Warren County, VA

Warren County was one of the schools first under federal court orders to integrate, and as a consequence was one of the schools closed by the governor under the massive resistance laws in 1958. Warren County was a small, rural community at the head of the Shenandoah Valley. It had just over 14,000 residents in 1950, nearly 8 percent of whom were African American. The county bordered Frederick County, where Harry F. Byrd and his family were based as apple growers and newspaper owners. Warren County white leaders reacted to the school closing crisis by organizing private institutions and churches to host makeshift classes. Segregationists from around the South contributed funds to help support this effort and defend the county's segregated schools. Federal district court judge John Paul in Harrisonburg issued the order to admit twenty-two black students to Warren County High School. Because Warren County had no black high school, the county transported about one hundred black high school students to segregated high schools in neighboring counties. In December 1958 with no schools to attend in Warren, the twenty-two black students began attending school in Washington, D.C., where schools were already desegregated.