Pictured above: Artist Norman Lee of RE:Site at the dedication
Flatiron Park, Norfolk, VA
114 W. Charlotte St., Norfolk, VA 23510
See photos from the dedication
Massive Resistance was a policy adopted in 1956 by Virginia’s state government to block the desegregation of public schools mandated by the Supreme Court in its 1954 ruling in the case of Brown v. Board of Education. In 1958, the US District Court issued a desegregation decree affecting six white public schools in Norfolk, VA. An attempt to substitute public education with segregated private academies ensued which was totally inadequate in the face of Norfolk’s ten thousand displaced white students. Most of ‘The Lost Class of 1959’ went without schooling. In 1959, court rulings found the public school closings unconstitutional. In February 1959, after being closed for six months, seventeen black students who became known as ‘The Norfolk 17’ were finally permitted to enroll in public schools after extensive mental, emotional, and psychological testing. In the state of Virginia as a whole, not until 1964, did a US Supreme Court ruling finally reopen all public schools. Only after a 1968 US Supreme Court ruling, Green et a. v. County School board of New Kent County overturned a “freedom of choice” plan did large-scale desegregation begin to take place. Media reported a peaceful, uneventful first day of school when in actuality, ‘The Norfolk 17’ endured harassment, isolation, and threats, but kept their experiences private to protect the desegregation effort.
The City of Norfolk commissioned Texas based public artist team, RE-site, Shane Albritton and Norman Lee, to create “End of Massive Resistance”, to honor the voices of those who struggled for justice, freedom and human dignity during this time.
An 8’ tall x 57’ long wall with a graded transformation of brick to glass explores the concept of breaking down the barrier of a school building wall and the beginning of an end to segregated education. A historic photographic timeline of events and text includes “Seventeen Ways” a poem local Norfolk, VA poet and former Poet Laureate of Virginia, Tim Seibles collaborated with surviving members of ‘The Norfolk 17’ to write. Read Seventeen Ways by Tim Seibels Sunlight penetrating the glass bricks symbolizes the triumph of social justice. Opaque bricks near the end of the wall, gesture towards the ongoing work of creating equitable schools.
RE:site specializes in creating public art, memorials and commemorative spaces that connect the past with the present by inspiring shared experiential moments, collaborative viewership, curiosity, discovery and dialog. RE:site is passionate about helping communities honor difficult histories and evoke emotions through art.
View the approved design proposal by Re:Site:
End of Massive Resistance_ Flat Iron Park Proposal_ReSite_08232021
RE:site’s research in preparation of the project design included references to materials listed here.
Dr. Lydia Bean created the End of Massive Resistance Timeline that is inscribed onto the surface.
Artist visit: Shane Albritton visited the site in 2021 along with Norfolk Arts manager, Karen Rudd + City Public Works Dept. representatives, Keith Oliver of VIA Designs, and fabricator Joe Meppelink of MetaLabs,Texas.