orientation.
America will have two reasons to celebrate May 17, 2054. On that day, it will have been a century since public schools were ordered to integrate. Also on that day, hundreds of gay couples will be celebrating their golden wedding anniversary. History has proven the correctness of the Brown decision. By 2054, history will have proven the correctness of securing equal marriage rights for all Americans. By then, most people will wonder what all the fuss was about.
RICHARD W. CLARK