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Restoring the Promise of Public Education

  • In 1970, Dr. Virgil Belue made a decision that would lead to true racial integration in both the schools and the community of one Deep South city. Today, with schools across the country as segregated as they were half a century ago, his success has something to teach us all.
  • The Case of Clinton, Mississippi

Danielle Elliot, the Atlantic

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https://cdn.theatlantic.com/assets/media/files/lovett-ext.jpg  Until 1980, Lovett School was a K-8 school serving the predominantly black neighborhoods in Clinton and the surrounding rural area. When it became part of the Clinton school system, it became the sixth-grade school for all students in Clinton.  

January, 2017 | July 28, 1970, is a date that Virgil Belue will never forget. That morning he defended his doctoral dissertation, and that afternoon he started the job that would become his legacy to generations of students and to his native state of Mississippi.

On that day, Belue became the first superintendent of the schools in Clinton, Mississippi, a district that did not exist until a few weeks before. In 1954, with the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court had declared the segregation of schools in the South to be unconstitutional. Sixteen years later, Mississippi was still in court, and it remains so today, with 44 desegregation cases still active. The fact that no one is suing Clinton can be traced to decisions that Belue began making that summer day 46 years ago, sitting alone in a nurse’s office in a district that had as yet no office for him, no budget, no school buses, no maintenance equipment, and just four weeks before students would report to school.

Danielle Elliot is a writer and multimedia producer based in New York.

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