Case: Armstrong v. Board of Education of the City of Birmingham, Jefferson County, Ala.

60-cv-09678 | U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama

Filed Date: 1960

Closed Date: 1983

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

This case, which spanned from 1960 through 1983, concerned school desegregation in Birmingham, Alabama. The African-American plaintiffs, Birmingham barber James Armstrong and his children, brought this action in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama in 1960 to desegregate the schools of Birmingham, Alabama. They sued the Birmingham Board of Education in a class action suit. On May 28, 1963, Judge Seybourne Lynne denied injunctive relief, requiring plaintiffs to exhaust t…

This case, which spanned from 1960 through 1983, concerned school desegregation in Birmingham, Alabama.

The African-American plaintiffs, Birmingham barber James Armstrong and his children, brought this action in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama in 1960 to desegregate the schools of Birmingham, Alabama. They sued the Birmingham Board of Education in a class action suit.

On May 28, 1963, Judge Seybourne Lynne denied injunctive relief, requiring plaintiffs to exhaust the supposed remedies offered by the Alabama School Placement Law (a school choice law), following a course that it saw proper after the Supreme Court affirmed the decision in Shuttlesworth v. Birmingham Board of Education, upholding as facially constitutional the Alabama School Placement Law. Shuttlesworth v. Birmingham Board of Education, 162 F.Supp. 327 (N.D. Ala. 1958), aff'd 358 U.S. 101 (1958) (per curiam). Armstrong v. Birmingham Board of Education, 220 F.Supp. 217 (N.D. Ala. 1963).

The plaintiffs appealed Judge Lynne's decision to the Fifth Circuit, also asking for an injunction pending appeal, which they were granted. 323 F.2d 333 (5th Cir. July 12, 1963). In that opinion, the court of appeals held that the plaintiffs did not have to exhaust potential remedies under the state law before seeking relief in the federal courts. The injunction ordered the Board and the Superintendent to submit a plan to the court for desegregation by August 19, 1963.

On September 4, 1963, the first day of the new school year, Armstrong showed up with two of his children to register them at a previously all-white school.

On June 18, 1964, the Fifth Circuit ruled on the merits of plaintiffs' appeal. 333 F.2d 47 (5th Cir. 1964). The court vacated the district court's order denying injunctive relief and remanded it with instructions to require the school board to present a desegregation plan that met certain minimum standards across elementary, middle and high school. The court noted that after the earlier Court of Appeals decision, the Board had submitted an inadequate plan that did little beyond continue to accept voluntary transfers.

The next available document comes from 1977: The district court (at this point, Judge Guin) still had jurisdiction over the district's desegregation efforts. The opinion mentioned nothing of those on-going efforts though; the particular issue here concerned the firing of the Special Assistant to the Superintendent in the school district. The court reinstated him with back pay. 430 F.Supp. 595 (N.D. Ala. 1977).

According to news reports, Judge Guin dismissed the desegregation suit against Birmingham in 1983. We do not have additional information on what more was in issue.

Available Opinions

Armstrong v. Bd of Ed. of the City of Birmingham, 220 F.Supp. 217 (N.D. Ala. May 28, 1963) (denying preliminary injunction)

Armstrong v. Bd of Ed. of the City of Birmingham, 323 F.2d 333 (5th Cir. July 12, 1963) (granting preliminary injunction pending appeal and ordering Board to submit a desegregation plan)

Armstrong v. Bd of Ed. of the City of Birmingham, 333 F.2d 47 (5th Cir. June 18, 1964) (vacating ordering denying injunctive relief, remanding to district court with instructions to present adequate desegregation plan)

Summary Authors

Greg Margolis (2/23/2017)

People


Judge(s)

Gewin, Walter Pettus (Alabama)

Lynne, Seybourn Harris (Alabama)

Rives, Richard Taylor (Alabama)

Judge(s)

Gewin, Walter Pettus (Alabama)

Lynne, Seybourn Harris (Alabama)

Rives, Richard Taylor (Alabama)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

60-cv-09678

10188

Opinion

Armstrong v. Board of Education of the City of Birmingham

220 F.Supp. 217

May 28, 1963

May 28, 1963

Order/Opinion

20595

Opinion

Armstrong v. Board of Education of the City of Birmingham

U. S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

323 F.2d 333

July 12, 1963

July 12, 1963

Order/Opinion

20595

Opinion

Armstrong v. Board of Education of the City of Birmingham

U. S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

333 F.2d 47

July 18, 1964

July 18, 1964

Order/Opinion

Resources

Docket

Last updated Aug. 5, 2022, 3:26 a.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

Case Details

State / Territory: Alabama

Case Type(s):

School Desegregation

Key Dates

Filing Date: 1960

Closing Date: 1983

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

Plaintiffs included African-American school-aged children (through their parents) in Birmingham, Alabama.

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Attorney Organizations:

NAACP Legal Defense Fund

Public Interest Lawyer: No

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: Yes

Class Action Outcome: Granted

Defendants

Birmingham (Birmingham, Jefferson), City

Defendant Type(s):

Elementary/Secondary School

Jurisdiction-wide

Case Details

Causes of Action:

42 U.S.C. § 1983

Constitutional Clause(s):

Equal Protection

Availably Documents:

Any published opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order

Declaratory Judgment

Source of Relief:

Settlement

Litigation

Form of Settlement:

Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree

Order Duration: 1963 - 1983

Content of Injunction:

Monitor/Master

Student assignment

Preliminary relief granted

Issues

General:

Racial segregation

Discrimination-basis:

Race discrimination

Race:

Black

Type of Facility:

Government-run