He Wouldn’t Allow Them To Make Black Youth Feel Disposable

When They Closed The Only Black High School, He Secretly Taught Students

Once they closed the only Black high school around, Black students were going to have to travel for MILES to receive a quality education. But he wasn’t going to let them get away with making Black students feel disposable – even if he had to break the law to do what was right!

In the 1940s, Virginius Thornton graduated valedictorian from West Point, Virginia’s  only Black high school. Soon after, the school board shut it down!
Now Black students, including Thornton’s younger sister, were expected to travel 32 miles a day for school. Thornton asked board members to reconsider, but they wouldn’t budge.

Thornton and his father tried enrolling his sister at the white school nearby, but were denied. Yet the board was quick to remind Black parents that children under 16 HAD to be enrolled in school, or parents could be arrested for “negligence.” Upon hearing this, Black parents protested against the board – but Thornton used a different tactic. Thornton co-created a makeshift underground school! Using the newly abandoned high school building, he taught eighth through eleventh grade students. Of course, the board members weren’t having it.

Thornton co-created a makeshift underground school! Using the newly abandoned high school building, he taught eighth through eleventh grade students.

Of course, the board members weren’t having it. 

The parents of Thornton’s students were jailed for 30 days, fined $200, and informed there’d be worse consequences if their children weren’t enrolled in the far-away school immediately!

While this felt like a loss, the experience opened Thornton’s eyes. He went on to be a co-founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), received his degree, and kept teaching – for over 30 years.

Today we still see inequity within education, particularly in school systems containing Black students. Like Thornton, we must invest in Black youth receiving quality education – even if it means taking matters into our own hands!

Originally shared from Push Black dot Org

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