August 30th, 1956
Riots Prevent School Desegregation in Mansfield, Texas
In 1956, Mansfield, Texas, was a small farming town of 1500 people. Its schools were strictly segregated and facilities for black students were run-down and under-funded. Before the start of the 1956-1957 school year, in compliance with a federal desegregation order and the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision barring racial segregation in schools, the Mansfield school board approved a plan to admit 12 black students to all-white Mansfield High School. However, many local white residents opposed integration and some took to the streets in protest.
On August 30, 1956, the first day of school, mobs of white pro-segregationists guarded Mansfield High School and patrolled the streets threatening to use guns and other weapons to prevent black children from registering. Outside the school, the mob hung an African American effigy at the top of the school’s flag pole and set it on fire. Attached to one pant leg of the effigy was a sign that read, “This Negro tried to enter a white school. This would be a terrible way to die.” On the other leg, a sign read, “Stay Away, Niggers.” A second effigy was hung on the front of the school building.
In response, Texas Governor Allan Shivers sent six Texas Rangers to Mansfield with instructions to “maintain law and order” and transfer any students “white or colored, whose attendance or attempts to attend Mansfield High School would be reasonably calculated to incite violence.” Soon afterward, the Mansfield School Board voted to “exhaust all legal remedies to delay segregation.” Though the United States Supreme Court in December 1956 rejected the Mansfield school district’s request to delay integration due to local opposition, resistance and non-compliance continued for years. Mansfield, Texas, public schools did not officially desegregate until 1965.