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Half-Measure Pearsall Plan Target of Critics

A newspaper headline announcing the vote.On September 8, 1956, voters approved a set of education initiatives known as the Pearsall Plan by a wide margin.

The initiatives had been proposed by an advisory committee on education tasked by Governors William Umstead and Luther Hodges to respond to the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision on school segregation.

The committee concluded that integration “should not be attempted” since there was not enough support for it statewide and recommended that the power for assigning students to schools be moved to the local level.

Two other components in the bill allowed residents to call for a referendum on whether their local schools should be integrated and pledged the state to pay private school tuition for students unhappy with their assignment.

Though the plan was opposed by civil rights advocates for blocking court-mandated integration and by ardent segregationists for not doing enough to prevent it, it passed by a wide margin. Most of the components were never invoked and it was ultimately struck down as unconstitutional by a federal court after a 1966 challenge by renowned civil rights attorney Julius Chambers.

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