Brown vs. Board of Education (1928)

Charleston Gazette
April 13, 1928

Hudson Denies Negroes Use of Public Library

Circuit Judge Rules It Is Part of School System And That Board Has Right to Segregate Races.

Says Such Proceedings Are Always Regretable

Advises Plaintiffs That If Their Library Is Inadequate to Seek Better Facilities of Board.

Declaring that in the opinion of the court the legislature had made the Charleston public library a part of the public school system, and that under the law the board of education has the right to provide separate libraries as well as separate school buildings for white and colored, Judge A. P. Hudson, of the Kanawha circuit court, yesterday sustained a motion to quash an alternative writ of mandamus directed against the board of education of the Charleston independent school district to compel the board to permit negroes to use the main public library.

The case was styled Anderson H. Brown, E. L. Powell and William W. Sanders against the Charleston independent board of education. The plaintiffs were represented by T. G. Nutter, former members of the house of delegates, and C. E. Kimbrough, while the board of education was represented by former State Senator George E. Price and R. S. Spillman.

The plaintiffs' counsel argued that the action of the board of education in denying the use of the main library to negroes was not in accordance with the Fourteenth amendment to the federal constitution, that as the negroes contributed to the establishment and support of the library, they were entitled to equal benefits, and that the denial to them of their rights would engender race prejudices.

No Violation

Attorneys for the board contended that the board's action in maintaining separate libraries for negroes and whites was not a violation of either national or state constitutions, nor did it deprive negroes of equal rights.

Granting that the library for the negroes is inadequate, it was declared, the proper remedy was not to require the board to open the main library to colored people, but to require the board to provide an adequate library for negroes.

At the close of the arguments Judge Hudson gave an informal oral opinion as follows: "The court is of the opinion that the action of the board of education in this matter is controlled by the special acts of the legislature referred to in the return filed in this case; and in construing said acts the court is bound by the public policy of the state of West Virginia, as expressed by the constitution and the statutes, to the effect that here shall be maintained separate educational facilities for white and colored pupils.

Separate Library Proper

"It is the opinion of the court that the acts of the legislature referred to make the public library a part of the public school system of the city of Charleston, and under the laws of this state, as expressed in the constitution and acts of the legislature, it is proper for the board to provide separate library buildings, as well as separate school buildings for white and colored persons.

"The board is required under the law to provide adequate library facilities for both white and colored citizens; but if the facilities furnished the colored citizens are inadequate, as alleged, the remedy is not, as sought in this writ, to require the board to open the "annex" library to the colored people. The proper remedy would be by procedure to require the board to furnish the colored people an adequate library. The board is bound under the law to furnish adequate facilities to each race.

"Such proceedings as this are always regretable in any community, and especially so in the city of Charleston where the relations between the white and colored citizens have always been most harmonious. Under the facts as they appear from the record it seems to the court that the board of education during the period in question has at all times been attentive in providing proper library facilities for the colored people, and that their interests in that regard are not being neglected. That, however, is not in issue here; the only question before the court is the right of the colored citizens to use the "annex" library, which the board has designated for exclusive use by the whites.

"The motion to quash the alternative writ will be sustained. The court would be inclined the overrule the demurrer to the return, but inasmuch as the motion to quash has been sustained it is unnecessary at this time to pass on the sufficiency of the return.

"An order may be prepared accordingly."

African Americans

West Virginia Archives and History