Alison Brown: Lawyer


I've been involved in a number of legal matters in Northern Virginia. For example, I handled the case that went to the Supreme Court about ten years ago which resulted in the Virginia Poll Tax being held unconstitutional as a condition of voting. The Supreme Court held that the poll tax discriminates against the poor people who couldn't afford to pay the tax. There were families in this area, in fact, the Burr family who live right next to the school over here on Quander Road, who were plaintiffs on the case.

I also handled the case that went to court about the segregated seating law that required blacks and whites to sit in different parts of theatres or auditoriums. We succeeded in getting that held unconstitutional.

I handled most of the litigation that resulted in the Fairfax County Schools being desegregated. It was a little over ten years ago that there was a segregated school system in this county and in 1959 we started the first law suit to bring about desegregation. That was five years after the Supreme Court decided the Brown case. The county hadn't done anything, but we began a process that took several years of litigation and community effort.

I also represented the parents of two black families that brought suit against private schools. It resulted last spring in the Supreme Court decision holding that private schools may not discriminate on the basis of race.

I've been a lawyer about 27 years. I work in labor, civil rights, civil liberties, and also I've been involved in community activities and community life here in northern Virginia. It has been a fact that public facilities (in black neighborhoods) have been neglected ever since the Civil War. Black people lived in one part of town and white people lived in another part. Martin Luther King said one time you could tell where the black part of town was in a southern community, because that is where the pavement stopped. That is really the way the situation has been in Fairfax County. The small black developments that are around the county have existed for many years from the days when the county was rural. Roads in the black communities, places like Gum Springs, have been in rather bad shape and a source of concern for a rather long time.

We brought suit to pave the roads and provide proper drainage in the black communities of the county. In 1972 we obtained an agreement that the county would pave some 75 roads in black communities over a three year period. They reneged on the agreement for a complicated legal reason and we had to go back to court and do some litigating.

We don't find some of the more direct kinds of discrimination that used to be the way we were 15 years ago in northern Virginia. Blacks do not have economic ways of getting into decent housing often times and are reluctant and concerned about hostility that they might receive. Housing is quite a problem for poor people both white and black. I'm sure you're familiar with problems in the high school, problems that people have to deal with every day and have to learn to cope with and try to understand.

Volume Two, Table of Contents
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