This school segregation case, which
received national media attention at the time, involved Allen Platt,
who moved his family (including five children and a niece) from Holly
Hill, South Carolina to Mount Dora (Lake County), Florida in October,
1954. Platt and his family considered themselves of Croatan Indian
and Irish descent. The children began to attend White schools in Mount
Dora (as they had in South Carolina), but some of their classmates
commented to their parents about the Platt childrens dark skin.
The sheriff of Lake County, Willis V. McCall, a White supremacist,
visited the Platt home, rudely examined and photographed the children,
and deciding that they were Black advised them to stay
away from school until he could investigate. His action
was supported by the principal, superintendent, and school board.
Platt wrote the governor of Florida that I then, now, and will
continue to refuse to send [my children] to a Negro school (Start,
The Platt case, para. 4). The Platts landlord received
a threat that their house might burn down if they were not evictedso
he asked the family to move.
The local newspaper, The Topicedited
by Mable Norris Reesecovered the story extensively and featured
Platts side of the controversy, resulting in crosses burned
on Reeses lawn and subscriptions to her newspaper canceled.
Some people, however, contributed to a legal fund for Platt, and three
lawyers volunteered to handle the case. The lawyers filed suit in
Circuit Court, requesting a declaratory judgment asserting that the
Platt children could attend White schools. The attorneys for the school
board were unable to get the case dismissed on technical grounds,
and their appeal to the state Supreme Court was denied.
When the family moved to nearby Orange
County, the White schools would not admit the children until the Lake
County School Board had resolved its dispute with the family. The
Mount Dora Christian Home and Bible School researched the familys
background and decided to admit the children. Sheriff McCall then
wrote the governor of Florida protesting that if the Platt children
are taken into classes of Christian Home and Bible School, everyone
connected with it could be sued and prosecuted (Start, The
Platt case, para. 9).
When the court case was tried, the school
boards attorneys and Sheriff McCalls evidence that
the Platts were Black was flimsy compared to the Platts
lawyers evidence that they were not. The school boards
attorneys primary argument was that on some records the Platts
were listed as Croatan Indians, and Websters Dictionary
defined Croatans as people with mixed Indian, White, and Negro blood.
The court found (on October 18, 1955)
that the Platt children could attend Mount Doras White schools.
The school board first voted to appeal the decision to the Florida
Supreme Court; but before doing so, it voted again and accepted the
circuit courts ruling. In the meantime, someone had set fire
to the Platts cottage. The children finished school at the Mount
Dora Christian Home and bible School.
Berry, Brewton. Almost White.
New York: Macmillan, 1963. Pages 179-183.
Start, Michelle L. How far have
we come? Landmark Brown vs. Board ruling made fifty years ago.
[Section: The Platt Case]. The Daily Commercial (Leesburg,
FL) online edition, May 16, 2004. http://www.mywebpal.com/news/partners/701/public/news548233.html
Accessed June 19, 2004.