Schoolchildren, who registered at the Mansfield, Tex., High School, look at writings on a car along the school grounds.
Despite the 1954 “Brown v. Board Of Education” Supreme Court ruling, which struck down the segregation of public schools, a White mob in a small Texas town used violence to bar Black students from attending classes. On this day in 1956, 12 students were approved for registering in to Mansfield High School only to be met with racist taunts and burning effigies.
According to records, the small farming town of around 1,500 people housed schools for Black students that were not up to the standards set for Whites. Just before the start of the 1956-1957 school year, Mansfield’s school board honored the high court’s decision to allow the 12 students to attend the local high school. An angry mob of 400 pro-segregationists took to the streets brandishing guns and racist signs.
The Courier wrote in an opinion piece that then-Governor Allan Shivers was in the middle of a dogfight to win a third gubernatorial term in 1954, even calling his liberal opponent a “n-gger lover.” Using the Supreme Court’s decision and hopeful Ralph Yarborough‘s public support of desegregation, he was able to secure the White vote for his record third term.
A year later, the federal district court in Fort Worth ruled in favor of three Black teens who tried to enter Mansfield High but were denied. However, the judge left the final decision up to the town’s school board who later appealed. In frustration, judge Joseph E. Estes issued an order on August 27,1956, allowing the admittance of Black students.
Gov. Shivers sent six Texas Rangers not to escort the children in to the school, but to stave off any potential for violence. Effigies were hung, with one featuring a burned figure alongside a sign that read, “This Negro tried to enter the school.”
Even though Black residents watched over the students using an armed community watch faction, the students were redirected to a secondary school in Fort Worth. To add insult to injury, the students had to find their own way to the school, and it was not as modern as Mansfield.
The town resisted student integration and defied the constitutional law until 1965.