The decision handed down in 1954 by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka case put an end to the idea of "separate but equal" in the U.S. and effectively ruled that segregation on the basis of race was unconstitutional. It was no longer permissible for public institutions to have separate bathrooms for black people and white people, separate offices for black people and white people, or more to the point of this article, separate schools for black people and white people. For 58 years following the 1896 Supreme Court decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, this type of enforced segregation was the law of the land. It didn't stop there, in many parts of America, it was against the law during to NOT segregate certain facilities.
When comparing history of William & Mary to Harvard's, you can say that Harvard very much benefited from, among other things, its location. Situated in Cambridge, Massachusetts, just across the Charles River from Boston, Harvard throughout its history never went through a period of being shot up or abused by marauding armies. Although there was the time during American Revolution in 1775/1776 when Massachusetts militia surrounded the British in Boston, Harvard itself came out with its ivy quite intact, and has since remained unmolested. The same thing cannot be said for William & Mary, which is located in Williamsburg, VA, a lovely and picturesque place that unfortunately suffered terrible abuse during the U.S. Civil War.