On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Brown v. Board of Education, declaring racially segregated public schools unconstitutional. In August 1954, a petition was submitted to the Milford Board of Education requesting integration. A plan for gradual desegregation was adopted, and on September 8, eleven African-American 10th grade students were admitted to the district’s High School at this location. On September 17, approximately 1500 persons met to discuss the situation. Many signed a petition opposing the action. This was the first overt public resistance to integration since the Brown ruling. The school was closed the following Monday so that a public meeting could be held. A large crowd gathered to express their opposition, and the closure of the schools was extended. Failing to receive the support of the State Board of Education, members of the Milford Board resigned. On September 26, several thousand people attended rallies organized by segregationist Bryant Bowles advocating a boycott of the schools. Less than one third of the students attended when the schools reopened. The boycott spread, and several Sussex County schools were closed as a result. With the national media focused on events in Delaware, two of the members of the Milford Board resumed their positions and appointed replacements for the others. The Board reconvened on September 30, and decided to remove the eleven students “in the interest of the welfare of the children and the community as a whole.” Eight years would pass before integration of Milford’s schools was resumed.
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The Delaware Public Archives operates a historical markers program as part of its mandate. Markers are placed at historically significant locations and sites across the state. For more information on this program, please contact Sarah Denison at (302) 744-5016 or via email at Sarah.Denison@state.de.us..
LOCATION: Milford, Milford Middle School, 612 Lakeview Avenue