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Case Name Henry v. Clarksdale Municipal Separate School District SD-MS-0006
Docket / Court 2:64-cv-00028-MPM ( N.D. Miss. )
State/Territory Mississippi
Case Type(s) School Desegregation
Attorney Organization NAACP Legal Defense Fund
Case Summary
This school desegregation case began in 1964 and remains open as of 2021. It involves the efforts to desegregate the Clarksdale Municipal Separate School District, now known as the Clarksdale Municipal School District (CMSD). Plaintiffs, Black students and their families, filed the lawsuit in the U ... read more >
This school desegregation case began in 1964 and remains open as of 2021. It involves the efforts to desegregate the Clarksdale Municipal Separate School District, now known as the Clarksdale Municipal School District (CMSD). Plaintiffs, Black students and their families, filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi and argued that CMSD's geographic zoning system perpetuated a dual school system. The plaintiffs were represented by notable civil rights attorneys Melvyn Leventhal, Derrick Bell Jr., Henry Aronson, Jack Greenberg, James Nabrit III, Melvyn Zarr, R. Jess Brown, and Conrad K. Harper.

Desegregation

The first district court opinion is not available digitally. However, the Court of Appeals opinion describes that the district court found the geographic zoning system did not desegregate schools, even though CMSD acted in good faith when drawing its attendance zones. 409 F.2d 682, 684 (5th Cir. 1969). As a result of the geographic zoning, not a single child in Clarksdale attended a school with students of a different race. Plaintiffs filed this lawsuit to attend the all-white Clarksdale High School because they argued they were not receiving an equal education at the all-Black high school, W.A. Higgins High School. The Fifth Circuit held that since the geographic zoning prohibited substantial integration, the CMSD school board had to consider redrawing its attendance zones, incorporating transfer provisions in its desegregation plan, closing all-Black schools, consolidating and pairing schools, rotating school principals, or any other measures that could promote integration.

CMSD then petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari, which was denied. 396 U.S. 940 (1969). Apparently on remand, the district court disapproved CMSD's desegregation plan; in 1970, there were cross-appeals from that district court order. The Fifth Circuit held that CMSD had to create a desegregation plan for all grades in the school district starting in September 1970. The plan had to focus on the goal of producing a unitary system and a special master was to be appointed to ensure CMSD followed through with the court's order. 425 F.2d 698 (5th Cir. 1970). On remand, a special master wrote a report; the district court and then the Fifth Circuit approved that plan later the same year. 433 F.2d 387 (5th Cir. 1970). The desegregation plan focused on assigning elementary school students to schools outside of their home attendance zone and sending them to elementary schools in adjacent attendance zones.

The plaintiffs later requested to have transportation provided to students living more than one and a half miles from their assigned schools under the desegregation plan. The district court (in another unavailable opinion) granted the plaintiffs' request. This decision was affirmed by the Fifth Circuit. 480 F.2d 583 (5th Cir. 1973).

In 1978, the plaintiffs' attorneys sought an attorney's fee award. The district court (in an unavailable opinion) held that the attorneys were not entitled to an award for any fees incurred before July 1, 1972. The plaintiffs' attorneys then appealed. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. 579 F.2d 916 (5th Cir. 1978), reh'g en banc denied, 586 F.2d 842 (5th Cir. 1978), aff’d, 647 F.2d 1116 (5th Cir. 1981).

CMSD filed a motion on April 18, 1979 to dismiss the case. This motion was denied by the district court on July 19, 1979. Later that year, the plaintiffs filed a motion to designate new representative plaintiffs to maintain the class action lawsuit. This motion was granted on September 28, 1979.

Throughout the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, CMSD submitted annual reports to the district court. The court granted orders throughout this period regarding elementary student assignment, the creation of a biracial commission, and changing the CMSD attendance zones.

Magnet and Charter Schools

In 2013, CMSD filed a motion to amend/correct prior orders related to the desegregation of CMSD to allow for magnet school implementation. This motion was granted by District Judge Michael P. Mills on June 11, 2013. Judge Mills described how none of the plaintiffs were still living in Clarksdale in 2013 and how the magnet school implementation would not impact the racial balance in the schools because its objective was to improve the quality of education in Clarksdale. CMSD filed another motion to amend/correct prior orders related to the desegregation of CMSD to “allow certain changes in the magnet school program.” This motion was granted by Judge Mills on June 1, 2016. On March 28, 2017, another motion was made to amend/correct prior orders related to the desegregation to allow certain changes in the magnet schools. Judge Mills granted the motion on April 4.

There was also an effort to open a charter school in Clarksdale. On October 13, 2017, charter school opponents filed a supplemental complaint and a motion for a temporary restraining order to stop the State of Mississippi from rating local schools. Apparently, the movants feared that school ratings would reveal that Clarksdale's schools were underperforming, which could result in the establishment of a charter school.

Judge Mills denied the motion on October 19. Judge Mills pointed out that the school system, which was named as a defendant in the lawsuit, was actually better positioned to be a plaintiff on this issue and that the State of Mississippi, which was rating the schools, should be the defendant. This brought up jurisdictional issues for the Court. He also pointed out that even if a temporary restraining order preventing the rating of schools were to issue, it was unclear that the order would actually prevent a charter school from being established.

Judge Mills explained that it would be preferable for any persons who thought they had standing to file a separate lawsuit, rather than raise charter school issues in the current case. Finally, Judge Mills brought up the fact that the school rating process had little to do with the current desegregation case filed in 1964. In order to be relevant, the plaintiffs would “have to persuade this court that 1) the State of Mississippi, a non-party to this action, is bound by the prior orders in this case and 2) that its establishment of a charter school would serve to re-segregate Clarksdale schools,” which they had not. 2017 WL 4701050.

A notice of appeal to the Fifth Circuit appears on the docket on October 20. On December 6, 2017, the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit dismissed the appeal for want of prosecution. On January 30, 2018, the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit granted a motion to reopen the appeal, and on June 1, 2018, an appellate brief was filed. On August 31, 2018, the Court of Appeals upheld the denial of the temporary restraining order and the preliminary injunction on the grounds that the trial court had correctly denied relief because the plaintiffs were not joined in the litigation, and the plaintiffs did not seem to have been injured so as to attain standing. Finally, “in the absence of party defendants” it did not seem possible for the plaintiffs to obtain redress. The motions for attorney's fees and “reactivation of the Bi-Racial Committee” were denied. The plaintiffs sought a panel rehearing with the Fifth Circuit, which was also denied. 736 Fed. Appx. 91 (Mem).

The district court retains jurisdiction over implementation of the desegregation order; the case is ongoing as of February, 2021.


Available Opinions
Henry v. Clarksdale Mun. Separate Sch. Dist., 409 F.2d 682 (5th Cir. 1969).
Henry v. Clarksdale Mun. Separate Sch. Dist., 425 F.2d 698 (5th Cir. 1970).
Henry v. Clarksdale Mun. Separate Sch. Dist., 433 F.2d 387 (5th Cir. 1970).
Henry v. Clarksdale Mun. Separate Sch. Dist., 480 F.2d 583 (5th Cir. 1973).
Henry v. Clarksdale Mun. Separate Sch. Dist., 579 F.2d 916 (5th Cir. 1978).
Henry v. Clarksdale Mun. Separate Sch. Dist., 2017 WL 4701050 (N.D. Miss. 2017).
Henry v. Clarksdale Mun. Separate Sch. Dist., 736 Fed. Appx. 91 (Mem). (5th Cir. 2018).

Amelia Huckins - 02/19/2017
Samuel Poortenga - 02/25/2021


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Equal Protection
Content of Injunction
Busing
Develop anti-discrimination policy
Discrimination Prohibition
Magnet school
Monitoring
Recordkeeping
Student assignment
Defendant-type
Elementary/Secondary School
Jurisdiction-wide
Discrimination-area
Zoning
Discrimination-basis
Race discrimination
General
Education
Racial segregation
School/University policies
Transportation
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Race
Black
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Clarksdale Municipal Separate School District
Plaintiff Description Plaintiffs were African-American students who wanted to enroll at the formerly all-white Clarksdale High School.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations NAACP Legal Defense Fund
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 1964 - n/a
Filed 04/22/1964
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  Desegregation: How It Happened in Clarksdale, Mississippi
By: Brian K. Hornbuckle (The University of Mississippi Student)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Court Docket(s)
N.D. Miss.
02/01/2010
2:64-cv-00028
SD-MS-0006-9001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Miss.
10/17/2018
2:64-cv-28
SD-MS-0006-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
U.S. Court of Appeals
03/06/1969
Opinion (409 F.2d 682)
SD-MS-0006-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Westlaw
U.S. Court of Appeals
04/15/1970
Opinion (425 F.2d 698)
SD-MS-0006-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Westlaw
U.S. Court of Appeals
08/12/1970
Opinion (433 F.2d 387)
SD-MS-0006-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Westlaw
U.S. Court of Appeals
06/22/1973
Opinion (480 F.2d 583)
SD-MS-0006-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Westlaw
U.S. Court of Appeals
10/07/1978
Opinion (579 F.2d 916)
SD-MS-0006-0006.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Westlaw
N.D. Miss.
03/28/2013
Motion to Amend Prior Orders Related to the Desegregation of the Clarksdale Municipal School District, to Allow the Implementation of "Magnet Schools" [ECF# 2]
SD-MS-0006-0007.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Miss.
06/11/2013
Order Granting Motion to Amend Prior Orders Relating to the Desegregation of the Clarksdale Municipal School District . . . [ECF# 5]
SD-MS-0006-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: Pro Publica
N.D. Miss.
10/19/2017
Order [ECF# 18] (2017 WL 4701050)
SD-MS-0006-0009.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
U.S. Court of Appeals
08/31/2018
Opinion (736 Fed.Appx. 91)
SD-MS-0006-0011.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Westlaw
show all people docs
Judges Coleman, James Plemon (Fifth Circuit) show/hide docs
SD-MS-0006-0003 | SD-MS-0006-0005 | SD-MS-0006-0006
Cox, William Harold (S.D. Miss.) show/hide docs
SD-MS-0006-0002
Fay, Peter Thorp (S.D. Fla., Fifth Circuit, Eleventh Circuit) show/hide docs
SD-MS-0006-0006
Higginson, Stephen Andrew (Fifth Circuit) show/hide docs
SD-MS-0006-0011
Jones, Edith Hollan (Fifth Circuit) show/hide docs
SD-MS-0006-0011
Mills, Michael P. (N.D. Miss.) show/hide docs
SD-MS-0006-0001 | SD-MS-0006-0009 | SD-MS-0006-9000
Reavley, Thomas Morrow (Fifth Circuit) show/hide docs
SD-MS-0006-0011
Simpson, John Milton Bryan (S.D. Fla., Eleventh Circuit, M.D. Fla., Fifth Circuit) show/hide docs
SD-MS-0006-0003 | SD-MS-0006-0004 | SD-MS-0006-0005
Thornberry, William Homer (W.D. Tex., Fifth Circuit) show/hide docs
SD-MS-0006-0002
Tjoflat, Gerald Bard (M.D. Fla., Fifth Circuit, Eleventh Circuit) show/hide docs
SD-MS-0006-0006
Wisdom, John Minor (Fifth Circuit) show/hide docs
SD-MS-0006-0002 | SD-MS-0006-0003 | SD-MS-0006-0005
Plaintiff's Lawyers Aronson, Henry M. (Connecticut) show/hide docs
SD-MS-0006-0002
Banks, Fred L. Jr. (Mississippi) show/hide docs
SD-MS-0006-0001 | SD-MS-0006-9000 | SD-MS-0006-9001
Bell, Derrick A. Jr. (New York) show/hide docs
SD-MS-0006-0002
Brown, Jessica Ruszkiewicz (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
SD-MS-0006-0002
Chambliss, Alvin O. (Mississippi) show/hide docs
SD-MS-0006-0011 | SD-MS-0006-9000
Greenberg, Jack (New York) show/hide docs
SD-MS-0006-0002
Harper, Conrad K. (New York) show/hide docs
SD-MS-0006-0002
Nabrit, James M. III (New York) show/hide docs
SD-MS-0006-0002
Zarr, Melvyn (New York) show/hide docs
SD-MS-0006-0002
Defendant's Lawyers Cocke, John H. (Mississippi) show/hide docs
SD-MS-0006-0001 | SD-MS-0006-0007 | SD-MS-0006-0011 | SD-MS-0006-9000 | SD-MS-0006-9001
Luckett, Semmes (Mississippi) show/hide docs
SD-MS-0006-0002 | SD-MS-0006-9001
Maynard, William H (Mississippi) show/hide docs
SD-MS-0006-9001

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