Black History Month: Wysinger v Crookshank (1888)
February is Black History Month and this year marks the 400th anniversary that blacks were brought to Bermuda as indentured servants. Throughout this month, The Royal Gazette will feature people, events, places and institutions that have contributed to the shaping of African history.
Wysinger v Crookshank is the first case that rendered school segregation of African-Americans in California contrary to the law.
On October 1, 1888, 58-year-old Edmond Wysinger, a former slave who bought his freedom working in the California mines, moved to Visalia, California.
When he attempted to enrol his son, Arthur, in the only high school in Visalia, he was told that because Arthur was “coloured” he could not be admitted.
Edmond Wysinger sued the school district to have his son be admitted to Visalia High School.
The case was tried in the Superior Court of Tulare County, where a ruling was issued against the plaintiff.
Wysinger and his lawyers appealed and the case eventually ended up before the Supreme Court of California.
On January 29, 1890, the court ruled that California Political Code 1669 had been amended in 1880 to allow the desegregation of all schools in the state.
Shortly afterwards, Arthur was the first African-American student to be admitted to Visalia's high school. This case marked the beginning of a century-long campaign to eliminate all vestiges of school segregation in the state of California.
• Sources: Deliah Beasley, The Negro Trail Blazers of California (Negro University Press, New York, 1919), 172-173