Blackwell v Issaquena County Board of Education (1966)

(Date of Event: 1965-1966) On January 29, 1965, roughly thirty students at Henry Weathers High School (an all black public school in Issaquena County) began wearing SNCC paraphernalia to school. When the students were reprimanded by school administrators, an outpouring of support from other students and outside leaders occurred. Ultimately 300 students were suspended from school and some participating faculty members were denied the opportunity to renew work contracts. Unita Blackwell and Clarence Hall contacted Marian Wright of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in Jackson, Mississippi, regarding the potential of filing a lawsuit on behalf of the students on standing through the First Amendment. By March 6, NAACP representatives sent petitions requesting the right to wear pro-SNCC materials, and no response was returned. On April 1, 1965, Blackwell v Issaquena County Board of Education was filed on behalf of 196 plaintiffs. Jerry and Jeremiah Blackwell, Unita Blackwell’s son and husband, were listed as the first plaintiffs.

District Judge Herald Cox initially rejected the request for an injunction concerning the SNCC pins. Simultaneously, however, Cox ruled that the black students of Henry Weathers High School could not be prohibited from attending white public schools. Cox ordered Issaquena County to submit a desegregation plan in what Unita Blackwell sites as “one of the very first desegregation cases in Mississippi.”


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