Timeline: Desegregation of Girard College


1953


July 6: Raymond Pace Alexander requests that Philadelphia City Council go on record opposing segregation at Girard College.

July 7: The Board of City Trusts, which administers Stephen Girard’s estate, states that it is merely honoring the terms of his will by excluding African-American students.  At the behest of the Commission on Human Relations, City Solicitor Abraham L. Freedman studies options for altering the will to end segregation.

July 23: Raymond Pace Alexander introduces a resolution in City Council that calls on the Board of City Trusts to admit African-American students to Girard College.


1954

 
March 23: The Board of City Trusts rejects the applications of six African-American boys, citing the requirements of Stephen Girard’s will; Raymond Pace Alexander promises to file suit challenging the will.

May 20: In the wake of the Brown vs. Board of Education decision, City Council resolves that all boys should be admitted to Girard College regardless of race or color and announces its intention to petition the Orphans’ Court to interpret Stephen Girard’s will in light of the resolution.

September 24: On behalf of Mayor Clark and the Commission on Human Relations, the City petitions the Orphans’ Court, requesting an end to the racial restrictions at Girard College and a reinterpretation of Girard’s will in light of changing social and political circumstances.


1955 


July 29: Judge Robert V. Bolger of the Philadelphia Orphans’ Court upholds the Board of City Trust’s decision to deny admission to two African-American boys, citing the guidelines codified in Stephen Girard’s will.

September 14: Raymond Pace Alexander appeals Judge Bolger’s decision and argues that he erred in failing to find the school’s segregation policy “contrary to the accepted and recognized standards of American educational philosophy.”


1956 


November 12: On appeal, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania upholds the Orphans’ Court decision.  


1957 


April 29: Without hearing oral arguments, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously reverses the ruling by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.  The Court finds that the racial ban on admissions at Girard College constitutes racial discrimination by the state of Pennsylvania and violates the 14th Amendment.

September 11: In an effort to circumvent the integration of Girard College following the Supreme Court’s ruling, the Orphans’ Court removes the Board of City Trusts as trustee of Stephen Girard’s estate.

October 4: The Orphans’ Court appoints 13 new trustees for Girard College, effectively making the school a private institution.


1958 


January 24: The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania upholds the appointment of the 13 new Girard College trustees.

June 30: The U.S. Supreme Court upholds the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision regarding the Girard trustees.  As a private institution, Girard College can determine its own admissions policies.


1961

 
December 14: Floyd L. Logan, President of the Educational Equality League, petitions Governor David L. Lawrence to force Girard College to drop its racial restrictions.


1964


May 25: Cecil B. Moore, President of the Philadelphia chapter of the NAACP, announces another attempt to integrate Girard College and warns of possible picketing.


1965


May 1: Led by the local NAACP, picketing begins outside Girard College.

June 24: As the eighth week of picketing begins, City Solicitor Edward G. Bauer, Jr., calls on the state to initiate a joint court action to desegregate Girard College.

July 12: Governor Scranton meets with Mayor James Tate and Girard trustee John A. Diemand about the protests at Girard and possible approaches to challenging Stephen Girard’s will in court.  Cecil B. Moore, who is not invited to the meeting, leads a protest at the State Office Building and refuses to call off the pickets while a case makes its way through the courts.

August 3: On a visit to Philadelphia, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., addresses demonstrators at Girard College.

September 23: Governor Scranton appoints William T. Coleman, Jr., and Charles J. Biddle as special counsel for the Commonwealth to pursue the Girard issue in court.

October 25: Anticipating that the state will file a legal challenge to Girard’s will, Raymond Pace Alexander urges Moore to end picketing at Girard.

December 16: A suit challenging Girard College’s admissions policy is filed in U.S. District Court by city and state officials, as well as the mothers of seven African-American boys seeking admission to the school.  

December 17: Picketing at Girard College ends after seven months of protests.


1966


January 4: The Girard College trustees file a motion to dismiss the U.S. District Court suit, asserting that these issues were already settled in previous Orphans’ Court rulings.

September 2: U.S. District Court Judge Joseph S. Lord rules that, under Pennsylvania law, African Americans cannot be excluded from Girard College on the basis of race.

October 8: Picketing resumes at Girard College after the trustees vote to appeal Judge Lord’s decision concerning the admission of African-American students.

November 19: The Third Circuit Court of Appeals issues a stay on the admission of African-American students at Girard College until the appeal is decided by the court.


1967


February 28: The Third Circuit Court of Appeals strikes down Judge Lord’s previous ruling, concluding that the case should be decided according to constitutional rights rather than state law.

July 5: Judge Lord rules that the seven African-American students seeking admission to Girard College were denied equal protection under the 14th Amendment and concludes that they cannot be denied admission to Girard because of their race.


1968


March 7: The Third Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upholds Judge Lord’s ruling that the seven students be admitted to Girard College.

May 20: The U.S. Supreme Court refuses to hear an appeal of the Third Circuit Court ruling, thus paving way for the integration of Girard College.

May 23: The Girard trustees vote to admit African-American students to the school.

June 24: An estimated crowd of 600 attend a victory rally at Girard College.


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