Briggs v. Elliott

African American students and teacher standing in front of a wood and tar paper shack with text that reads Liberty Hill Colored School.
African American students in Clarendon County, SC. were forced to walk to a one-room wood and tar paper shack without indoor plumbing. Meanwhile white students attended a significantly larger brick and mortar building with full amenities.

courtesy photo

The Briggs case was named for Harry Briggs, one of twenty parents who brought suit against R.W. Elliott, the president of the school board for Clarendon County, South Carolina. Initially, parents had only asked the county to provide school buses for the black students as they did for whites. When their petitions were ignored, they filed a suit challenging segregation itself. Reverend J. A. DeLaine, a school principal, was instrumental in recruiting the parent plaintiffs and enlisting the help of the NAACP. Thurgood Marshall, lead counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Inc., and Harold Boulware, a local lawyer, filed Briggs v. Elliott in the fall of 1950.

A three-judge panel at the U.S. District Court was presented with substantial psychological evidence and expert testimony presented on African American school conditions. The court denied the plaintiffs’ request to abolish school segregation. Instead, they ordered the school board to begin equalization of the schools. In a lone dissenting opinion, Judge Julius Waring adamantly opposed segregation in public education. Facing retaliation from irate segregationists, Waring left the state soon after. J.A. DeLaine and Harry Briggs also lost their jobs as a result of their involvement with the case.


African American Experience Fund

The mission of the African American Experience Fund of the National Park Foundation is to preserve African American history by supporting education programs in National Parks that celebrate African American history and culture. There are 26 National Parks identified by the African American Experience Fund:

Last updated: March 21, 2023

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