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Prince George's County Board of Education, 1955-1976

 Series 1

The Prince George's County Public Schools began moving toward desegregation shortly after the Supreme Court's 1954 ruling in Brown v. Board of Education. In 1955, the Prince George's County Board of Education adopted a "freedom of choice" desegregation plan in which students could attend their present segregated school or the school nearest their home. The Board's official policy regarding student school assignments was that "freedom of choice" remained in effect until 1965 when school attendance areas for most of the county's schools were redrawn "without regard to race." (For information on the implementation of this policy and its effect on the racial composition of Prince George's County Public Schools see the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights publication A Long Day's Journey into Light: School Desegregation in Prince George's County.)

In 1969, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare threatened to discontinue federal aid to the Prince George's County Public Schools if the Board of Education did not integrate Fairmont Heights Senior High School and Mary M. Bethune Junior High School. Fairmont Heights and Mary M. Bethune were "desegregated" in preparation for the 1970-1971 school year. However, citing the 1971 Supreme Court decision in Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare informed the Board of Education that its desegregation plans did not comply with federal law.

In 1972, Sylvester Vaughns, then president of the Prince George's County National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), filed suit against the Board of Education on behalf of his son, Sylvester Vaughns, Jr., with the assistance of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). As a result of the Vaughns suit, Judge Frank A. Kaufman ordered the Prince George's County Board of Education to use busing to achieve racial balance in the county schools. The county implemented the court-ordered desegregation plan on the first day of the second semester, January 29, 1973. Mandatory busing in Prince George's County ended in 1998.

The majority of the material in this collection documents the Prince George's County School Board's role in the desegregation of the county schools. The collection has been organized into a single series that includes the topical groupings: "Attendance Areas," "Community Response," "Federal Aid," "Lambda Corporation," "Litigation," "Staff Integration," "Student Transfers," and "Transportation." Within each grouping, all files are arranged alphabetically by folder heading. Documents not included in one of the above groupings were organized by format and integrated with the alphabetical arrangement of the groupings. For example, correspondence that does not directly relate to a grouping has been labeled "Correspondence" and is located in the alphabetical arrangement between "Community Response" and "Federal Aid." Within each folder material is arranged chronologically; all undated material appears after that dated.

"Attendance Areas" includes correspondence, maps, memoranda, an informational publication, and statistics documenting adjustments in the school attendance boundary lines. Attendance areas were evaluated by a Boundary Committee to offset overcrowding, maximize classroom space, and reduce the use of temporary buildings. Also included is information on the adjustment of attendance areas to comply with the Department of Health, Education and Welfare's mandate to desegregate Mary M. Bethune and Fairmont Heights in 1970.

"Community Response" documents the response of teachers, students, and community members to actions taken by the Prince George's County Board of Education. The grouping includes material on citizen committees formed to discuss and plan for integration of the public schools and the response of those affected by changes at Fairmont Heights and Largo High School.

"Federal Aid" consists of material related to the Prince George's County Public Schools' applications for and planned use of federal grant funding, including the Emergency School Aid Act and the Emergency School Assistance Program. In 1973, there was controversy over whether Prince George's County Public Schools should participate in federally funded programs with District of Columbia Schools. The Prince George's County Board of Education's attorney, Paul Nussbaum, advised that joint participation in federally funded programs could be used to force a merger of the two school systems in the future.

"Lambda Corporation" includes correspondence, memoranda, and reports related to the Lambda Corporation's involvement in the court-ordered integration of the school district in 1973. Lambda Corporation, founded in 1965, specialized in solving military and civilian problems in the areas of system analysis and computer modeling. Judge Frank A. Kaufman, who issued the order in Vaughns v. Board of Education, instructed the school board to cooperate with Lambda in developing a desegregation plan that minimized any additional busing of students.

"Litigation" is comprised of legal documents and other material related to court cases involving the Prince George's County Board of Education including Borders v. Board of Education, Vaughns v. Board of Education, and the Board's administrative proceedings with the Department of the Health, Education and Welfare. Also represented in this grouping is research material documenting national desegregation cases, including Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education.

"Staff Integration" consists of material documenting the integration of the staff and faculty of the Prince George's County Public Schools.

"Student Transfers" documents the Board of Education's transfer policy and includes statistics on the number of student transfers. The majority of the material included in this grouping relates to student transfers in response to the Board of Education's decision to integrate Fairmont Heights and Mary M. Bethune in 1970. The transfer requests of individual students are restricted.

"Transportation" includes correspondence, memoranda, statistics, and statements concerning the busing of students in Prince George's County.


  • 1955-1976

Use and Access to Collection

There are restricted files in this collection.


5.50 Linear Feet

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742