Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

John Kneebone


A MATTER OF NATIONAL CONCERN examines the Kennedy Administration’s contribution to the restoration of public education in Prince Edward County, Virginia, and determines if those actions support the dominant narrative of Kennedy’s overall civil rights record – a historical assessment generally generated from a few acute crises. For five consecutive years (1959-1964), in defiance of federal court orders, the county board of supervisors refused to levy taxes to operate public schools, marking Prince Edward County as the only locale in the nation without free public education. The county leadership organized a segregated private school system for the 1,400 white children, but afforded no formal education for the 1,700 African American students. The Kennedy Administration inherited the Prince Edward County school situation – a crisis that threatened to cripple a generation, and, if replicated, destroy public education. In the Prince Edward County school dilemma, the Kennedy Administration took proactive measures, proved sympathetic to the plight of African Americans, challenged Virginia’s congressional delegation, and appointed federal judges that supported President Kennedy’s civil rights agenda. The Prince Edward County story generally, and the federal government’s actions specifically, have been virtually overlooked by historians. A MATTER OF NATIONAL CONCERN challenges scholars to re-evaluate the Kennedy Administration’s civil rights record by including all of the civil rights events of the Kennedy years, thus developing a thorough, comprehensive assessment. A MATTER OF NATIONAL CONCERN is the product of the study of unpublished archival documents, oral histories, interviews, newspaper reports, and secondary sources. This work was created using Microsoft Word 2003.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

August 2009

Included in

History Commons