Anthony and Henry Lee were among fourteen black students who filed a lawsuit against the Macon County Board of Education in 1963 after being denied admission to the all-white Tuskegee High School.
Segregation in schools by race was abolished in the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision on May 16, 1954….nine years earlier.
Other lawsuits had been filed against school boards in Alabama, but this suit became the umbrella suit through which more than 100 school districts in Alabama would be ordered to integrate and report to the U.S. District Court on how they would successfully integrate our schools.
The case docket for this seminal and groundbreaking lawsuit has never been published until now.
The case docket is what might be referred to as the SparkNotes for the case. A quick summary of each event in the case is entered into a case docket.
This first document is from the U.S. District Court’s Middle District of Alabama, where the case originated.
The content needs no explanation nor annotation. You just have to start from the beginning.
On March 31, 1970 (page 103 of the PDF), the oversight for many of the school districts was transferred to the Northern District.
Over the next few months, all of the individual school districts were transferred out of being recorded in this docket.
By August of 1970, this docket no longer reflected activity in the individual school districts, but did record activity in the trade and junior college arena, as well as activity related to the Alabama High School Athletic Association.
Orders directed at the State Department of Education also continued to be reflected in this docket.
The Northern District Docket
Here is the Northern District’s docket for Lee v. Macon. This docket, though it spans 41 pages, covers only a two-year period, from April 15, 1970, through August 9, 1973.
It starts with the transfer of the individual school districts to the Northern District from the Middle District.
At the point where this docket ends, each school district was given its own docket, and a few districts were assigned to each federal judge for monitoring and oversight.
I am working to find those dockets and will share as many as possible in the coming weeks.
I hope to find the Southern District’s main docket as well.
The amount of activity in these cases reveals just how difficult and how resistant the power structure in Alabama was to integrating our public schools.
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
— George Santayana, The Life of Reason, 1905