After the United States Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Brown ruling holding school segregation unconstitutional, the city of Grenada, Mississippi, continued to operate on a segregated school system.
In August of 1966, a federal judge ordered that Black students be allowed to enroll in formerly white-only schools. Approximately 450 African American students enrolled before the school year on September 2, 1966.
After Grenada’s school officials witnessed how many African American students had enrolled, the district postponed the school year by 10 days. White leaders in the community used the time to coerce black parents to pull their children out of the schools. Black parents who resisted were threatened with losing their jobs and being evicted from their homes. As a result, 200 students were pulled out of the school by their parents.
On September 12, 1966, the Grenada schools opened, and 250 African American students attempted to integrate the schools. A large white mob surrounded the school and turned away most of the African American students. As the students retreated, members of the mob pursued them through the streets, beating them with chains, pipes, and clubs.
The school let out around noon, and the mob returned to the school to attack the other African-American students who had successfully entered the school. The white female students were ordered to the office, and the white boys were dismissed along with the black students. Once outside, the black students were violently attacked, some of whom were hospitalized with broken bones or badly beaten.
The mob violence continued for several days, with no intervention from law enforcement. On September 16, a federal judge ordered protection for the students, and on September 17, 13 members of the mob were arrested by the FBI.