Oral Histories: Remembering Brown v. Board of Education at 65


WATCH — A Brown v. Board Oral History: Joan Johns Cobbs Recalls the Virginia Student Strike That Helped Shape the Landmark School Segregation Case

May 14, 2019

Joan Johns Cobbs is the sister of Barbara Johns, who led a student body strike against segregation that led to Virginia’s Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, one of five court cases that was ultimately consolidated into Brown v. Board of Education.

Johns Cobbs grew up in Darlington Heights, Va., a tobacco farming community, where she and her siblings Barbara, Ernest, Roderick and Robert tilled the land and sawed down trees to help the family make a living.

In this interview, Johns Cobbs remembers the student body strike that led to Virginia’s participation in the landmark Supreme Court case. “One of the results of the strike and the suit was that my children were able to attend integrated schools,” she says.

Johns Cobbs later attended Howard University and worked at the United States Department of Agriculture as well as the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service. In 1972, she started to work for the Department of Justice, United States Marshals Service, and retired in 1995.

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Learn more about Johns Cobbs and the five cases that were ultimately merged into Brown v. Board and see more testimonials from the families who changed America’s schools at our new site: The74Million.org/Brown65.

Disclosure: The Walton Family Foundation provides financial support to The 74 and funded The Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence and Research in producing the new book Recovering Untold Stories: An Enduring Legacy of the Brown v. Board of Education Decision.


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