A Pre-K to Grade 12 Independent Quaker Day School Serving the Greater Durham-Chapel Hill Area

Klopfer v. North Carolina

Peter Klopfer, who together with his wife Martha and members of the Durham and Chapel Hill Friends Meetings founded Carolina Friends School, was jailed for his integration activities. He and a few Duke faculty joined African-American colleagues from North Carolina Central University in advocating for equal rights for all. This included attending rallies and engaging in non-violent sit-ins. At one of these sit-ins, Peter was arrested and charged with misdemeanor trespassing.

Peter, acting as his own counsel, argued the case in the Hillsborough courthouse. The outcome was a hung jury. The prosecutor used a little known and unusual tactic called "nolle prosequi with leave." This ploy allowed him to reserve the right to try Peter at any time, holding the threat of prosecution over his head in perpetuity.He and several others spent the winter night in an unheated jail cell. The case, tried before an all white jury, initially ended in a mistrial. The prosecutors refused to retry the case, which left Peter in a legal limbo and jeopardized his career at Duke. This lead Dr. Klopfer to initiate a legal action, "Klopfer v. North Carolina."

The case was ultimately decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in favor of Klopfer, with the decision being written by Chief Justice Earl Warren. "Klopfer v. North Carolina" helped set the precedent that the equal rights ensured by the U.S. Constitution also apply at the level of the individual states.