NBC's Frank McGee interviews Harry Briggs, Jr., one of the student plaintiffs in the Brown v. Board of Education case.
Integration in Summerton, South Carolina
CHET HUNTLEY, narrating: This is South Carolina, Summerton, South Carolina. A country crossroads and the rich soil, isolated in time and space, and given to old ways. But not always uncritically, there is a white high school in Summerton. There is a colored high school in Summerton. Among the students here is Harry Briggs Jr., a plaintiff before the district courts and before the Supreme Court of the United States.
FRANK McGEE, reporting: Harry, how old were you when all of this happened?
HARRY BRIGGS, Plaintiff “Brown vs. Board of Education”: I was 13 years old.
McGEE: You would have been in the seventh grade?
HARRY BRIGGS: Yes, sir.
McGEE: What did you feel about it?
HARRY BRIGGS: Well at first I didn’t know too much about it.
McGEE: How do you feel about it now?
HARRY BRIGGS: I’m past the case.
McGEE: Mrs. Briggs how did it happen that Harry became part of this first Supreme Court School Segregation case?
Mrs. BRIGGS, mother of Harry Briggs: Before the Supreme Court passed its decision, a group of parents met and asked the board for more room for their children.
McGEE: This was at the school?
Mrs. BRIGGS: Yes, and after they had not decided to do so, then this petition we signed asking for a better school for their children.
McGEE: What was wrong with the school?
Mrs. BRIGGS: Well it didn’t have enough room. First grade had, at the time, of enrollment 101.
McGEE: Did your husband sign this petition?
Mrs. BRIGGS: Yes, he did sign the petition.
McGEE: And what happened to him after that?
Mrs. BRIGGS: Right after he signed the petition, they told him unless he take his name off that he would lose his job.
McGEE: I see. Did he take his name off?
Mrs. BRIGGS: No, he didn’t.
McGEE: And did he lose his job?
Mrs. BRIGGS: Yes he did lose his job.
McGEE: I see, when your husband found he was going to loose his job did he come home and talk to you about it?
Mrs. BRIGGS: Well, he don’t hardly talk very much about things that you say to him. But he did mention to me about it.
McGEE: What did you tell him?
Mrs. Briggs: Well, I told him you are only doing this for the development of the children. Not just our children, but all of the children. And that he was the only one who had his name on the petition.
McGEE: Did you ever ask him to take his name off?
Mrs. BRIGGS: No, I never asked him to take his name off.
McGEE: Do you wish now that you did?
Mrs. BRIGGS: No, I don’t.
McGEE: Mrs. Briggs how does it happen that Harry is not going to an integrated school?
Mrs. BRIGGS: We don’t have integrated schools, the Supreme Court leave it to the local court, and the local court hasn’t done anything about it.
McGEE: Well, with your husband away working in Florida and Harry still attending a segregated school here, why do you continue to live here in Summerton?
Mrs. BRIGGS: I don’t know in the future what may be, I don’t know if we will still live here or go away.
HUNTLEY, anchor: And so five names have gone into the history books: Belton, Bolling, Briggs, Brown, and Davis. Forever associated with a decision which will affect the lives of their grandchildren’s grandchildren, and yours and mine. You’ll notice among these names four begin with the initial B and one with the initial D.
When the first petitions where filed before the first courts each carried many names and as the petitions moved up through the state and federal courts the number of petitions was cut down. And each was field in the name of the first petitioner, the first in alphabetical order. And that is how history is made.
Editor's Note: Though slavery ended in 1865, legalized racial segregation quickly followed. Racial segregation had been allowed in 1896 by the United States Supreme Court case of Plessy v. Ferguson, which said that as long as the separate facilities for the separate races were equal, segregation did not violate the 14th Amendment.