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Alston et al. v. School Board of City of Norfolk et al. (112 F. 2d 992)
In June 1940 the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court decision that worked to perpetuate grossly unequal teacher's salaries for black teachers. Melvin O. Alston, a black teacher in Norfolk, and the Norfolk Teachers Association brought the case. The city of Norfolk's school board argued that black teachers deserved lesser salaries for a variety of reasons not related to race, such as time in the system, graduate degrees, and experience. The school board also argued that the teachers had no standing to sue in court because they were already under contract and therefore had accepted the salary rate. The Fourth Circuit justices (Soper, Parker, and Dobie) did not agree with the city's logic nor with its explanations for the steep inequalities in salaries. The court issued a declaratory judgment that the school board was required to equalize salaries. The U. S. Supreme Court let the judgment stand and, in effect, the Alston case became the key precedent for equalization lawsuits across the South.
Copyright William G. Thomas, III and Rector and Board of Visitors, University of Virginia.
All Rights Reserved. 2005.