In the civil rights movement, African Americans fought to gain equal rights under the law primarily in the 1950s and 60s. Nearly one hundred years after slavery was abolished, there was still widespread discrimination, segregation, and racially motivated violence. The movement encouraged non-violent protest and targeted acts of civil disobedience. Key pieces of civil rights legislation would be passed between 1954 and 1968 that would desegregate schools and public facilities, protect voting rights, and provide equal housing opportunities.
On May 17, 1954, in the case of Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that racial segregation of children in public schools was unconstitutional. In White Sulphur Springs, 300 out of 440 white students walked out of the high school in protest. Black students were threatened with bodily harm if they tried to attend. After a week, the Greenbrier Board of Education returned to segregated schools. On September 3, 1955, a case was filed against the Greenbrier School District. The NAACP representing four black children came to support and fight for integration. It was ruled on October 12th to integrate Greenbrier County schools. Lewisburg’s Greenbrier Military School and Greenbrier College for Women refused to integrate and lost federal funding, they would both close as a result in 1972.
Howard Jefferson Crump
Born April 24, 1915 in White Sulphur Springs, Howard Jefferson Crump would serve as the president of the Greenbrier branch of the NAACP from 1955-1979. Through his years of service, he worked to keep black community members safe, find them jobs, negotiate Greenbrier County desegregation, and helped settle many discrimination cases that would have been lost without the help of the NAACP.
Born in White Sulphur Springs in 1918, Katherine Johnson always had a talent for mathematics. She would go on to be one of the first three black students, and only black woman, selected to integrate West Virginia University’s graduate program. She began working at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics in 1953, which would become NASA in 1958. She would calculate the trajectory for a number of important missions including John Glenn's Friendship 7 orbital flight and the Apollo 11 mission to the moon.
Participant in the famed sit-in at Jackson Mississippi’s Woolworths lunch counter, he would be active in the civil rights movement in Mississippi. He moved to West Virginia in the 1970s where he worked with the Greenbrier County Housing Authority to help low and moderate income people find descent housing. He was greatly involved in the Greenbrier Martin Luther King Day Committee stating, “it is a day on, not off, because it gives each of us a chance to unite with one or more other persons to make something better.”