Desegregation and Massive Resistance in Virginia

Lesson 2: Desegregation, Integration, Brown v. Board of Education

Time Estimated: 1 days



Students will:

  1. Demonstrate knowledge of twentieth-century Virginia by identifying the social and political events in Virginia linked to desegregation and Massive Resistance and their relationship to national history.
  2. Define the terms “integration” and “desegregation.”
  3. Recognize the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1954 that “separate but equal” public schools were unconstitutional (Brown v. Board of Education).







  1. Review the definition of “segregation.”
  2. Discuss responses to homework questions from Lesson One. Ask students, what if the water fountains pictured were equal? How would you feel if you were forced you drink at a water fountain that was separated from everyone? (Lead a discussion where students might grasp the critical point in Brown that separating people, even if the facilities are equal, conveys a feeling of inferiority)
  3. If time, show students the video “Out of Obscurity” so students will understand that courageous citizens in Alexandria tried to gain access to “whites only” libraries.
  4. Show students overhead or enlarged images of segregated classrooms, found at:

    Have students work in pairs to:
    • Study the details of the images
    • List the people, objects and activities taking place in the images
    • Describe the classroom buildings and equipment
    • Compare these schools to their own school
  5. Bring students together to discuss their findings
  6. Tell students that schools were segregated.
  7. Ask students how the images show that the school is probably not well-equipped.
  8. Ask students how they or their parents would react if they had to go to a school like those in the pictures. Why do their parents think education is so important?
  9. Describe the case of Brown v. Board of Education in narrative form, use and The Reader’s Companion to American History by Eric Foner and John A. Garraty for background information.
  10. Stress the fact that Brown v. Board of Education came about because Linda Brown, an African American child, was denied admission to the white neighborhood school and had to walk dozens of blocks to attend an African American school.
    • Tell students the case went to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1954.
    • Have students predict what the justices in the case decided about Linda Brown.
    • Explain the decision: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1954 that “separate but equal” public schools were unconstitutional.
    • Ask students what the opposite of “segregation” is.
    • Elicit from students that the opposite of “segregation” is allowing people of all races to have equal access to public facilities regardless of race.
    • Tell students the term is “integration.”
    • Tell students that the decision in Brown v. Board of Education required all public schools to “integrate.”
    • This process is called “desegregation”- the abolishment of racial segregation.
    • Students should write the definitions of “integration” and “desegregation” in their notebooks.
    • Homework: Ask students to write a paragraph predicting how white southerners and African Americans would react to the Brown decision to integrate all public schools (in preparation for Lesson 3 on Massive Resistance)




This lesson can be differentiated by showing students images of Linda Brown while telling the class about her case, showing images of the U.S. Supreme Court to clarify concepts of court cases and having guest speakers speak about their own experience attending a segregated school.