By Rosaland Tyler
New Journal and Guide
Less than 100 African-American students in Virginia have actually received a Brown v. Board of Education Scholarship.
The scholarship program was launched by Virginia lawmakers about two decades ago, in 2004, and aims to help aspiring college students pursue a college degree if they were locked out of public school during Massive Resistance from 1959 to 1964.
Most people do not know about the scholarship fund which may help explain why to date, only 88 students have actually received one of these scholarships in its 19 years of existence.
The fund – close to $1 million dollars – is available to students in counties where federal funding was withheld from school districts during Massive Resistance and local school districts closed for one to five years.
As this population of students ages, the General Assembly passed HB 1419 and SB 1498, effective July 1, 2023 that now extends scholarship eligibility to the descendants of persons eligible.
Massive resistance was a strategy launched by U.S. Senator Harry F. Byrd Sr. of Virginia. Specifically, Massive Resistance was a set of laws enacted in1956 that aimed to prevent forced school integration after the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision was handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court. Several Virginia school districts closed including districts in Warren County, Charlottesville, Norfolk, and Prince Edward County.
Virginia’s scholarship program was launched by the state with $1,050,000 from the state and a large donation from Charlottesville philanthropist John Kluge. Thanks to new donations, contributions, and interest earnings, the scholarship fund now stands at $994,679.09.
Thanks to the state-launched scholarship fund, Vera Morton, age 67, graduated with honors from Virginia Western Community College in Roanoke in May 2022, according to Cardinal News.
Last year, Morton was one of just two students who graduated after receiving recent funds from the Brown v. Board of Education Scholarship, as it’s called. The other scholarship student who graduated in 2022 finished at Liberty University.
Right now, applicants are not waiting to receive scholarship funds for the upcoming school year since no one has applied.
Morton, who grew up in Prince Edward County, received scholarship funds due to the fact that she was one of the students who was locked out of school during Massive Resistance when some Virginia localities shut down their schools rather than allow Black and White children to study in the same classroom.
Morton finally received an associate’s degree at a community college, after attending classes there for five years.
The Brown v. Board of Education Scholarship was created by the Virginia General Assembly in 2004 during the case’s 50th anniversary. State legislators passed the measure – originally funded by a donor for $50,000, and later $1 million with a state match – to “restore education to persons denied a public education … between 1954 and 1964,” according to a 2013 report by Brown v. Board of Education Scholarship Committee.
When the scholarship fund was founded, Mark Warner was governor. Virginia is the only state that developed this type of scholarship fund. Warner said, “This program will help us move beyond the past and on to a more productive future.”
One of the legislative sponsors – the late state Sen. Benjamin Lambert, D-Richmond, said at the time, “These scholarships will help Virginia heal the wounds caused by Massive Resistance and offer educational opportunities for those who were wrongly denied access to a quality education.”
For more information, visit http://brownscholarship.virginia.gov.