Brown vs. Board of Education (1928)

Charleston Gazette
March 30, 1928

Negroes Seek Court Order Authorizing Their Use of Charleston Public Library

Claiming Library Set Aside At Garnett School Is Inadequate, and That Colored People Support General Library With Their Tax Money, They Obtain Alternative Writ From Judge Hudson Directing School Board to Answer Petition April 5.

Mandamus proceedings were started yesterday in Kanawha circuit court to compel the board of education of Charleston independent school district and officials of the Charleston public library to permit the use of the main library in the former Capitol annex building by colored people. The petition was filed by Anderson H. Brown, E. L. Powell, and William W. Sand[line missing] colored school children, presented to the court by Attorneys T. G. Nutter and C. E. Kimbrough, and directed against the boad of education which has control of the library. The alternative writ of mandamus asked for by the petitioners was granted by Judge A. P. Hudson sitting in special term, returnable April 5, at which time the school board will have an opportunity to show cause, if any, why the mandamus prayed for should not be allowed by the court.

The petition filed by the two colored attorneys on behalf of their clients is a long typewritten document going into the history of the establishment of the library and its branches, setting forth that the library and its branched were acquired, established and maintained through monies laid upon all taxable property in the district; that they are public libraries; that all citizens and inhabitants of the district are entitled to use thereof; that the board has no right or authority to prevent use of the library and its branches by any residents or inhabitants of the district; that the board has no right or authority to limit use of the library or its branches to the white school children and white citizens, or to deny use of the library or its branches to the petitioners or the other colored citizens or inhabitants of the district.

Say Rights Are Denied

The petitioners assert that the board, its agents and servants are enforcing rules, regulations and resolutions adopted and promulgated by it in the conduct of the library and its branches, in that they are denying to the petitioners and to the other colored citizens and inhabitants of the district the use of the public library.

Continuing, the petition recites that the Charleston public library maintained in that certain building referred to as the Capitol Annex building, was purchased, equipped and maintained at public expense and through taxation of all the property of the district, established as a public library subject to use as such as the citizens and inhabitants may desire; that the board, its agents and servants beginning about the month of December, 1927, refused to permit the petitioners and all the other colored citizens and inhabitants of the district to use the public library, and ever since and still refusing.

Have Separate Libraries

The statement is made in the petition that T. G. Nutter communicated with the board of education, February 9, 1926, concerning the refusal referred to, and received a reply from E. A. Babcock, clerk of the school board, explaining that the board has separate libraries for white and colored citizens, citing the Garnett library for colored, and declines to rescind its order to that effect. Then, the petition continues, the public library was visited by these representatives of the colored citizens on a blank date in March, 1928, to procure books, papers and magazines, for the purpose of reading the same in the public library, but was refused the books and refused the privilege of sitting in the library by those in charge; in the language of the petition, "because of the fact that your petitioners are of the negro race and commonly designated as colored people, and did inform your petitioners that they could not use the said library or books therein because of the fact that the petitioners are colored."

Garnett Library Inadequate

The petition further declares that all colored school children, colored citizens and taxpayers are deprived of the benefits and privileges of the Charleston public library because of said refusal. The petition mentions that there are about 7,000 colored people in Charleston independent school district, including all the colored taxpayers deprived the use of the library, though required to contribute large sums for the support and maintenance. The Garnett library, set apart for use of colored people, is referred to in the petition as small, inadequate, poorly equipped and supplied with books.

In conclusion the petitioners express the opinion that the action of the school board and library officials and employees in withholding the privileges of the Charleston public library from colored citizens of Charleston independent school district are violating section one of the fourteenth amendment to the constitution of the United States and certain sections of the constitution of West Virginia.

African Americans

West Virginia Archives and History